Monday, December 28, 2020

Next Year, Will All Our Troubles Be Miles Away?

Christmas is still a fresh memory, but some of us are already anticipating the start of a new year. In a real sense, the passing from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 will be a  simple turn of the calendar. But won’t it be cathartic, to be able to write “2021” instead of the 2020 that has created so much stress and discomfort? Instead of greeting each other with “happy new year,” we’ll probably be more inclined to say, “Good riddance!”

In optical terminology, 20:20 means excellent eyesight. But in comparison with other years, 2020 has been a blur – and not in a good sense. With all the turmoil we’ve endured, thanks to the pandemic, politics and other perplexities, I think we all can agree that 2020 didn’t live up to its hype.


So, just days from now, we’ll move on to 2021. The million-dollar question is, will it truly be a new year – or just more of the same?


The other day I was listening to the old holiday song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” with its promise: “Next year all our troubles will be miles away.” We can only hope.


Truthfully, no one knows. No more than anyone could have known how our world would turn upside down because of something called COVID-19. But in the midst of our present and future uncertainty, there is genuine hope we can count on. And not of the “hope-so” variety.


It's not a hope in government, or in the right party or President getting into office. It’s not hope in science or technology, although those have served as very useful and helpful tools in many ways. It’s not even hope in human goodness. 


This hope can be found only in the presence and power of the eternal God and our Lord Jesus Christ, whom Hebrews 13:8 declares is “the same yesterday and today and forever.” So much of what we see and experience is constantly changing: The seasons transform one into another. Fashions that were in style last month have already given way to the fads of today. Economically, the bull market can turn into a bear overnight. We age, and every time we look in the mirror, we look different. But God is unchanging. 


Because of this, the “hope-so” that is determined by so many of life’s uncertainties can be replaced by the hope that’s defined in the Scriptures as confident assurance, or earnest expectation. Here’s a sampling of the passages in both the Old and New Testaments that expound upon the hope that we can have:


Hope that pain has a purpose. “…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5).


Hope that rewards our patience. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:24-25).


Hope that we can truly trust in. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).


Hope that leads to limitless joy. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).


Hope that is eternal. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection  of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).


Hope that can sustain us. “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24).


Hope that is anchored in God’s love. “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:18).


Hope that overcomes turmoil. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5-6).


We all would like a guarantee that 2021 will be much better than the year we’ve been enduring, that 2020 will become an unpleasant, but fading memory. Alas, we have no such guarantees. There’s no assurance that our troubles will be miles away. 


But by trusting the promises and assurances of the Scriptures, we do have one guarantee: That the God of all eternity will be with us, through good times and hard times, as close as our next breath. And in that we can find and experience hope that is both deep and unshakable.

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