Sights and Insights
Devotion for Jan. 5, 2021
Your anger is a burden each day we live, then life ends like a sigh. We can expect seventy years,
or maybe eighty, if we are healthy, but even our best years bring trouble and sorrow.
Suddenly our time is up, and we disappear. No one knows the full power of your furious anger, but it is as great as the fear that we owe to you. Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.
Help us, Lord! Don’t wait! Pity your servants. When morning comes, let your love satisfy
all our needs. Then we can celebrate and be glad for what time we have left.
- Psalm 90:9-14 (CEV)
So many people are expressing how happy they are that 2020 is ending and 2021 beginning. They are ready to say goodbye to a year of troubles of last year and enter the hope of the new. I appreciate the sentiment, but must admit that it feels to me like I’ve been hearing the same thing said for at least the last five or six years, if not more, and with increasing urgency. The reality is that, for all its symbolic power, a change in year is a completely arbitrary line. The deeper rhythms of the world do not operate on our delineated format of counting. Even our minds don’t really operate that way: how many times do you think you will still write 2020 for the date? We know how arbitrary the change in numbers is.
I am a generally optimistic person, but for me key to an optimistic outlook is not clinging to arbitrary hopes. Central to my sense of optimism is being rooted in deeper flows of hope and promise. As the psalmist points out, even our best years bring trouble and sorrow. Changing the calendar doesn’t change the struggles around us, but neither does it eliminate the hopes we have. The psalmist pleads with God to teach us to use the time we have wisely, to trust that God is active in our lives despite the struggles and sorrows that beset us, and to help us trust in God’s lovingkindness. This is a hope and optimism that sustains and moves us to act with love towards others even in the midst of the pain and frustrations that will inevitably roll over us.
Let us celebrate the coming of 2021 with grateful hearts. Let us look to better times to come, as well. Above all, though, let us rejoice in the consistency of God with us, and be moved by the Holy Spirit to continue to reach out in love. That will bring meaning and joy to our year to come, whatever it may bring.