Two-thousand-twenty-one is not your answer.
Come 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2021, I doubt that things will be a whole lot different. Unless Christ chooses that moment to come again, your world—my world—will remain largely the same, albeit a little sleepy-eyed.
Does that fact bring peace or panic to your heart? For me, it’s a big relief. But perhaps not for the right reasons.
While many around me are counting down the days until life “resumes as normal,” I’m not so keen on the idea. Even as my heart grieves the multi-level pain this pandemic has created, it clings to the disruption that’s come in its wake.
I don’t want to return to the busy schedules, the rigid 9-5 life, or the loneliness of a busy world. I don’t want to become so caught up in the activities that I don’t give or receive the level of care we’ve adopted during this time—regular “how are you doing?” check-ins are so helpful for all of us.
And to be honest as I consider this inner tension, I find it quite funny. As our world drifts somewhat aimlessly through this chaotic season of the unknown, my structure-loving self has somehow found normalcy (comfort even?) in the abnormal. In other words: I recently realized that I had created an abnormal-normal.
Is your head spinning? Or are you resonating with this? Regardless of what “normal” we cling to, if it’s anything other than Christ, that’s a problem.
We need to let go.
Whether 2021 brings great reprieve or sustained loss, the new year itself won’t be our answer. So it’s unwise to spend our time anticipating the same patterns as 2020 or the return of activities like vacations, concerts, and festivals.
To what then do we tie our expectations? The standard Christian answer, and the one you’re likely expecting, is Jesus. You would be 100 percent right. And yet, there’s more to it than that. If it were as simple as saying the word, we wouldn’t be stuck in this cycle, would we?
No, for most of us, this isn’t a knowledge issue. We know intellectually that Jesus is the proper anchor. The issue is that we’re paralyzed by fear. It causes us to love the normalcy—any scrap of it that we can find. And while having structure and routine isn’t bad, it is if we turn to that first instead of the Lord.
If that’s where you’re at as we approach the new year, you don’t need to stay there. There are two simple steps to re-anchoring ourselves to Christ. We must: (1) fill ourselves with truth and (2) actually take that step of faith.
Step 1: Breathe in Truth
The Apostle Paul speaks of this when he bids the Ephesians to put off the old self and put on the new. The necessary link between those two things is the renewing (Eph. 4:22-24). To renew the mind is simply to fill it with biblical truth. So, if we’re considering shifting our trust from “normalcy” to Christ, we ought to read Scripture about Christ’s ability to fully satisfy, protect, and sustain us. Thankfully, there are more than a few verses that address that very topic. When life spins out of control or when it goes well, we can consistently trust that our God:
- Will not abandon us: I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6)
- Is a strong refuge: The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Prov. 18:10).
- Fully satisfies us: For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things (Ps. 107:9).
- Is worthy of worship: The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb (Ps. 19:7-11)
- Is our strength: For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things (Isa. 41:10).
Let verses like these sink down in you. Read them, meditate on them, memorize them. They will help you lean away from trusting in this world and lean into trusting the Lord.
Step 2: Do it.
Years of competitive running have taught me volumes about the value of training. Preparation is necessary for any sustained success. Here’s the thing though: in the context of training, there comes a time when you must take action. If you don’t ever test your fitness with a race, why bother with the strenuous preparation?
Similarly, we aren’t called to just sit around and read Scripture about how God is trustworthy. God’s Word is meant to transform us. That means that our reading and meditating should give way to Christlike living. In other words: we need to take a risk; to let go of the other things we have trusted in and lean fully on him.
The specifics of that action look different for each of us. For you, it might mean holding your 2021 plans loosely and not crumbling if/when they don’t pan out. It might mean choosing to forgo your weekend routine when God prompts you to invest your time in a different way. Perhaps, it’s as simple as stopping, taking a step back, and saying, “God, I’m listening.”
Our Hope in 2021
What if I told you that 2021 would cause us to look upon 2020 with fondness? A weighty sadness to that would be appropriate—suffering is not fun! But if your jaw clenches and panic rises in your chest, then your hope might be misplaced. Friend, if you’re feeling that paralyzing fear, don’t settle for it. You can trust that the maker of planets, mountain vistas, and molecular cells will not fail to provide for you in a way that will glorify him and sanctify you.
I speak as one who battles severe anxiety, one whose gut-instinct is to grab onto control when I feel afraid. By God’s grace, 2020 was a year in which I plummeted. My inability to control the chaos around me led to a collapse of the perfect little world I’d set up. And from that rubble, God brought life. But it only began to bloom when I began laying down the idol of “normalcy” in favor of following God wherever he might take me. As it turns out, this global pandemic is the grounds upon which God is resurrecting me into life—into a life of letting go.
I pray that as you and I re-anchor our hearts in the trustworthiness of Christ, that the God of hope would fill us with all joy and peace in believing so that we may always abound in hope (Rom. 15:13).
Yes, there are aspects of 2020 I have actually loved and benefitted from. Likewise, there are aspects that have pained me deeply to the core. So, a new calendar year (or even the hope of a vaccine) won’t calm my anxious heart. It won’t calm yours either. We don’t know what the next year will bring. But we do know that if we walk forward armed with biblical truth and hearts that are ready to follow God’s lead, 2021 will be a great year of spiritual growth.