As we say goodbye to 2019 and the last decade, it's easy to look back with grief and perhaps regret. We think of all that could have been and all the pains we've experienced. It may seem audacious to say now, but if I've learned anything about God, it's that he is a master of redemption. And in God's redemption, we can find hope in 2020. Here's how.
A reflection on 2019 cannot be complete without looking at it from the perspective of Christmas. The celebration of Christmas is a reminder that the arrival of the Son of God equals unfathomable hope. The hope of Christ changes everything. For the hope of Christ means you are not alone, but instead that God is "with us." The Gospel of Matthew says it this way:
"'The virgin [Mary] will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')" (Matthew 1:20 NIV; compare Isaiah 7:14).
Jesus is "God with us." But perhaps at this point, you're thinking, but my regrets and grief produce serious fears. I'm afraid of what may come in 2020. Even fear itself is confronted in Jesus. Joseph, Jesus' adopted father, is told, "do not be afraid." And the angel continues, "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20 NIV).
The salvation that comes in Jesus is a saving power, from both sin and fear. That means you can feel rest assured that God can address whatever happened in 2019.
Jesus is born into uncertainty, fear, and poverty; and his life is marked by suffering. But it is also marked by redemption. By the end of the story, we know that his life is marked by resurrection. We know he is savior.
It is the resurrected life of Jesus, which he describes as "life and life abundant," that God wants to offer us (John 10:10). The prophetic book of Isaiah, over 500 years before Jesus' birth, puts it this way:
“From the trouble of his life he will see light. He will be satisfied. In his knowledge, my righteous servant shall make the many righteous and he will bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11, my translation).
Jesus can bear your sins. Jesus can bear your grief. Whatever you're facing, Jesus can. Reflecting on the beauty of this Christian hope, the apostle Paul says:
“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [Christ!] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:34–35 ESV).
God doesn't want us to stay in regret for 2019, but to find repentance. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, from God's hope.
As you reflect back on the pain of 2019 and the past decade, ask: “What has God been doing in my life? Where is God at work and how can I follow him in that work?" I bet in the process of reflection you will find that God has been doing much more than you realized.
But perhaps you're reflecting back on a deep grief. Perhaps you have lost someone dear to you in 2019. That's happened in my family. And while 2019 meant saying goodbye, I find comfort that those we've lost no longer feel pain. And that they live on through the stories we tell of their life. And that those who know Jesus have been healed in heaven and are in deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus now than I can even fathom (2 Corinthians 5:1–10).
I also find hope in 2020 knowing that one day, we will see our loved ones again—we didn’t truly say goodbye, but rather acknowledged a stepping off point. For one day, we will all have resurrected bodies (Revelation 20:11–15; 1 Corinthians 15:12–58).
When I look back at the losses of 2019, and the past decade, I remind myself that this is not the end. But simply a stepping off point to a new period of life. That God will have the final say; and that word will be good.
As a Christian, my theology demands that I examine 2019 from the perspective of resurrection. I ask Christ to lift, and even bear, all of the last decades pains. I'm not strong enough on my own, but I know that "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 NIV).
I lift a glass up to God here at the beginning of 2020, requesting that he redeem the last decade. I ask God to give me new life, by the power of the resurrection of the Son of God. As I do so, I realize that my times of pain and grief are not in vain, but that God is there in all of it, working tirelessly to draw me closer to him. And that relationship has eternal value. What price wouldn't I pay for that? God will have the final say in the end:
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39 ESV).
I believe in hope for 2020, because I know a God of hope. I believe in redemption for the last decade because I trust a God of resurrection. I want God to have the final word on 2019 and the first word on 2020. I pray the same for you.
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