“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)
I’ve spoken many times in the past about asking God for a word to represent the upcoming year. While He’s always granted that request so far in my life, I try to never take it for granted. Sometimes He’ll give me the word really early the previous year; other times it’s closer to when I’m ushering in the new year.
This year, God revealed something else very special about the words that He so generously gives. In 2014, God gave me the word “grace.” Then in 2015, God gave me the word “hope.” In 2016, God gave me the word “peace,” and then for 2017, He gave me the word “joy” and then added a bonus word, “blessings.”
I have to admit, when God gave me the word hope in 2015, I wasn’t very happy. I had just gotten through the word “grace” in the previous year and there were parts of it that weren’t very fun. So when God said my word would be “hope,” all I could think was, “Oh great, when I hope for something it doesn’t come true. Am I going to spend a whole year hoping and not getting? That sounds hard and discouraging.” The first week of January I received the email that my job would be terminated in less than a month. Didn’t seem like it was getting off to a very hopeful start.
However, God taught me so much about hope that year. And little did I know it, but I would need the foundations of grace and hope in order to truly embrace the word, “peace” last year. What a fitting word for the election year. Peace – learning how to have peace despite the circumstances around me. Asking for God’s peace during scary situations and feeling it settle in like a warm blanket. Learning to find God’s peace when your parents’ call not once, not twice but multiple times throughout the year stating, “The doctor thinks…” or “The test came back and…”
God taught me through multiple experiences in 2016 to ask Him for peace each and every day. That peace isn’t something… it’s Someone. That there is a difference between His peace and what the world tries to pass off as peace.
It’s still very early into 2017, and God, in His goodness, has taught me the most important lesson already: I can’t fully experience the word God gave me for this year, “JOY” until I’d learned how to embrace and ask for God’s peace last year. I truly believe that the joy I feel this year, despite the circumstances around me and the challenges we have had to face already in 2017, would not be possible without having first learned how to ask for and sit in God’s peace daily.
That is when I realized that God needed to build the foundation first of grace, then hope, then peace and now joy is made complete from the previous lessons learned. Even though it’s January and I’m enjoying the “joy” God is awakening in me, I’m excited to think about what new word He will give me next year. Until then, I’m going to fully embrace joy, resting in the peace, grace and hope that God loved me so much to teach me ahead of time.
© Cheri Swalwell 2017