What was 2020 like for you? Was it a time of fear? Or a time of despair, anxiety, or loss of hope? Was it a growth period, where you discovered new things about yourself while in the midst of trouble? In what way did 2020 help you grow? Or has 2020 made you feel weaker? Was 2020 a positive year for you? What were some of your best memories of the year?
At the end of the day, 2020 is just a label we have placed on the past year of time that has elapsed. If the suffering we experience outweighs the blessing we believe we have received, then our outlook on life, and on the year, will reflect that. I think 2020 was a year most people thought that suffering was king. They will look back at 2020 and say, “Geez, I hope 2021 is waaaay better than that.” But is it in the year that we have hope? Do we hope in the uncertainty of the next period of time, wishing it would bring less suffering than the year prior? Is that how blessing works: pray we suffer less the next time, so we can be more appreciative of the blessings to come as well?
As I have stated in past articles, suffering is the norm. And I say this not to degrade your own suffering, but rather, to help you use it to edify yourself. When we look back at any suffering we have experienced and say, “Man, I hope that never happens again,” then we have missed the point. Of course we do not want suffering to happen to us, and certain sufferings to ever happen again--especially the worst kinds--but if that is all we can focus on when we reflect back on it, then truly it did not serve its purpose. What good are trials if we do not grow from them? If we do not grow from the trials we face, then those trials will not serve a good purpose, but only destroy our spirit and make us weaker within. As in Ecclesiates, “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).
To grow from suffering requires a purpose and destination in which we are growing. This is why it is so difficult to look at trials in a good light on our own, because it does not serve our own purposes and the destination we have in mind. What construction of religion, or ideal of man, can bring hope in the darkest of places? Nothing of this world can fulfill the true needs of our heart; there is only One source that can bring the fulfillment we all desire and need.
The answers we are seeking will not be found in a new year itself, or in any kind of drug, alcohol, human experience, job, religion, earthly relationship, emotion, scientific discovery, etc... When we make these things our god, when these realities of our lives become our idols, we lead ourselves to death. No experience will ever satisfy you, and no amount of anything in this world will ever sate your hunger for more. We could have zero kinds of worldly suffering in our lives, and yet still live in brokenness and disability within ourselves. A new year will not bring you out of the pain you experience, and it will not deliver you from suffering. One demon in our life will simply be replaced by another, and the cycle of suffering will continue.
But there is a way to break the chain of suffering in your mind. The suffering can--and probably will--still exist, but your mind will be strengthened to be able to endure it and grow through it. This is a continual learning process; hence, why it is we are “growing” through our problems--and in this life, the problems never really cease. We will be growing until we die. There are countless psychological methods that employ growing through our problems, but none provide an answer as fulfilling and redemptive as the Cross. When we suffer and lean on the power of the Cross, the growth journey we experience is no longer just our burden. By accepting and submitting to the One who took our place, we are renewed by a strength and power not of this world. And with this power comes hope, because we realize that the struggles we endure for the Cross are stored up like treasures in Heaven, glorifying the One whom the power comes from.
This year in October, CastTheNet began. Since that beginning, I have been writing mainly on the fruits of the Spirit, and various things pertaining to that. With the new year, I believe it would be a good place to start focusing primarily on Scripture within the Bible. Of course, Scripture has always been an integral part of what I write, but the goal for the blog for 2021 is to focus on particular sections of the Bible to analyze and dive deeper into. The power that I speak of that brings hope is found in the pages of the Bible, and in order to grow closer with the One who saves, we have to spend time with His book.
For 2021, one of the best ways we can positively impact our lives is by spending time with the Living Word, and growing closer to the One it is about. The Bible is a story, and the Main Character is who we are all searching for. While a new year will not give us the lasting hope we need, it can be a good time to start new habits. One habit that we can always improve on is our tendency to seek; that no matter how busy our day gets, or how bad things may seem, we will continue to seek after the Truth day after day, in every moment. One of the ways we can do this is by reading the Bible more.
The Bible is a timeless work, and it’s ultimate author is alive and all-powerful, making the book alive and powerful as well. There is more wisdom and knowledge to be found within the Bible than anything else, and when we read it through a lens of faith, our eyes open to new and amazing secrets. Bibles are usually quite accessible, and if you have the means (or if you don’t, let me know and CastTheNet can help you get one), definitely invest in one. My Bible is a New King James Version, and I would recommend the red-letter edition.
For the next year, let us give the Bible a try. Imagine where our faiths would be after a year of commitment to the Word; after a year of diligently reading about and seeking after the One who the book points to. I can confidently say that if we do this, and if we find--and/or grow closer to--the Life of which the Bible speaks of, there will be no year too terrible or difficult that we cannot overcome. That there will be no event or trouble too daunting or heavy that will not answer to the Voice of hope that is within us. That Voice is calling to us all, and if we can be still and listen for it in the pages of the Bible, and in the depths of our hearts, then we will grow in a Hope that lasts forever.