With a global pandemic, lockdowns, economic woes, a contested Presidential election, and more, this has been quite an unusual year. While the wise man noted that “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), from our perspective it can seem like we are living in unprecedented times.
As the events of this year have unfolded, there are some important truths that have been highlighted. These have always been true, but they are more apparent in light of recent events. Let us briefly consider a few points.
The Future Is Unpredictable
Many plans that were made for this year had to be postponed, altered, or cancelled altogether. While there never have been guarantees as far as our future plans are concerned, this year has made this reality even clearer. The wise man wrote, “For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be” (Ecclesiastes 8:7). James reminded us, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). This year should serve as a reminder for us that we cannot predict what will transpire in the days, months, and years to come.
Man Does Not Have All the Answers
As people around the world were faced with a previously unknown virus, it was clear that, despite the best efforts of doctors and government officials, no one was sure of the best way to deal with the situation. The Proverb writer said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). In other words, man will never find all of the answers he is looking for – even those who are seemingly in the best position to have the resources necessary to pursue these answers. This is one reason why the psalmist wrote, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9). As many admonish us to trust the scientists or government officials, we need to be sure our trust is in the Lord first.
Life Is Fragile
Throughout the pandemic this year, many people have died from the virus and from complications related to it. Of course, death has always been a certainty. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Yet the constant news coverage of virus-related deaths and the accounts of sickness and death among those with whom we are personally acquainted has brought this into the forefront of our minds. As we already noticed, our life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Though one may live seventy or eighty years, once the end comes, whenever that is, our life is “soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
Brethren Need One Another
Across the country, churches have shifted from regular assemblies to virtual “assemblies.” Even if churches have continued to meet in person, many members have not assembled due to health concerns or other reasons. The isolation that many have experienced during the pandemic has taken a toll on our society. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that American’s mental health ratings have dropped to a new low among every demographic except one -- those who attend religious services weekly. The Hebrew writer explained the importance of the assembly: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The assembly is not just about worshipping God and fulfilling our obligation to Him. It is also about encouraging one another. During difficult times, brethren need this encouragement from one another even more.
Our Hope Must Be in the Lord
No one knows if or when the situation with the pandemic will improve. No one knows if or when our economy or life as we knew it will ever return to “normal.” For all we know, from our limited human perspective, conditions could get even worse in the future compared to how they are now. However, as Christians we have hope beyond this life. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that sleep...so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22). Jesus told His apostles, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Through Jesus’ resurrection, we can have the same courage. Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome by saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). Despite all of the negative things that have happened this year – and what could happen next year and beyond – we have hope through Christ.
As we approach a new calendar year, let us remember what the Bible teaches on these points we have considered. Moving from one year to another does not change the truth of what God’s word has said. No matter what happened this year or what is in store for the next, let us keep our hope and trust in the Lord.