Like many of you, I’ve asked God for several Januarys to guide me to a word of the year. What does God want to work in my heart this year? What attributes do I need God to develop as antidotes to my weaknesses and sins?
This year I’ve considered several words: joy, endurance and hope among them.
Considering how ominous 2020 looks right now to me, I initially leaned toward joy as a needed travel companion through whatever darkness is ahead. But then I realized how important endurance is when joy is absent. Sometimes we simply persist without sensing the joy of God’s presence. Finally I thought about how hope in time of despair is found in God alone.
So which to choose? I sorely need all of these qualities that are found in God so that I’m not distracted by all the darkness, anger and division that grows in our country and around the world, even among believers.
As I considered my options, I went to the Bible.
Joy? It’s an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Psalm 32:1-11 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” Because our joy is found in the Lord, we are able to rejoice as we trust in God.
And endurance? Endurance means perseverance or steadfastness. Strong’s Concordance defines it as “a steadfast waiting for,” so it suggests there’s something good ahead. James 1:2-4 tells us that endurance is produced in trials and helps perfect us. A favorite passage in Hebrews 12:1b-2 says this: “. . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Endurance is essential to our races, just as it was to Jesus’s race. How did he do it? For the joy set before him. He knew that his sacrifice on the cross would reconcile people to God. Because of what he believed to be before him (hope) he was joyful and endured. We, too, are to run with endurance as we focus on him, our only hope.
So maybe hope? Rom. 8:24-25 provides these encouraging words: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.” Biblical hope isn’t just “I wish it will happen,” but it’s a belief that something we don’t see will surely come about. In a time of confusion and fear, hope is sorely needed.
By this time I could see that joy, endurance and hope are all necessary when life is disappointing and the immediate future looks scary. Hope—what we believe God is doing and will do—gives us joy. Joy in what God is doing behind the scenes provides endurance.
In the end I’ve chosen hope. There’s only one person who is able to achieve a positive future and worthy of my hope, God himself. God alone can work through difficulties, even the darkness. When we can’t see what he’s doing, we trust that the I AM who knows the beginning from the end is at work. No person on earth can bring about a positive future. God can and does. He promises that the day will come when Jesus returns as King and rules in truth and wisdom.
This year I need hope in a trustworthy, all-knowing, all-powerful King who promises a wonderful future: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4, ESV).