I love a clean slate.
That first page of a new journal, starting a new book, or the first day of a new season. And, I really love the beginning of a new year. Every new year holds so much promise.
2021 started with promise. It was certainly going to be a better year than 2020; it had to be.
No more COVID, no more political division or racial divide? At least, that was the hope, right?
Well, we didn’t even make it a week into 2021 and the wheels fell off, again.
2021 felt like any other year that started with so much promise, but ended up being such a disappointment.
We can laugh it off now — we kind of have to — but the effects of the past few years are real: division, sickness, and uncertainty.
2021 broke a lot of promises.
Well, here we are again. It’s January. A clean slate. I love a new year!
But our hopes have been tempered. Everyone seems to be a little more cynical and hardened this time around. And maybe we should be. Life is hard and will continue to be hard. In fact, long before COVID-19 Jesus told his followers:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33
Jesus was honest about the challenges of life.
But, there is a difference between a realistic understanding of our broken world and losing hope as Christians.
So what if 2022 really does offer promise? And what if that promise will never lead to disappointment?
As we begin the new year, here are three promises we can hold on to:
1. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
These past couple of years, we’ve experienced isolation, separation, and loneliness to a greater degree, but this is not new. Spiritually and relationally people have a tendency to feel isolated. We need to be reminded that we are never alone if we know Jesus.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:19-20
As we walk through 2022 (and whatever may come with it) we can be reminded that we have a God who is present with us always.
In fact that’s what we just celebrated at Christmas. Jesus, who is Immanuel, God with us!
And, as amazing as it is that he came to dwell with us, Jesus also came and experienced the real suffering and brokenness of our world. He knows what it’s like to be thirsty and hungry, to be tempted and rejected and abandoned.
He knows what it’s like to suffer and even to die.
He understands it all and is with us in it all. Always.
2. GOD WILL GIVE US STRENGTH
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:10-13
This is a popular verse, but so often misconstrued. Paul was not saying he could do whatever he wanted to do because God would strengthen him. He wasn’t talking about the perfect jump-shot or a six figure salary.
Paul was in the midst of the suffering and tribulation Jesus had warned about.
But, even there, Paul was content in abundance, and he was content in suffering, because Christ was present with him.
It’s not a promise of comfort or ease, but of God’s presence and power in the midst of anything we might face.
3. GOD IS WORKING ALL THINGS FOR GOOD
I know this is often a Christian cliché, but it’s also a real promise.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28
The context of this verse is, again, acknowledging the suffering in our world.
Paul was describing those who walk in the Spirit as disciples of Christ.
For us, no matter what we face, we can be sure that not only are we never alone, not only does God strengthen us along the way, but we can trust that in the end, his goodness, power, and sovereignty will work out for our good and his glory.
Let’s be clear though, this promise doesn’t mean that everything is good. There is so much in our broken hearts and our broken world that is decidedly bad, like sickness, betrayal, cancer, hurricanes, selfishness, and so much more.
But, even in the middle of all of it, we trust that God is faithful to keep his promises. And in the end, he takes even the worst of life, the brokenness of our world, and he works it for good. It is an incredible promise!
The “promises” of this world will always disappoint, but we can be certain in the promises of God. None of these promises guarantee an easy new year ahead, but they are true and something we can and should hold fast to no matter what 2022 brings.
God’s promises are as true today as they were last year. They will always be the same and they will always offer hope beyond today.
This is what true faith, founded in Christ, looks like.