Independent, ambitious, and adventurous, that's George Bailey. He was a dreamer with goals—-many goals. But as life goes sometimes, his plans would never be fulfilled. Instead of traveling the world he got married, inherited a bank with an unconventional business model, stayed in the town where he grew up and met his wife, and began raising his four kids. When a mistake threatened his livelihood, George contemplated suicide.

But thankfully for George, an angel saved him by giving him a glimpse of what life would be like if he were not around. Life without George was dismal. The town was practically destroyed.

We know the ending to this story, It's a Wonderful Life. George begs to return to his normal life, gets his wish, and proclaims his steadfast and renewed love for his wife, kids, and the people of Bedford Falls.

Not What We Envisioned

Life doesn't always turn out the way we envisioned, does it? Our hopes and dreams may never come to pass. Wishes and desires for good things, like children, work, or a spouse, are delayed—-perhaps even for a lifetime. Maybe you have been praying for something and God continues to say no, and this hope deferred, like the proverb says, has made your heart sick (Proverbs 13:12).

Unlike the fictional tale It's a Wonderful Life, we don't get a glimpse what could have been. We don't even get a hint. I'm not going to tell you that life is wonderful. It may actually be difficult. But here's what I do know: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

One day we will see God in glory and know his purposes. We will “get it.” We will understand why children were delayed and why we were never healed. But until then we see dimly, as if through a thick fog. We walk by faith and not by sight. And though our plans are many, the Lord directs our steps where we do not see (Proverbs 16:9).

Waiting, Longing

This year may be filled with “no's.” It may be another year of unanswered prayers, of waiting, of longing. It may be another year of pain and sorrow. But God is not only holy, majestic, and just. He is “our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). He is our near, intimate, involved, loving Father. Because he is our Father we can continue to ask and pray. Because he is near, because he has given us “the Spirit of his Son,” our hearts can cry, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6)

God our Father is perfectly loving. He is guiding, directing, protecting, and laying down boundary lines for our good and his glory. He is leading us through the joys and the sorrows (Lamentations 3:37-38, 1 Timothy 6:15). These lines aren't about our present state but what it will lead to—-a beautiful inheritance (Psalm 16:6).

Give and Take

And we know we can trust God because he showed his infinite love for us when he sent his only Son to Calvary. Jesus wasn't walking through fog. He knew exactly where he was headed, and he endured it to the end. As a result of this sacrificial death, we know he is love. We can draw near to him in confidence. He beckons us to come, taste, and see that he is good (Psalm 34:6).

So we ask in 2013 with the assurance that the Lord is good, he is our Father, and he is loving. In the mystery of his providence the Lord gives and takes away. But with Job we will proclaim, “Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).