The Difference A Year Can Make (And God’s Good Plan)

I wrote a blog post at the end of last year where I opened up a very little bit about 2014 being a difficult year personally. It was the most difficult year I have had since my parents divorce when I was 14. I only know how to describe it by calling it an emotional nightmare.

Here are a few things that happened in 2014:

  • My wife and I had a couple issues that we had allowed to lie dormant until some tension forced them to erupt. It was difficult to work through, but it was what we needed…. as God knew.
  • I wrestled with some depression. The only person who saw this and understood what was happening was my dear wife, Meredith. Thankfully, she was amazing.
  • I questioned my calling as a pastor. For several months I wrestled with whether or not I was cut out for the ministry. This exposed some ministry idolatry in me and filled me with a ton of insecurity and self doubt.

There is quite a bit more, but I don’t think it is necessary to parse through the details. Those three things sum it up well enough. The point is, 2014 sucked. When I wrote the blog post at this time last year it was a sigh of relief as I was just coming out of it. This blog post gets to be a bit different, because, man, what a difference a year can make.

How 2015 was different:

  • In every imaginable way my marriage is healthier today than it was last year. Our seventh year was by far our best. We enjoy one another on a level I can confidently say never existed before.
  • Instead of depression, this year was marked with a depth of joy I haven’t felt in years.
  • Not only did God very graciously affirm his call on my life to pastoral ministry, I enjoyed ministry more than ever before. To be honest, this is the first year I felt like I was a good pastor. This is the first year I started figuring out who I am as a pastor which led to me finally starting to “hit my stride.” (I really hope no one reads this as, “Matt thinks he is awesome.” Far from it. Please read as, “Hey! It took four years, but Matt finally learned how to walk!”

Why do I say all that? Because honestly, I thought 2015 was going to be a year of recovery. Instead, I can’t remember a year so full of joy, hope, faith, and love for others than this year. The first six years of our marriage Meredith and I kept asking (silently, of course), “Why isn’t this thing clicking yet?” Now, looking back over this last year I can only ask, “How the heck did it go so well?”

Looking over the last year puts me in awe of God’s kindness and grace. I am nothing special. I did nothing special. God owed me nothing. Yet, for his good pleasure, here I am, joy-filled and overflowing with thanks.

Here is the lesson for me though: God wasn’t any more gracious to me in 2015 than he was in 2014. In fact, the grace felt in 2015 wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the sharpening, unrelenting, sanctifying, difficult, and brutally necessary love of God in 2014. It was God’s love that forced Meredith and I to deal with our junk. It was His love that made sure I dealt with some idolatries. It was His love that didn’t just allow, but led me through a season of pain.

A year can make a stark difference. From 2014 to 2015 I had one of my worst years to one of my best.

Yet, both years were designed by God, out of his love and grace, for my good. And for that I give thanks and am in awe of Him.