How often do we not have a clue? How often do we selfishly ignore others’ hurt and hardship? How often do we ignore God’s pleas for us to fiercely love one another?

Our Heavenly Father has given us another year. Another year to love. Another year to give. Another year to take the time to listen to others’ stories and intertwine ourselves in helping them. God did not put us on this earth to write our own stories without listening to and involving ourselves in the stories of others. He asks us to lift one another up. To carry one another’s burdens. Everyone has them. Everyone is carrying them. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Every minute of every single day. Most of the time, completely in silence.

Even when you think there is nothing you can possibly do, there is prayer.There is always prayer. Listening ears. An empathetic heart. A smiling mouth. A warm embrace. And love. So many ways to love. While still being humble and kind. And love? Love can be so beautifully simple. It’s not hard. True love isn’t complicated, confrontational, disrespectful or drama filled- labeled as passion. It can be as basic as…Holding the door. Picking up the bill. Saying the prayers. Opening your heart. Speaking kind words. Hosting a small group. Making the warm meal. Dropping off a fresh coffee. And above all, stretching your love.

Just as Jesus Christ, our Savior, stretched His arms across the wooden cross, paying the ultimate sacrifice to cover our sins with His grace, He asks us to deeply stretch and strain our love to be more like Him. Our God is a forgiving God. He sacrificed his Son so that we could be forgiven. Some go to extremes to distort and twist perception of what God is like. Our God is not an angry, vengeful God ready to strike us down when we sin and make mistakes. So if you find yourself wishing revenge on another because you feel you have been victimized, that’s not how God works. Nothing could be further from the truth. God wants to console us, protect us and encourage us. Like every parent should. God does not want us to suffer. Some are as stubborn as Thomas, one of Jesus’s disciples , and they steadfastly refuse to believe that God’s purpose isn’t to punish. These people have forgotten that out of His mercy and love He sent his only Son to show us how to live. The concept of punishment involves fear and condemnation. Some things are beyond our control. Pray and walk away. God is the master at turning around situations and bringing forth good from evil. When we have faith in his promise, we can overcome life’s trials, grow stronger as a result of it, learn from it and have the ability to help others we see struggling with acceptance of whatever they can’t seem to get past.

A new year. A new blessing. A new chance. To forgive.To bring peace. And above all, to love like Jesus.