Well, thank God 2016 is over! The year of dreadful diagnoses, dreadful elections, deaths in the church family, and much more that I hope will soon be dropped into the garbage can of history! And then again, there’s a new year ahead, which will have its own serving of natural disasters, wars, plane crashes, fear-mongering and political wrangling.
But let me tell you the other side of 2016: deeper love among people I know, hours of precious spiritual conversation with people who call me pastor, joy-filled worship, serious enquiry and joyous conversation at Bible study, answered prayers, marriages strengthened and deepened, and much more that has changed me for the better. From here, the suffering looks bearable, and I can imagine bearing the same again, if there can be such deep joy again!
So can there be hope in 2017? Are we faced with Hamlet’s choice this year? Should we “take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?” or is it nobler to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?” Do we enter 2017 expecting a year-long fight against things we can’t change (sickness, politics, war, losses)–or do we take all the hard knocks in stride, maintaining an inner confidence an peace that Christ can provide? That’s a tough and spiritual question. After all, Jesus did both. He didn’t open his mouth to speak on his own behalf when he was on trial before Pilate, so he sounds passive, doesn’t he? And then on the other hand, he railed violently against the money-changers at the Temple like a true wild-eyed reformer. Perhaps his choice gives us a hint about how we should approach the new year. In both cases, he made a choice that served the good of others rather than himself. He put his anger and energy into justice, while he put himself into God’s hands with complete confidence.
In 2017, are you ready to trust yourself and your future to God, even in the face of death itself? And in 2017, are you ready to commit yourself to the passionate pursuit if justice and good, helping others come closer to God? For me, the answer has to be yes. After the last year, what else can I do?
Let me know what spiritual treasures you’ve found in 2016, and what’s going to move you forward into 2017 with deeper faith.