Every October for the last 6 or so years, I ask God for a word for the New Year. I have found that God often surprises me with His faithfulness to this word. So last year, the word I believed God had for 2019 was ‘FAVOUR’. I have come across this word before and based on my deductions I believe favour can mean OPPORTUNITY and BLESSING. Whilst 2019 was a decent enough year, on reflection I can’t really say that I saw any extraordinary opportunities or blessings come my way. For the first half of the year, I was significantly depressed. I had just finished up a ministry role on staff at a local church, where I had served for 5-6 years. It’s really challenging to return to normal after being a Pastor. It’s challenging to recall a life without sheep. Consequently, I felt like I had no purpose. And I was still processing various disappointments.
But by June I had finished writing my first book ‘Ministry Stinks: One leader’s journey from despair to joy’ and had submitted it to a publisher. I certainly did see Gods favour with regard to the book. The speed at which it was produced, accepted by a publisher, and published…was rather spectacular. But the book certainly didn’t meet any grand status as far as engagement. In fact, I am sometimes suspicious that it attracted the opposite reception from my peers. To market the book, I went all the way to a large conference spent a significant amount of money, only to sell 17 books out of 300 books I stocked…and we chased our tails financially for at least 3 months… Not at all the kind of stats you would want to report to a board of directors.
In the last 3 months of the year, after the humiliation and disappointment of the conference, I bounced back. I was able to resist the temptation to label myself a failure. But I did have some unanswered questions…what had God meant when He said favour? Without a clear conclusion, I started to faithfully believe that the breakthrough moment, where I would fully comprehend ‘The Year of Favour’ would come before the year was out.
And then towards the end of October, I had the greatest news: I was 6 weeks pregnant! A new addition to the family is always a cause for celebration, but I must put this all in perspective so that you understand how significant this news truly was for us. My daughter is turning 7 years old in April 2020. After 7 years without a second child, most people don’t bother asking if we are planning to have another. In fact most assume we can’t have any more children. The truth is we have had some occasions where we thought we were really close to being pregnant…and we have had some moments that had us seriously questioning if we were ever going to be able to have a child again.
I had just started all the preliminary testing you do with your GP to investigate infertility in August…And two months later I was already pregnant!! This was sensational news! Everything was falling into place. The word favour over 2019, finally made sense and I was glad to put the questions to rest.
Unfortunately, at about 10 weeks just 4 days before Christmas Day…I was taken to the hospital with severe stomach pain. You guessed it…miscarriage. Of course, the doctors couldn’t confirm the miscarriage straight away. But I knew. For the next 2 weeks, I had to wait until another follow-up scan to confirm it. But lots happened between that time that kept affirming what I already knew to be true: we had lost the baby.
So, at the commencement of 2020, I must admit I was truly confused. How was 2019 the year of favour? Have I been following this tradition pointlessly? Were the previous year’s testimonies to these ‘words’ just a fluke, rather than Gods faithfulness? Did I hear God wrong?
Despite not seeing favour as I thought I would, I can’t deny that 2019 was significant in healing and growing my relationship with God. If favour genuinely means opportunity and blessing, then alas I cannot validate 2019 as the year of favour. But if I were to renew my definition to be ‘EXTRA GRACE’, rather than FAVOURABLE CONDITIONS…I would say 2019 definitely was the year of favour. And according to scripture, favour certainly can be described that way. Let me explain how…
2019 was remarkable with regard to my dream life. I genuinely felt the intimacy of God when I closed my eyes and drifted off to dreamland! I have been having dreams all of my life, but never like this. I had dreams where it was like I was communing with Him, eating with Him and sharing thoughts and even laughter with Him.
Then I noticed that much of my prayers for others were being miraculously answered. I had some friends that were going through some really tough trials. I considered it a privilege that I had time to intercede on their behalf, something I struggled to do when I was a busy worker. And in each of those situations, my friends saw massive and impossible breakthroughs. I became so aware of how God was delivering on the prayers I had prayed, that I started looking for things to pray for.
But I guess the area where I observed significant ‘extra grace’ was during the miscarriage itself. The day after going to hospital, I woke up early the next morning and spent some time in prayer. I had a really good cry, but immediately afterwards I had an unreasonable peace. It was strange! I just felt so rested and calm in my spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely felt sad. But I also had this certainty that God had a plan for my life and my families. And that regardless of what that plan was, I would be able to endure it because I have Him with me. The peace was so grounding that at times I was a bit surprised by the sympathy I was getting from people! I kept telling myself that I should be more down about it. Apologies to those who have gone through devastating miscarriages, my heart goes out to you. I am not meaning to diminish the experience, I’m just trying to accurately relay the strangeness of the peace I was feeling.
See, I had been asking God to strengthen my faith. After all the previous year’s disappointments, I was convinced that there had to be so much more to the faith that Paul and the disciples experienced. In the face of threats and persecution, they were able to be content and joyous. This is not something I can relate to. Unwanted circumstances have definitely brought the worst out of me. But I have had this conviction as I read the New Testament again that it is truly possible to feel peace and joy in every situation and I desperately wanted it in 2019 and beyond.
I sincerely believe that the greatest blessing available to us in the Kingdom of God is being able to have a valid reason to love, have joy and peace regardless of circumstances. And it’s not just because it feels better. It’s because of this:
Would you ever really have to be afraid again?
If you know that you have arrived at the kind of faith that is constant in the midst of the storm…what would you fear? Not a lot. There wouldn’t be much to deter you from enduring any situation that is thrown at you. As painful as it may be, you would know that you would be able to walk through it because you could be guaranteed the love, joy and peace to endure.
Now I don’t know if my faith is going to be rock solid in the future, and I am also ridiculously aware that this kind of faith finds its origins in God and not man. There really isn’t much I have done to receive the surpassing peace that I had in that situation. It is once again, the ‘extra grace’ of God. All I know is that if this was the final conclusion for my year of favour…then the world can have its opportunities and blessings.
So I guess it was the year of favour.