I want this year to end. Well, to be more specific, I want 2020 to drag its broken, violent, garbage self back down to the sewers from whence it emerged.
Of course, there are some good things about this year. Maybe closeness with family increased, children were born, couples wed, or good jobs began. It hasn’t all been bad.
The closer we get to the end of this calendar year, the more I hear the refrain, I can’t wait for 2020 to be over.
We all want someone to blame for the wretched year this has been. We blame the woke, the bigots, the President, the police, Boomers, or Gen Z. Deep down we know it’s not really one person or group of people who are to blame. So we personify 2020 and as the year rages on, we grow more weary of its existence and long to see its end.
Blaming a year is an easy thing to do. It won’t take it personally, argue that you’re really misunderstanding it, or break down and apologize.
It also keeps us from dealing with the real problem. At the end of Scooby-Doo, the finally captured “monster” is never who it seems. What’s really behind the 2020 mask is far more bothersome, far more discomforting, far more personal.
The real culprit is the fleeting, vaporous, sin-stained, brokenness of life itself.
Who wants to see that as our villain? How unsettling!
It makes sense that we want to look ahead to the turn of the calendar as an object of hope.
Brothers and sisters, we are far too short-sighted. What will happen to us if, on January 1, 2021, something even worse fills the earth with despair? What if it brings a more deadly pandemic, war among the nations, or personal loss and devastation? We can say that our hope is in eternity, but our actions on this earth do not always confirm we have our sights set far enough ahead.
Consider God’s Word to us:
“You return mankind to the dust,
saying, ‘Return, descendants of Adam.’
For in your sight a thousand years
are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night.
You end their lives; they sleep.
They are like grass that grows in the morning—
in the morning it sprouts and grows;
by evening it withers and dries up.”– Psalm 90:3-6
“A voice was saying, ‘Cry out!’
Another said, ‘What should I cry out?’
‘All humanity is grass,
and all its goodness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flowers fade
when the breath of the Lord blows on them;
indeed, the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flowers fade,
but the word of our God remains forever.’”– Isaiah 40:6-8
“‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher.
‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile.’
What does a person gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?
A generation goes and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.”– Ecclesiastes 1:2-4
“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end.”– Ecclesiastes 3:11
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it.”– James 4:13-17
“When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.”– Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
“So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”– Matthew 6:31-34
Do you hear the themes? Life is fleeting, God is forever.
Life is fleeting. We are grass, a shimmer, a fading flower, dust, futile, a vapor. Initially, this is not encouraging at all. We may be tempted to believe that life is pointless. If the Scriptures are true (which they are) and life is fleeting (which it is) then why do we exist? Why struggle with horrible years like 2020 if 2021 doesn’t bring with it promises of being any better?
God is forever. That’s why.
Most of these passages have a resounding theme.
“from eternity to eternity, you are God.” – Psalm 90:2
“the word of our God remains forever.” – Isaiah 40:8
“He has also put eternity in their hearts” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:15
“fear God and keep his commands.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13
“seek first the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 6:33
It is the foreverness of God, His eternal, steadfast, trustworthy self that is the answer to our struggle. Why struggle in this world? Why endure the hardships of 2020 or any other year of pain?
Because though life and each year is fleeting, God is not. And we have access to God. Knowing God is eternal and above the torments of this life is just a fairy tale story if we don’t get to be part of it.
The eternal God put Himself in our shoes. He felt and saw the pangs of hunger, hurt of betrayal, grief of death, injustice of racism, abuse of power, and all the rest. All the fleeting parts of life, He endured. Even after that, He willingly suffered and died a brutal death to clear our path to hope.
Jesus knows how 2020 feels. He knows we long for relief from this year. He is compassionate toward us in our weakness. But 2021 is not our hope. It cannot save us and it will not satisfy us. We can take off the “hood” of the “2020 villain” and see that it is the sin and brokenness of this life that’s causing turmoil. Though we are not promised ease of life as we look forward to 2021, we are promised eternal life that gives enduring hope.
What is our hope in life and death?
Christ alone, Christ alone
What is our only confidence?
That our souls to Him belong
Who holds our days within His hand?
What comes, apart from His command?
And what will keep us to the end?
The love of Christ, in which we stand