Looking Back to Look Forward
“3…2…1…Happy New Year!”
I clinked my glass against the screen of my iPhone as I cheered in the New Year over Facetime with my two oldest sons. It was the first holiday we’d ever spent apart. My husband had caught a cold and planned to turn in early, and our toddler isn’t old enough to rally past 9 pm. So to ensure that someone in our family had a proper party, I dropped our older boys off to celebrate at their godparent’s house with their best friends. Just before the ball dropped, I added my parents to the call and for a few minutes, my screen was a flurry of favorite faces as we exchanged well-wishes and I love you’s. When the call ended, I was stunned by the abrupt silence. In these first moments of 2023, I was completely alone.
Sure my husband was in the next room and I could see the baby on the video monitor all curled up and comfy, but everything in the house felt conspicuously quiet and still.
There was a time in my life that ringing in the New Year alone would have been occasion for a full-on pity party, with a sad playlist and everything. But now, I found myself savoring the silence as I wrapped myself up in a fuzzy blanket and leaned back into the presence of the Lord.
I grabbed a pen and some paper and began to look back over all that had happened throughout the past year. As I scribbled down my thoughts, Isaiah 25:1 came to mind:
“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”
Last year had its share of ups and downs, but as I looked back, more than anything, I could see the Lord’s faithfulness in the blessings, triumphs, and opportunities to join Him where He was working. I could see His faithfulness in how He sustained our family when we were sick or comforted us when we were feeling anxious, stressed, or uncertain about the future. I couldn’t help but marvel that while there are many things in life we couldn’t see coming, God in His perfect faithfulness had planned ahead for every detail.
Because of who God is, we don’t have to know what’s coming around every corner (even though we may still want to try). We are loved by a God who holds the past, present, and future all in one view. He will gently lead us each step of the way. He’s done it before, and we can trust Him to do it again.
You may be in a season where trusting that God really is at work feels like a tall order, especially if this past year has not been gentle with you. Maybe you find yourself in that in-between place where God’s past faithfulness feels too distant to lean on, and the future blessing feels impossibly far off. I’ve been there too, friend.
I want to encourage you to look up and look back so that you can look forward with hope. Look up over the tippy-top of the mountain you are facing and gaze fully into the face of God. Remember who He is and lean on what you know to be true about God according to His Word. Because when we know God’s character, it is easier to trust Him, even when things don’t look like what we had imagined at first. His promises may seem far off, but in Christ, every promise of God has been fulfilled with a resounding “Yes!” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
So often when we’re in the middle of something challenging, it is hard to discern how and where God is working, how He will come through, or when. When we look back to the past, in our own lives, and in the Bible, we see His unchanging character on display and His breathtaking love and provision. By reflecting on God’s steadfast presence in the past, our faith grows in the present, and we gain a confident hope for the future.
Even if it’s hard to see God at work in your own life right now, there are so many examples in the Bible to encourage us! Because the same God who worked powerfully in all of those amazing stories in the Bible is working mightily in your story now. And God always does more than we can ask or imagine. He goes above and beyond, helping with the apparent challenges but also caring for the deeper need as well.
We can observe how Jesus didn’t just heal the sick physically and send them on their way. He restored their identity, reconnected them to community, and returned them to their livelihood. (Mark 5)
We see that God doesn’t just comfort the lonely, He puts them in families and in churches. He is a father to the fatherless, and a defender of the helpless. (Psalm 68:4-6, Acts 2:42-47)
And we learn that God doesn’t just meet us in the middle of our mess, He invites us to be a part of His greater story, to be His sons and daughters, and to play a role in His Kingdom coming. (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Peter 4:10-11)
As we look back over God’s faithfulness in the Bible and in our own lives, it builds up the foundation of our faith and we can look forward to the incredible things God has in store for us with great hope, anticipation, and joy.
1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Sweet friend, the best is yet to come. Because of Jesus, you have a hope and a future that shines. You can know and rely on God’s love and perfect faithfulness to see you through all the blessings and trials this year may bring. And above all, you can trust that your Heavenly Father sees you, knows you, and calls you daughter. As you look up and look back, may you experience the unfailing love of Jesus. May His love be the very thing that defines you this year. And may you look forward with hope, knowing that God has His very best in store for you.