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 nothing new 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, “If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7). James reminded us, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes 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 matter, but the glory of kings 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 take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust 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 inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes 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 “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Though one may live “seventy [or] eighty years,” once the end comes, whenever that is, our life is “soon…gone 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 how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (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 we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. […] So also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22). Jesus told His apostles, “Take courage; 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, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who 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.
–Andy Sochor, Eastside church of Christ in Morgantown, KY. Plainbibleteaching.com