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Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Looking Now

What are your thoughts, your feelings about 2021? How about our new year of 2022? These are not idle questions, but important and meaningful for us all to consider. Taking time to ponder the passing of another year will bear fruit. Consider that the first page of the Bible tells of God placing the sun and moon overhead “for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). That means that God wants us to pay attention to the passing of days, of years, of seasons, and to learn from the passing of time. The Biblical view of time contrasts markedly to the secular view of time as empty and repetitious. Thus, the Bible, as well as the ancient church calendar, gives careful attention to the marking of days, seasons, and years.

So, this God apportioned day of January is prime time for reflecting on the past year as well as the year ahead of us. This month of January takes its name from the Roman god Janus who was the deity of thresholds and all exits and entrances. Thus, Janus was always depicted as having two faces, one for looking back while also looking ahead.

Yale theologian Miroslav Volf can assist in taking time to look back and ahead. Volf was raised in former Communist Yugoslavia as his homeland Croatia was occupied by Serbian armies. As a boy, Volf experienced firsthand the horrors of genocide and displacement. Yet in his book Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in A Culture Stripped of Grace, he tells a Christ-like way of looking at the PAST and the FUTURE

As to the PAST, Volf encourages GRATITUDE as a way of looking back on time. As Christ-followers we can know that whatever pain or evil we have suffered God has purposed for our good (e.g. Genesis 50:20). Although there are so many things about the past year we might not understand, we can know this for sure: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Thus, we can look back on strange and tumultuous 2021 with GRATITUDE to a loving and wise heavenly Father.

As to 2022 and the FUTURE we can look with TRUST. Jesus promises that whatever happens with the pandemic, economy, or nations rising up against nations, Jesus, Emmanuel, will always be God-With-Us: “’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, quoting Deuteronomy 31:6) We can look ahead to an unknown FUTURE with the known promise of Jesus to be with us.

But after looking to the PAST with GRATITUDE, and the FUTURE with TRUST, Volf takes time to ponder the PRESENT with CONTENTMENT. The apostle Paul writes from a Roman prison reminding how “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment” (I Timothy 6:6). As God’s children, we are assured “we always have enough of everything” (2 Corinthians 9:8). God is our faithful Shepherd who always leads in the right paths and cares for us so that “we shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1). We can say with the apostle Paul “I have learned to be content with whatever I have…I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11, 13).

GRATITUDE, TRUST, and CONTENTMENT are to be prized amidst a culture wracked by anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. They are our rightful possessions as God’s beloved children. Why not take some time today or the next few days to reflect on:

  • GRATITUDE: For what am I grateful as I reflect back on 2021?
  • TRUST: For what am I trusting our heavenly Father as I look ahead to 2022?
  • CONTENTMENT: For what am I content in this present moment?

Take time to talk with the Father about your GRATITUDE, TRUST, and CONTENTMENT. Then, for a few moments simply be still, listening for God’s Spirit within you.

A fellow traveler,
Tim

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