I have no idea what’s going to happen this year.
Those were the words etched upon my mind at the beginning of 2020, as I anticipated the birth of my third son and my husband’s graduation from seminary. I have to smile looking back at those words—little did I know it was going to be a year of unknowns that stretched far beyond my small and ordinary personal world. Suddenly, just weeks into the new year, no one anywhere had any idea of what was going to happen this year. We inched our way to the edge of our seats, anxiously watching to see what would happen next, week by week, month by month, prediction by prediction, graph by graph, country by country.
Finally, the year is coming to a close, and humorous memes on the Internet are as plentiful as the wide range of emotions we’ve felt the last twelve months. But amid our laughter (or for many, weary tears), we must all turn our eyes to the elephant in the room: 2020 may be over, but our uncertainty is not. As hopeful as we may be that this year will be an easier year than last, we need to be honest about the fact that 2021 is an entirely new mystery about to unfold. The three Ps that have defined the year—pandemic, politics, and protests—did not fade away into the pages of history books when the clock struck midnight on December 31. We may have awakened on January 1 with fresh hope, new goals, and revived motivation, but the world we woke up to is the same one we were in the night before. We may have a crisp new planner to fill with carefully-crafted plans, exciting events, and organized routines, but any one of those may soon be interrupted by a new restriction, a discouraging news report, or an unforeseen personal crisis.
Newsflash: we don’t know a thing about 2021.
The God Who Holds 2021
Well, Happy New Year to you, too, you may be thinking. Shouldn’t we try to begin the year on a more encouraging note? Yes. In fact, the New Year’s parties of believers ought to be filled with more laughter, comfort, and peace than anyone else’s. But why? Because we’re blissfully ignorant or naively unaware of earthly realities? No; because we are confidently assured of the heavenly realities that reign over those of the earth.
We don’t know what the year 2021 holds, but we do know the God who holds 2021. His infallible Word tells us everything we need to know about Him. And every year, those Truths are the same. As believers, our peace is not grounded in the hope that this year will be entirely different than last year, but rather, in the fact that our God is exactly the same as He was last year, and the year before that: “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6).
Unforeseen changes are undoubtedly just around the corner. It’s just the way life is. Some of those changes may be welcome surprises, pieces of good news that cheer our hearts and are sweet reminders of God’s fatherly care for us. Other changes may not be so welcome—pieces of bad news that prompt worry or despair. Take, for example, the piece of mail I opened this evening. Just when I thought my husband and I had come up with a doable budget for the coming year, I received a notice that our monthly health insurance payment will likely be going up. (Way up.) It’s not even January, and 2021 is already taking me by surprise! Is there a temptation to be anxious? Yes. But here’s what keeps me grounded: the God who provided for me in 2006, 2013, and 2017 (and every year in-between) is the very same God who is reigning over the year 2021. The verses that encouraged me to trust Him in every time of need are still in His Word, as true as they were then and as true as they’ll be next year.
Our God Is an Always God
If God was sometimes a good and wise Father (Heb. 12:7–10), if He was sometimes using unfortunate circumstances for my good (Rom. 8:28), if He was sometimes sovereign over the kings of the earth (Prob. 21:1), if He was sometimes able to do as He pleased (Psalm 115:3), if His Word was sometimes true (Isa. 40:8)—then yes, we’d have good reason to approach 2021 with a load of anxiety. But our God is not a sometimes God. He is an always God—He is always exactly who His Word says He is, fully, completely, eternally.
We could spend a lot of time this year wondering what God is going to do. What trials will He allow? What joys will He bring? What circumstances will He use to sanctify us? But rather than spend all our energy guessing what God may or may not do or trying to figure out why He did what He did, we would do well to spend that energy meditating on who God is. Everything God does flows out of who He is. Knowing all of life’s events and changes in advance won’t give us peace. But knowing, believing, and remembering what the Bible reveals to us about the character and nature of the God who reigns over those events and changes will indeed give us great peace.
Picture a child holding his father’s hand while walking in downtown Chicago. The child is unaware of how to get to their destination, but because he believes his father cares for him, is trustworthy, and carefully planned this event last month, the child gives little thought to his own safety as they turn a corner and begin walking through a dark alley. If, however, a stranger suddenly took the boy’s hand and started leading him through a different dark alley, the boy would be terrified. He doesn’t know who the stranger is, and thus cannot be sure about what the stranger is doing or what his intentions are.
We are not being led by a stranger, but by a God who has kindly and clearly revealed His unchanging character and nature to us through His Word. May it be our aim in the coming year not to figure out everything God is doing or will do, but to better understand what His Word says about who He is. What does it mean that He is holy? What does it mean that He is sovereign? What does it mean that He is Father? Let us go eagerly to His Word. In the face of this unpredictable earthly life, the Word does not stutter but tells us plainly of the God whose character is entirely and eternally predictable.