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2020 is now in our rearview mirrors and it can’t leave fast enough. What a year it was.
The year of the coronavirus pandemic, shutdowns and quarantine.
The year of political upheaval, riots and protests.
Here’s an acronym to help us understand hope: holding on with patient expectation (HOPE).
People hold cutouts to welcome the New Year in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
First of all, let me tell you where I am not putting my hope: political solutions. Politics have their place of course, and they have a significant effect on our lives. But true hope that transcends circumstances and human emotions comes from somewhere else. It comes from God.
Perhaps you find yourself filled with fear as you enter this new year. I read the most searched for and bookmarked Bible verse of 2020 was Isaiah 41:10:
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (NIV).
It’s been said the phrase "fear not" is found in the Bible 365 times. That’s one "fear not" for every day of the year. But those promises can be a lot like the gift cards we may have received this Christmas. They are often forgotten and left unused. In fact, approximately $3 billion worth of gift cards were not redeemed in 2019.
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Like those gift cards, God’s promises won’t have any effect on our lives if we don’t "cash them in." And the way to "cash in" a promise from God is simply to trust him to keep them.
In this long time exposure image, a person appears blurred as he paints 2021 with a sparkler firework to represent the coming year, in the darkness on New Year’s Eve, in Briesen, Germany, late Thursday Dec. 31, 2020. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP)
One of my favorite promises in the Bible is found in Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (NKJV).
I love how God says, "The thoughts I think toward you."
The fact that almighty God would have even a fleeting thought about me is overwhelming. But God does not say, "I know the singular fleeting thought I had for a moment about you." Rather, he says, "I know the thoughts I think toward you."
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How many are those thoughts? According to Scripture, they are more than the sands at the beach. (Psalm 139:18)
But what kinds of thoughts is God thinking about me?
God assures us these are "thoughts of peace, not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Years ago, when my son Christopher was a little boy, I took him to a toy store. We went to the "Star Wars" aisle — this was when the film was out for the first time — and I told him he could pick out anything he wanted. Christopher was looking at "Star Wars" figures and simply could not decide.
Then he turned to me and said, "Why don’t you choose for me, Dad?"
His words warmed my heart. I chose the massive Millennium Falcon toy to go with the Han Solo figure he had been admiring. It was my pleasure to give my son the very best and I think he trusted I would pick something better for him than he would have chosen for himself.
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Sometimes, we feel apprehensive about saying something like that to God. That's because we may think that God is harsh, stingy and out to ruin our lives when the very opposite is true. God is not mad at us, he is mad about us. He loves us and he has a plan for us that is better than our plans for ourselves.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – DECEMBER 31: A woman prays at the Chogey temple during New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Perhaps this is the year we say to God, "Why don’t you choose for me, Dad?"
I don’t know what 2021 holds, but I know who holds 2021. Corrie ten Boom was right when she said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."
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I’ve read the last page of the Bible. All is well in the end because God has a future and a hope for us.
So, I have hope for this coming year.
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