The turn of one year to the next always brings reflection of what has passed and anticipation of the future. I make it a habit to intentionally ask God what He wants me to focus on. At the beginning of 2021, I sensed I was to embrace joy as my focus for the year. This was exciting after the difficulties of 2019 and the freak show that had been 2020. My heart wanted to be willing to release my grip on “control” but to be truthful, I felt a lot of hesitation because during the previous two years the Lord had been teaching me how joy is sometimes wrapped in suffering. Our western society tends to think of joy as happiness, elation, and positivity. But joy is the deep settled confidence that God is in control of every detail of our lives, knowing He will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I knew this was the definition of joy I was to embrace.
Scripture teaches us that Satan sometimes asks to put our faith to the test (Job 1-2) and to sift us like wheat (Luke 22:31). I imagine when I thought things couldn’t get harder than 2019 or 2020, Satan said, “Hold my beer”.
A few short weeks after one of the happiest days in our family’s history, the wedding of my son, came the saddest days, my son’s death, burial, and every day to follow. What about joy?! God, I thought this year was about JOY?!?!? And then it hit me. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2) We live in a fallen world. All kinds of trouble, including death, will be our experience here. But Jesus endured the cross to overcome it and sit down at the right hand of God. One day, we who place our trust in Him will join in the full realization of that joy. Until then we continue to learn that joy is sometimes wrapped in suffering.
As I think about 2022, it’s tempting to take to heart the meme that says, “Nobody claim 2022 as ‘your year”. We’re all going to walk in real slow. Be quiet. Be good. Don’t. Touch. Anything.” But I am instead choosing to boldly proclaim hope. Scripture teaches us to glory in our sufferings because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Satan may have said, “Hold my beer” in 2021, but God says every day, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Come what may, I will have hope as I am held in His arms. What are you choosing?