Late summer was hard this year. Several of our homes in the neighborhood experienced vandalism (one even made the news!). In the midst of community work to shut down a problematic business, crime spiked elsewhere in the neighborhood as people dispersed. And to top it off, lightning hit our FCS facility, systematically shorting out electrical systems in our offices, Carver Market, and Community Grounds. All these complications slowed our work and weighed on my soul.
But through it all, God is good.
This refrain has been my consistent takeaway for years. Living and working in community development has its challenges. Yet I am constantly amazed how, when life feels at its most difficult, rays of profound joy and favor break through the clouds. The “really hard” and the “really good” seem to always be holding hands. And sometimes I wonder if it’s even possible to have one without the other.
I see this pairing in Scripture as well. Sometimes we cling to verses like Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If I’m honest, my hope may be that these words are God’s promise that all things will be eventually be easy, that life will work out fairly. But I am reminded of Jesus’ life - the crucifixion and the resurrection. The joy of conquering death didn’t negate the pain of dying. They were both part of the redemption story.
In the same way, as we approach Christmas, we marvel with delight at a baby in a manger. But while that phrase may have become sanitized in our commercialized, Christmas culture, the fact that Jesus debuted in a stable illustrates the difficult circumstances into which he entered. Things were not necessarily easy or fair for his own family, or for the Israelite people he came to serve and rescue.
The really hard was ever present, but God is always good. And the joy was also present in the birth of our Savior.
As I reflect on this passing year and forward to the new one, I am aware of the challenges we faced in 2018. I expect there will be more in the future. But I am also keenly attuned and immensely grateful for each and every joy we experienced this year as well. And I look forward to the ways God will demonstrate His goodness in the upcoming year!