Have you ever felt more relief in saying goodbye to 2020 than to any other year? This year has been a real doozy, a train wreck. Old Father Time is limping bruised and decrepit into January, a month named for the Roman god Janus, believed to oversee thresholds, exits, and entrances. Standing astride the threshold of years required Janus to have two faces, one for looking back and one for looking ahead. And that is something I like to do today: look back over 2020 and give thought to 2021.
Helping me to do that today is Yale theologian, Miroslav Volf. He grew up in former Communist Yugoslavia while his homeland of Croatia was occupied by Serbian armies. He talks and writes knowingly about following Jesus amidst genocide, bloodshed and displacement. (See Volf’s book: Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in A Culture Stripped of Grace).
Volf says that as Jesus-followers we can always look back on our PAST with GRATITUDE. We have the faith that any evil we have suffered was intended by God for good (e.g. Genesis 50:20). Even though there are so many things we cannot know, here is one thing we can: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
As to our PRESENT, we can look with CONTENTMENT on our circumstances. We can do this because we know that within God’s providence and purpose “we always have enough of everything” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Thankfully, we have a Shepherd who always leads us and cares for us so that “we shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1). I try frequently to remind myself of the apostle Paul’s counsel that “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment” (I Timothy 6:6). Even though chained in a Roman prison, Paul could say with confidence: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have…I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11, 13).
Now, as to the FUTURE, and all the uncertainties of 2021, we can look with TRUST. We are assured that whatever happens with the pandemic, or its mutations, the economy, or our government, Jesus promises to always be with us. We can know that Jesus “has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Standing here, Janus-like, looking back and looking ahead, I ask our heavenly Father to fill you and me with a lot of gratitude, contentment, and trust. And, “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).
A fellow traveler,