One of my favorite movies is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. I’ve watched it every December since I was a teenager. For many years, it was a family tradition to watch this inspiring film on December 24th at an old-fashioned theater that sends you back to Hollywood’s Golden Age with its style and decor. Each year, viewers would give a round of applause at Jimmy Stewart’s first appearance onscreen and hiss when Potter first showed his angry face. It was magical to watch the film with so many other fans.
As the years go by and my annual viewing of this film still occurs even while overseas, I confess that I still cry every single time. Amidst the tears each year, this movie’s message challenges me to ask some key questions about the year that’s ending and the new year just beginning. Here are three of those questions:
1. What do you see?
In George Bailey’s darkest moments, he couldn’t see his value or the blessings that surrounded him. He couldn’t see the friends and family devoted to him. As we start this new year, what are you focused on? Do you see the many blessings God has given you? Are you aware of your impact in the lives of others because of your sacrifices this last year? We will find what we are looking for. May we never forget to recognize our value and the many blessings we already have even when times are tough.
2. Are you asking for help when you need it?
George Bailey was in trouble because of someone else’s mistake. Instead of going to family and friends for help, he tried to solve the problem on his own. He went to his archenemy for money and then considered ending his life when his first idea didn’t pan out. We don’t think straight when we are stressed and spent physically, emotionally and spiritually. Both of his ideas would’ve caused much harm.
If you are struggling, let this new year be the opportunity to ask for the help and support you need from friends and family you trust. There are safe people you can confess your struggles to, people who can offer wise counsel and support. Ask the Lord to show you who you can go to for help. We were created for community.
3. Are you loving and serving others for the right reason(s)?
All too often we do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I can’t know George Bailey’s motivations, but if we’ve been giving and giving and giving, it’s easy to grow tired. As we grow tired, we grow resentful.
Christians who are too busy serving others are prone to forget the gospel. We can be so busy helping the world that we run ourselves into the ground. Then, we get mad at ourselves, others and God when life doesn’t go as planned. We expect our acts of service and sacrifice to guarantee us the life we’ve always wanted. When this doesn’t happen, our thoughts and prayers can easily become: “God, I did x, y, z for you! You owe me BIG!” In so doing, we distort the gospel, forgetting grace by choosing a works-based religion.
If you are tired and frustrated by serving, perhaps it’s time to sit down with the Lord and revisit His grace and love for you personally. We do more harm to ourselves and others if we keep serving for the wrong reasons. God wants to demonstrate to you His love and grace once again, renewing you so you can bless others with His love and grace in this new year.
As we begin 2019, may each of us see better, ask for help more easily and serve others for the right reasons! Happy New Year!