How to Hope in 2021
by Brax Carvette, Blog Editor
2021 is finally here. For many of us, this new year brings with it the hope that things will be different than they were in 2020. For many of us, this is the first new year we will live without a loved one. For many of us, our 2021 calendars have the same big question mark that they had in 2020. In the middle of so many mixed emotions and suffering, how would the Bible recommend we face the new year?
Lamentations’ worst-case scenario
As I have thought about this, the book of Lamentations has come to mind. Lamentations is a book of sadness, written because of the destruction of Israel’s crown jewel: Jerusalem. Not only was this beautiful city destroyed by foreign invaders, but the temple, the place where God met with his people was destroyed. Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, sees this great destruction, suffering, and separation from God’s presence as a result of God’s wrath on Israel’s sin. This is the worst-case scenario. If the Israelites were being attacked by a foreign army, that would be one thing, but the reality is that God himself seems to be against them because of their sin. The circumstances that this book is written in are far worse than our own.
Hope because God
Things could not get worse. But it’s in these dark circumstances that Jeremiah writes:
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Where does his hope come from? From the reality that the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases. Whether 2020 has been a blessing or felt like a curse and whether January 1, 2021 finds you half full or half empty, the steadfast love of the LORD has not run out. His steadfast love will continue into this new year. His mercies will not come to an end in 2021! You can expect new mercies this new year. In fact, you can expect new mercies from the hand of God with every new morning. This is the God who is our portion (which means if we have nothing else but God, we are content and happy with him), therefore our hope is in him. Hope in this God in 2021, whose love for you will never end and will bless you with mercies with every new day. Great is his faithfulness.
While we hope
So what do we do as we hope in God?
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.
As we hope in God, we wait for him, seek him, and wait for his salvation. We don’t create our own salvation from our circumstances or our emotional turmoil. And we don’t pretend that God has saved us from these things if he hasn’t yet saved us from them. We wait for him. We seek him.
Suffering while we wait
And while we wait, we can willingly give ourselves over to suffering. Jeremiah says so when he says, “Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes…” If 2021 has suffering for us (and it will, even if COVID-19 disappears tonight), we give ourselves willingly to it. This doesn’t sound pleasant. We as humans tend to avoid suffering at all costs. So why should we give ourselves willingly to suffering?
For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
We give ourselves willingly over to suffering because God is the one that causes the grief. That might not sound helpful or loving. Why would someone purposefully cause someone else grief? Because even “though he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Compassion is on the other side of grief. For the Christian, resurrection is on the other side of death. God does not afflict from his heart! It’s not as though God’s purpose in causing grief is to just afflict you. No. He has greater purposes in our suffering that are compassionate, loving, and good for us. His heart is to bless you, but sometimes suffering is necessary in order for the blessing to come.
God and you at the pediatrician’s
Let me illustrate what your 2020 might have been like for God (and what 2021 might be for him too):
I remember the first time my son, Clint, got shots. He was happy with my wife and I at the pediatrician’s. He was happy as I held him in my arms. Then the needle pierced his skin and I saw his face wrinkle up in pain. This suffering blindsided him. He didn’t do anything wrong and yet it came all the same. It wasn’t fair. I hated it. And yet, even though it wasn’t fair, even though I hated his suffering so much, I let it happen. Why? Because I knew that the needle that pierced him would ultimately be for his good. I did not allow his affliction from my heart, nor did it give me joy to grieve my son. And yet I let it happen because I love him.
And I held him in my arms while he cried. This to me is a picture of God and you in your suffering. He hates it and lets it happen because he wants to show you compassion that flows from his abundant steadfast love.
In 2021: Hope, wait, and endure
So, in 2021, let us face the year with hope because God’s mercies for us are new every morning. Let us wait for God, seek him, and wait for his salvation. And as we wait, let us endure hardship, knowing that God only lets things into our lives because he loves to show us compassion. Amen.