I found out this morning that a friend of mine just lost her father unexpectedly. Another friend lost her last grandparent yesterday. Other friends have loved ones who are sick, battling cancer and other debilitating diseases. Others have personal medical scares, financial issues, or just overwhelming stress. This is the time of year when everyone always talks about a new start, as if turning to a different page on an arbitrary division of time will suddenly fix everything, make us more organized, able to reach our goals and ensure our smooth transition through the next year. We look at 2014 as a blank slate, like unspoiled snow (for half the world, we’re inundated with the stuff right now). Somehow, a new year gives us hope that things will be different this time, that somehow, someway, life will finally get better.
But what about the people whose troubles carry over? The sickness that doesn’t magically clear up on January 1? The unemployment that stretches on into trackless whiteness? Or the sudden death casting its shadow on the bright promise of a new year? The ones who look ahead into 2014 and see nothing more than the same hard slog they had last year, and the snow is deeper and the wind colder, so they can hardly stand — how can they go forward?
It’s for those people — for all of us, really, have those days where it’s more than our strength is worth to pick our feet up one more time — it’s for us there is “prayer and cookies”, fellowship and strength. For us who struggle, there is hope in meeting life head-on, together, and reminding each other of God’s promises.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. — Isaiah 41:10
Some translations put that last phrase as “the right hand of my just one” — that’s Jesus! And if anyone knows about hard slogs and hopelessness, it’s Jesus. He’s walked dusty hot miles, lost nearly everyone He loved, and had more stress and mental pain than we can imagine. If there’s anything that can give us strength to take one more step, it’s the right hand of God’s Just One. Holding us up, filling us with just enough for once…more…
So maybe instead of dreaming of the sun on a cold Minnesota morning, we should look to the Son. And take one more step into a clean new year.