As we approach the end of 2020 and the advent of a new year, many of us feel more nervous and apprehensive than usual. This past year has been so unusual and ‘unprecedented’ (surely one of the words we never want to hear again!) that our usual nostalgia at the end of a year has been replaced by trepidation and anxiety: Government announcements (another one due today…) with yet more restrictions on our lives, rising infection rates, new mutations of the virus… the headlines continue to be dominated by bad news in one form or another. Many are pinning their hopes on the new vaccines, but others are still wary about what 2021 will bring, and so it can be difficult to feel positive about this new decade.
We’ve seen snow and ice this week, and that always gets me thinking about slipping and falling (you can tell I’m getting older now… I managed to slide down a muddy hill on Monday, losing my footing even before the snow and ice!) Many of us can readily identify with Asaph’s feelings in Ps 73: ‘But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;I had nearly lost my foothold.‘ (Ps 73:2) His situation was caused by envy of those who seemed to do better without God than he was doing with Him. We might well identify with him in that regard too; certainly, many of us may feel that we are standing on very insecure ground right now.
And yet when we read the Bible, that is not at all the picture we get. Doubt and fear certainly feature in Scripture, but God does not want us to dwell in that place. Many of the psalms are resolute and confident:
“Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. 7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. 8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. 9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honour.” (Ps 112:6-9)
Jesus spoke of us having a sure foundation in Him: ‘everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.‘ (Matt 7:24)
Other psalms, like Ps 91 and Ps 121, are similarly confident that no matter what may come against us, God is with us and for us, and that truth brings security and hope.
We always have a choice: will we listen to the news, to the doomsayers, to those who have no faith, or will we listen to God when He tells us that we can live without fear of bad news? God never promises us a trouble-free life (quite the contrary, in fact), but He does promise to walk with us through every trial (see Is 43:2-7, John 16:33). Because of this, we can face 2021 with courage, hope and (if I may be so bold) holy defiance and a steady heart.