Anyone remember the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? In the book, everything seems to go wrong for Alexander, from the petty to the annoying to the plain not good: he wakes up with chewing gum in his hair, there is no dessert in his lunch bag, he gets a cavity, he gets soap in his eyes during bath time, he fights with his siblings. He laments that he just wants to move to Australia, sure that no one has bad days in the land Down Under.
At the end of the book, his mother reassures him that everyone has bad days, even those who live in Australia.
Sometimes I feel like 2016 was just one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
Like all new years, it started out with promise: fresh dreams, reaffirming goals to accomplish in the next 12 months, plans to travel, make lifestyle changes, etc. And for a while, it seemed like everything was going well. But, as they say, LIFE happened.
It seemed like every day seemed to bring new frustrations, things that hampered the accomplishment of goals, old enemies that didn’t want to stay down. Doubts of my future as a mother. As a writer. Loss. It sometimes felt like nothing was going right.
And that’s just on the personal side. Worldwide, it seemed like 2016 was the beginning of the End Times: every other day the news was full of violence and death, hate and prejudice, cruelty and evil. The US election cycle was particularly vitriolic, and the outcome remains so.
I’m an eternal optimist, and try to see the good in every situation. But by the end of 2016, I was ready to throw in the towel. It didn’t help that my husband got sick over Christmas, I got sick shortly after, and my beloved dog Bazinga suffered some burns in a cooking accident. It felt like 2016 was just kicking me while I was down, and I felt myself crying out to God, “What did I do wrong? Why is all of this bad stuff happening?”
As Anne Shirley says, I was having a “Jonah Day,” only it felt like a Jonah year.
I’m sure Jonah thought he was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day when he was swallowed by the whale. He hung out in a fish’s belly for three whole days. In Jonah’s case, he suffered because he didn’t heed God’s commands. But in the case of Job, he didn’t do anything wrong. He suffered because God knew that no matter what Satan threw at his trusted servant, he would withstand it. And after losing everything and still not cursing Him, God doubly blessed Job for being a good and faithful servant.
I’m not like Job. I definitely haven’t lost everything, and my 2016 was certainly not as bad as it could have been. But even if it had, that’s no excuse for me to whine and complain and give up. The Bible promises us that “In all things God works together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I might not be able to see the big picture of what God is doing in my life, and I might not EVER be able to, but I cling to the promise that something good is happening all along.
And you know what? When I think about it, there were some pretty great moments in 2016: wonderful times hanging out with my family, hearing some pretty incredible music from my symphony, some breakthroughs in my writing, brainstorming with a wonderful group of writers and friends, joining the church choir and rediscovering my love of singing. Gaining a niece. Making new friends. Renewing old friendships. Learning to lean on God in the hard times as well as the good.
So, instead of making a new year’s resolution or choosing my “one word” for the year, I’ve decided to do something even simpler: focus on the good that I CAN see. For every week this year, I’m going to write down at least one thing good that happened in my life that week in my journal. The first week of January, it was praying in the new year together with my husband. Last week, it was the sense of accomplishment on a video I produced for work. This week, I’ve already included the very long phone call I had with one of my best friends on Sunday night.
No matter what 2017 holds, good or bad, I’d rather focus on the good and make it a year of promise.