“What was 2022 like?” I often get asked the question as the 2023 year is upon us!
I don’t even know where to begin. Here are several of what my friends via social media shared
- “2022 had its share of ups and downs. In fact, every year has its fair share of good and bad. Through loss and heartache to healing and restoration…”
- “2022, there were high highs and low lows….”
- “2022 was one of the best and worst years of my life.”
- “Dear 2022, I can’t say I’m going to miss you. I had no idea the hardship that would come”
- “Even in the midst of an exciting time with lots of change, the new year is a sobering reminder of just how much can transpire in one year’s time.”
- “In 2022, my health took a downward spiral and landed me flat on my back. I know friends and family. I know it’s been an extremely rough year for so many of us.”
Can any of you relate to this? I certainly can. Today in the 21st century, it is not easy being a Christian.
In just the months of November through December, eight of my good pastor friends that I know had resigned. Remember to pray for your pastors.
Yet, I saw many people’s responses, and yet, I am reminded that Christ never changes. His ever-constant compassion and steadfast love (Psalm 136:1).
Because Christ never changes, we can face the new year with new mercies found in Christ.
What Does the Bible Have to Say?
I love the Bible and especially the book of 1 Peter. The book of 1 Peter was written to 1st-century Christian believers who were scattered in the northern part of Turkey. No home, no location, living scattered in fear.
These were very trying times! The believers could perhaps echo the words Paul said, “We are hard pressed on every side” (2 Cor 4:8). Yet, the book of 1 Peter 1 is not just about focusing on the reality of suffering in the lives of Christians. God has words of encouragement and challenge so that Christians may walk through suffering well.
First, the book of 1 Peter is about hope. Why? For our, God is a God of a second chance. We know that as the author Peter was shown a second chance, or if you would, a third chance in all his mess up. That gives me great comfort and hope.
That very Peter wrote to Christians who were suffering and were about to suffer even more. Nero the madman was in reign and Christians were living in hopelessness. Amidst pain and suffering, so often suffering can derail us. Not in 1 Peter! We can come out as conquers for Christ’s sake.
Peter never minimizes the amount of pain, and the great trials they are walking through but points them to the new life in Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power for the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet 1:3-5).
The strange yet divine truth, we can stand upon God’s Word. This reminds me of the song, “Yet not I but through Christ in Me” which goes like this,
To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus
For my life is wholly bound to His
Oh how strange and divine, I can sing, “All is mine”
Yet not I, but through Christ in me
These sufferings considering eternity are but a moment. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (1 Cor 4:17).
Through difficulties, God often tests whether our faith is genuine. Hope involves looking beyond the pain and looking unto Christ.
Living Hope for Weary Wound Sinners
Because He lives, even in trying times, in trying years, life with Christ is the life we can overcome the questions of tomorrow.
This very truth is what we call “living hope” This hope is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.
Warren Wiersbe put it well what life with Christ looks like. “Hope is not a sedative; it is a shot of adrenaline, a blood transfusion. Like an anchor, our hope in Christ stabilizes us in the storms of life; but unlike an anchor, our hope moves us forward, it does not hold us back.”
The result of this active trust is an inexpressible and glorious joy. “Rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (vv. 8-9).
True biblical joy does not depend on our circumstances or situations. Not mere “happiness” we are speaking of, but deep-rooted “joy” that God sustains you in your day by day.
It is easy for Christians to lose hope with the devastating reality of violence in schools, cyberbullying, terminal illness, death of family, or even job losses. This is huge as we live in a society that is marked so much by hopelessness.
God never promised that you wouldn’t experience any difficulties, but He did promise that you wouldn’t face them alone… God is with you. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4).
His suffering has a purpose and doesn’t turn away from it, lean into that suffering for there are redemptive purposes that will be revealed at the appropriate time.
So do not give up. I know it is easier said than done. But, be encouraged. God wants to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:6-7). God is with you.