2020 may be the most hopeless year of most of our lifetimes. Every week there is a new meme about whatever apocalypse is happening or on the horizon. Since March, the significant changes to our lives brought about both by the Coronavirus and the response to it have rattled everyone and the impact on people’s lives is having it’s toll.
This crisis has been different than many that we face or have faced. 9/11 was an attack from the outside and brought most Americans together. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and floods evoke a compassionate human response that draws many to reach out and help. A personal crisis of health or other misfortune often brings the community together as family and friends, both near and far, jump in to support the needs of the hour.
When these type of things happen and people experience this type of support, it is much easier to find hope in the dark place that circumstances have landed us in. As believers, we know that God is real and that He has promised His love for us, but we often need the tangible reminder through other people’s actions to help us see what He is doing. God has blessed us with the Body of Christ, the Church, to come alongside us and speak truth and take action.
Many things in 2020 have seemed to disrupt this normal human support. Staying home to save lives and practicing social distancing further isolated a populace that was already trending in the direction of disconnection. Restrictions on gathering left people facing additional burdens when faced with sickness and loss. Funerals either couldn’t happen or had heavy restrictions. Those who were ill couldn’t be visited in the hospital and uncertainty left people more distant than normal. “Can I bring food to my sick neighbor?” “Would a visit be appropriate?” “Is someone coming to pray for me too risky?”
Nursing homes were the hardest hit, and just not by the virus. In most of these facilities, staff are limited in their ability to do more than the bare minimum for each resident. The residents rely on visits from family and friends and programs run by volunteers, especially churches. Without these connections, the most isolated became cut off from life giving support.
Additional challenges came in the form of divisive issues. There are always controversy, but 2020 brought us new conflicts over things like masks and Covid treatments, in addition to the items we regularly deal with, such as racism and politics. When I was growing up, we used to joke about churches splitting over the color of the carpet. The 2020 equivalent may end up being over masks.
We have less than 3 months left to go and rather than wait for the next turn of the wheel of the meme apocalypse, I was encouraged this day to focus on reasons for hope. After all, if we are in Christ, we have much to be hopeful for. It is important to remember that as bad as 2020 might seem, many of the Biblical authors were living under much greater difficulty at the time of their writing. They were displaced, often persecuted, with little resources and much need and suffering. In spite of all this, they found the time to write the words below.
Paul wrote to a group of house churches in Rome that had no privilege in society. Christians lived on the fringes and had no power. Later, they would face great persecution in that city. He writes a message that is relevant for us today. God is a God of hope and the secret to finding joy and peace is trusting in Him. Hope come through that and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah was a profit in a pitiful time. Israel was about to be destroyed for their sin. In other words, they were about to get what they deserved. In the face of this, Jeremiah had the task of preaching God’s judgement on the people, but also casting a vision of hope for the future. He was preaching a sermon about what he would never see, but what God intended to do, because of who God is, not because of anything they deserved. We can pray a similar prayer, putting our hope for the future in God’s hands, not in any other place.
Finally, we must center our hope on Christ, our living hope. Peter would soon after this face his death for his faith, where tradition records that he requested to be crucified upside down, rather than face the same death as his savior. God has promised an inheritance that will never fade. We can find our joy in His promises, which never fail. Christ is faithful to provide salvation and we can rejoice, though we suffer grief in our current trials.
Our hope is not in a vaccine, or in a president or even in a church or Christian leader. Our hope is in God alone and in His son, Jesus Christ. When we place our hope there, we can find joy and peace, even in the face of 2020. Spread that hope to your family and friends. Spread the truth of God’s Word, don’t spread fear, despair and division.