Unanimity is an exceedingly rare commodity. Agreement across cultures, languages, religions, political leanings…well, you know how often that happens. But here we are, looking at a unanimous opinion of the year that’s ending: “Good riddance!” Every year we see year-end recaps offered by essentially everyone. We do it ourselves. All of them, this year, are painting 2020 as beyond awful.
So what are we expecting? You know (don’t you?) that it’s completely artificial that Thursday is one year and Friday is another year. Do we think that such labels actually mean anything significant?
The pandemic will continue on Friday, wars will continue, droughts will continue. Political turmoil in various nations won’t stop, nor will violence or injustices. I’m sorry to be gloomy here, but the fact is that Friday isn’t going to be a “new beginning”, except for hanging a new calendar on the kitchen wall.
Jesus taught us it’s OK to pray we can avoid the worst.
What do we do, when facing a situation we know will be unpleasant at the least, potentially even lethal? We have to look at our Lord. In Gethsemane he knew what was coming, and what he did was pray. Remember—he prayed that he wouldn’t have to go through it! Thus teaching us it’s OK to pray we can avoid the worst.
And, as you’re already thinking, he added, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” It’s not wrong, in fact I’d say it’s very right, to pray that the disasters of 2020 be over and not consume us in 2021. And pray that the Father’s will be done, fully aware that might mean the cup does not pass, just as it did not for Jesus.
The deep and far-reaching question, then, is how we will live regardless of events around us. How we’ll behave, how we’ll talk, how we’ll worship. What will occupy our thoughts? Will ongoing trials, or even (I hate to even think) worsening trials, derail our faith? Will such things cause us to abandon our hope? Will love be jettisoned in favor of selfishness, fear, bitterness?
Again let’s consider our Lord. He didn’t come to his “your will not mine” commitment that last night in the garden. He never would have made it through, if he’d put it off till then. He had to come to that conviction far earlier, and he did. (For example see John 6:38.)
We aren’t prophets, but we can (and are expected to) be familiar with what the prophets tell us. Especially Jesus. He tells us about a time of tribulation before the end, and he tells us it will be a time for us to bear witness. (Luke 21:13) He even tells us to lift up our heads and look up at this time! (Luke 21:28) I’ve written about this before, but it seems like a good time to say it again.
Jesus prepared all his life for the ultimate trial of faith that night in the garden. We need to, for real, prepare our own minds for what is coming. We don’t know if what we call “2021” will see escalation of this time of trouble. But we can know, with certainty, that if we haven’t prepared spiritually, mentally, emotionally, then whenever the time of trouble does come…we will crumple.
Jesus didn’t downplay what the end would look like. He was right up front about it—it would be nothing short of horrific. And he also said, “When it happens, hold up your head! Because your redemption is really close!”
I encourage all of us to pray for relief from the troubles the world is experiencing. (“Troubles” seems like such a weak word, but really, what word is strong enough?) And as we pray, we must include a genuine, “Your will, not mine, be done”. And a determination to hold our heads up, no matter what. And a determination to bear witness.
What will “2021” bring? We can’t know. But what’s within our ability is to foster faith, strengthen hope, exercise love—which is what “Your will be done” looks like in practice.
Love and prayers for us all,