Life Doesn't Have to Be This Way -- Hope for the New Year
Happy New Year! I really mean that. There is not a reason under the sun why we must experience another year of misery as we did in 2020. Sure, many of us had the dickens kicked out of us by adversities and loss, sickness and suffering. We couldn't see coming everything that life dished out. But, the past is past and if we change our focus a little, I truly believe we can live above our circumstances and experience joy in 2021.
Here are a few of the things that 2020 taught me:
1. God is in control. Now it may not seem that way to you, but nothing takes him by surprise. Neither is God to blame for all the bad things that happen to us. God doesn't cause natural disasters, racial riots, political misconduct, or anything else that man brings on himself or his neighbor because of his own sinful nature and willful misconduct, but he does allow us to suffer the consequences of those choices.
The Bible is filled with scriptures that attest to the sovereignty of God (Proverbs 19:21), his presence with us (Joshua 1:9), his promises for protection (Isaiah 41:10), and the assurance that he works all things together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We know, and have seen, that God can take what man has intended for evil and use it for good (Genesis 50:20), increasing the faith of those who believe, saving those who are lost, and fostering generosity toward others. Think of 9/11 or recent natural disasters and the many ways communities came together to help one another rebuild lives and homes. Even in the midst of this pandemic, communities are working together to provide food for the hungry and meet the financial needs of those who have lost jobs.
2. God is faithful. If God is faithful, then why did my husband lose his job? Why did my loved one get sick and die? Why did ________ (you fill in the blank)? There isn't a single one of us that hasn't asked the "why?" question in recent months. I'll even go so far as to say that we don't deserve what happened to us in 2020. But does the adversity we experienced mean God is not faithful? All through history good people have had bad things happen to them. Look at Job. He was a man of great faith yet God allowed Satan (yes, the devil himself) to strip Job of everything -- his family, his great wealth and possessions, and even his health. God allowed all of it. Let that sink in. Jesus certainly didn't deserve to die a criminal's death on the cross because of our sin. In Matthew 26:53-54 (ESV), Jesus said:
Jesus was faithful to the promises of scripture that a Messiah, a Savior, would die on a cross and be raised from the dead to forgive our sins and assure us of an eternal home with him in heaven. I'm so glad that Jesus was faithful even when it cost him everything!
3. The difficulties we face should not define us; our faith should. The world is watching us to see how we handle the hard circumstances of life. People need to know that this ugly, broken, sick world is not all there is. We need to believe that too. Christians are not immune from life's troubles. In John 16:33 (ESV) Jesus said, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Why, then, should we be surprised by anything that happens or by circumstances we cannot control? Jesus said, "you will have tribulation."
As people struggling to reclaim our faith in these difficult times, may we be reminded that Jesus has overcome the world and that one day, those of us who know him will join him in the holy city, the new Jerusalem, where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4, ESV). Let us be defined by our faith in Christ, not in the circumstances and heartbreaks we will experience in our time here on earth.
There are some reading this who may not know Jesus, or who may have wandered from the faith. If that is you, please know that you can never wander too far from the loving embrace and forgiveness of our great God. Jesus didn't just die for my sins. He died for yours, too, in order that you might have a personal relationship with him in the here and now. Eternal life with Jesus doesn't begin when we die, but rather when we ask for his forgiveness and invite him into our hearts to be our Lord and Savior.
My prayer for you in 2021 is that you will experience the joy of a personal relationship with Christ by receiving his free gift of salvation (you don't have to earn it, just ask for it) and by choosing to surrender your life to his leading. I learned a long time ago that life is so much better when lived God's way instead of my own. God's word will tell you everything you need to know to live joyfully and victoriously if you will make reading the Bible a part of each day. Living God's way and discovering his purpose and plan for your life is the greatest adventure you will have!
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