The Annual Newsletter

Annual Newsletters: You’ve seen them, so you know the format. A recap of what happened during the year. Pictures that coincide with the stories. Almost always, the newsletter focuses on the good and fun events that happened during the year: the vacation, the promotion, the positives. We get them from friends and relatives every year, usually during the month of December. You get them too. You probably even sent a few.

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But what do you do when only bad happens during the year? Do you still send out that festive, upbeat newsletter? This happened to us a few years ago. Right after Thanksgiving, my wife asked, “Are you doing a newsletter this year?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll tell all our friends what a crummy year we had.”

When we recounted all the painful experiences and disappointments that happened during the year, we started laughing. That year, my wife gave up a job she really loved in order to be with me when the Army transferred me to a different part of the country. While there, she was diagnosed with cancer and had multiple surgeries. As she was recovering and going through chemotherapy, the Army sent me overseas, so I couldn’t even be with her. That same year, I had an evil boss who was trying to destroy my career. One of our sons was unemployed, and our other two sons were struggling with personal issues. Bad news after bad news piled on top of us, and it seemed there was no end.

We have a pretty good idea how Job felt when he experienced horrible losses back to back to back, one after another. No wonder he groaned and grumbled and grieved. No wonder his wife suggested that he simply curse God and die. When life gets too painful and it seems there’s no end to the suffering and bad news, there’s not much you can do. We understand, because it happened to us.

But Job didn’t turn his back on God. He didn’t lose his faith. He didn’t curse. And he didn’t end his life. In fact, Job 1:22 indicates that in all his suffering, he didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t end his life, he didn’t sin, and he didn’t blame God.

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In our worst year ever, we adopted similar goals. We wanted to keep our eyes on Jesus and stay faithful in every way. When the world would advise us to give up, curse God, and die, we refused. And by the end of the year, even though we hadn’t yet seen the light at the end of the tunnel in those dreadful situations, we managed to laugh together.

James 1:2-4 reminds us to remain joyful even when facing many kinds of trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces character, perseverance, and strength. 1 Peter 4:12-13 adds that we shouldn’t even be surprised when life gets ugly, as if something strange were happening. Instead, we can continue to be joyful, knowing that our Lord suffered too, keeping in mind that if we are faithful during the tough days, the Glory of the Lord will eventually be revealed in us.

Job knew this a long time ago, which is why he could proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the end, He will stand.” And then he adds, “And I will see Him with my own eyes.”

The same is true for you, my friend. Do your best to remain joyful and faithful while you’re struggling, and you will see the glory of the Lord, because your Redeemer lives.

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God Is My Helper

You can probably think of several characters in TV shows, comic books, movies, and novels who have a sidekick. There are lots of them: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Batman and Robin, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Andy Griffith and Barney Fife, Captain Kirk and Spock, Robinson Crusoe and Friday, Robin Hood and Little John, Shrek and Donkey, Moses and Aaron, Paul and Silas.

It seems almost every hero has a sidekick who provides comic relief, but also offers serious friendship and assistance along the way. It’s a classic technique in literature and drama, where sidekicks play an important role. They help the main character reach his or her goals and accomplish the mission. They offer friendship and provide insight. Usually, they perform tasks that are beneath the dignity of the hero. Sometimes they serve as a contrasting personality. The sidekick may be a commoner or a bumbler, allowing the audience someone they can relate with. Usually, the sidekick isn’t quite as smart, but helps the star come up with brilliant ideas. Always, the sidekick is of lesser importance.

A lot of people think of a helper as someone who is less important, less skilled, or less capable than the person who really matters. In our culture, a helper is considered an underling, a hireling, or a subordinate. We call them gophers. We even talk about the hired help—people who do the tasks the important people don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. Words like assistantadjunctapprenticedeputy, and sidekick come to mind.

However, that’s not the biblical concept of help. The Hebrew word for helper in the Old Testament is ezer, and comes from a verb that means to rescue, deliver, or help. Whenever it’s used of human beings, it’s talking about someone who is bigger, stronger, more powerful, smarter, or richer who reaches out to the weak or needy.

Most often, the word refers to God himself. The psalmist wrote, “God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life” (Psalm 54:4) and “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

The point is that helping people is what God does. He’s always ready, willing, and able to help us in our time of need. No wonder Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (NIV).

Do you need help? Are you struggling at this point in your life? Have you felt like quitting or giving up? Let me encourage you, instead, to turn to the Lord and enter into his presence with confidence. You will find the help you need. That’s what God does. That’s who he is.

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Who’s More Important?

Before getting married, it’s healthy and right to be loyal to one’s parents, siblings, and friends. But once you get married, the primary loyalty has to shift to the new spouse.

It’s not that you have to cut off relationship with your family and friends No, you still want them and need them in your life. But the spouse must become the new priority, and has to feel more important than the in-laws and others. To the extent you’re willing and able to let go of prior loyalties, you can form new ones. Likewise, to the extent that you can’t or won’t change priorities, your marriage will suffer.

While Genesis 2:24 states that it is the parents you must leave in order to form a new unity, there are others, as well. These might include a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a previous lover. In fact, there may be a number of people and situations included in what you let go of: friends, abuse, wealth, lifestyle, job, fame, high school sports, or any number of things in one’s past.

Your Past Can Ruin Today

One couple lost a son in a terrible accident. Unable to let go of that pain and loss, not knowing how to heal, and unwilling to forgive, the woman drove her husband to divorce. She allowed the past to ruin their marriage by allowing it to remain in the present. She kept the pain alive.

But it’s not just the negative that has to be left behind. Sometimes you have to let go of some positives: the good old days, a happy first marriage, that perfect job, a previous home and neighborhood, wealth or fame, or even a dream or ambition. An athlete whose playing days are over is often headed for emotional and relational disaster. A Soldier whose career comes to an end, sometimes can’t adjust to being a civilian and finding a new identity.

Someone who loses a leg or an arm in an accident at work might have a tough time accepting the new reality and letting go of the previous physical ability. Retirees sometimes struggle with letting go of their previous life, identity, and sense of importance. Empty-nesters also face a difficult struggle when the kids are gone. These transitions are tough.

Sue Augustine writes, “All of us can think of something we’d like to be set free from. For some, it’s hurtful memories, past regrets, or bitter resentment. For others it’s sorrowful remorse, frightful insecurities, or deep-rooted grudges. Imagine what it would be like to be free . . . . There is hope for you or someone you know who struggles with an imperfect or painful past.”

Her book When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present is arranged in three sections: Relinquish Your Past, Renew Your Present, and Rebuild Your Future. This is good guidance for couples who are still fighting or struggling with letting go of the past.

Bottom Line: make sure you live each day knowing that your spouse is the most important person in the world.

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