Though the new year may be upon us, many of us are still moving through the immense amount of change we’ve experienced over the last two years. Today, Karen Gonzalez encourages us to see change as God’s vehicle for renewing and reimagining our lives.
We invite you to read or listen to Karen’s message below, then check out the entire Made for Change Audio Series, created to help you experience God’s presence in the midst of change. May you find the peace and presence of our good and loving God, the one who can do more than we could ever ask for or imagine.
Listen to the audio version of this blog post and find more audio meditations here.
Another Year of Change
When I was little, my grandmother sent me a card every year for my birthday. She would always write a special message inside, and then in the corner, in small, careful print she would write, “Jesus loves you and so do I. Expect a miracle.”
“Expect a miracle” were the words she lived by. They sustained her and reminded her that the Almighty would act in unexpected ways for her good and for God’s own glory.
Many of us can likely relate to my grandmother… 2020 – and subsequently 2021 — have been difficult years, in ways most of us could not have imagined: We faced a contentious election season, a global pandemic, racial unrest and economic turmoil.
We are grateful to say goodbye to the old, difficult year and welcome the potential this new one holds. We want to expect a miracle — something different but welcome, surprising but joyful. And so we come to this new year with expectation, with the assurance that God makes all things new, even us.
Change reimagines. It’s what God uses to reimagine our present circumstances and give us hope for a future beyond anything we could ever ask.
I’ve been reflecting on the story of Naomi in the book of Ruth. For a woman whose name meant “pleasant,” Naomi led a life of suffering and grief. She experienced famine, forced migration, widowhood, the death of her sons, abject poverty and an uncertain future.
After the death of her children, Naomi returned home to Bethlehem for a new beginning in the company of her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth.
But to Naomi, the future did not look bright. She knew that having a husband and sons was the only way to ensure her survival, the only means for a woman’s economic sustenance in her society. Without them, she could not imagine a life full of anything but poverty and despair.
The best Naomi could hope for were the provisions in God’s law, designed to care for poor people like her: gleaning the leftovers in the fields and vineyards.
She railed against God, bellowing that her name should have been bitter, not pleasant, because her life had been bitter, “The Lord has afflicted me,” she cried, “and brought misfortune upon me. I went away full but now I am empty.”
In a million years, Naomi could not have guessed that the terrible changes in her life would be God’s vehicle for reimagining her life. Though the pain and the loss would not be erased, they would be robbed of their sting because God would redeem and restore her life.
Naomi, a woman who thought that men — a husband and sons — were God’s only way of providing for her well-being, could never have imagined that a woman — her loyal daughter-in-law — would be the path through which she’d experience God’s faithfulness.
By the end of the story, Ruth had remarried and given birth to a son. Naomi gets to hold her grandson as part of a new family. She listens as her Bethlehem neighbors rejoice with her and proclaim, “your daughter-in-law who loves you is more to you than seven sons.”
Reimagining the Future
Today, we know that this grandson is in the lineage of Jesus. Naomi’s reimagined life connected her to the story of the salvation of all humankind. Change reimagines, not just Naomi’s life but yours and mine.
God worked in Naomi’s life through means that were entirely unexpected — like a phoenix, Naomi rose from the ashes of her scorched life. As the Psalmist says… Naomi got to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
We don’t know what will happen this new year, but we know who will be with us through it — our good and loving God, the one who can do more than we could ever ask for or imagine. Change is God’s vehicle to renew and reimagine our lives.
As the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20 & 21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever!”
Friends, expect a miracle.
Karen Gonzalez serves as the Director of Human Services at World Relief and is the author of the new book The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible and the Journey to Belong.