By Karon Williamson

While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.’” (1 Samuel 7:10-12)
In 2020, some of us want a mulligan. 

Another swing at it. 

A “do over.” 

Another chance. 

Because 2019 wasn’t so great. 

Or maybe 2019 was really great and you’re worried your best year is behind you. 

Whichever way you are starting this new year, the words of God’s prophet still speak to us today. In this story, God’s people were not looking at a rosy future, but God intervened, supernaturally saved his people, and Samuel responded by placing a stone to remember declaring: 
“Thus far, the Lord has helped us.” 

My 2019 was hard. My husband had a stroke in September, seven days before our son’s wedding in Georgia. He didn’t feel well that Saturday, and by Sunday afternoon he couldn’t walk. The diagnosis flung us into a mine field of uncertainty. Would he ever walk again? Would another stroke follow? And inside my head whirled the staggering question, “Would I lose him?”
We knew God was not obligated to heal him, and we had no idea what the future would hold, but we looked at each other, prayed, set our Ebenezer stone in the middle of that mine field, and remembered: 
“Thus far, the Lord has helped us.” Because he had. Over and over in our lives, the Lord has helped us, and I know he has helped you too. He is not a passive God; he is the God who is active and alive in his people. We know he doesn’t always help us in the way we expect, but he always helps us in the way we need.
And we remember.

After several miscarriages, the Lord helped us, and a spunky six-year-old became our daughter. When dementia stole my father and a stroke took my mother, the Lord helped us in our grief. When we moved a thousand miles away, the Lord helped us and placed us into the loving arms of Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church, who cried out on our behalf in the emergency room that day to the same God who,
Thus far, has helped us.

Seven days after the stroke, our newly married son took me by the hand for the dance that almost wasn’t. I hugged him tight and looked over at my husband standing with just the help of a cane. Through tears of thanksgiving, our whole family laid one more stone of remembrance in this unpredictable life God is building.

Stone by stone, we are all becoming a people who remember what God has done. We don’t need a 2019 mulligan. We need to walk into 2020 remembering, “Thus far, the Lord has helped us.”

Thus far…