By Jaime Sherman
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, a moment comes in chapter 12 when the ship’s crew decides to enter a darkness that is like “looking into the mouth of a railway tunnel — a tunnel either so long or so twisty that you cannot see the light at the far end.”
As the ship glides into the darkness, fear grips the crew, and Lucy whispers, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.”
Within moments, a broad beam of light beckons them from “the edge of moonless and starless night,” and we read, “But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”
As I read, I wonder if this might be the word to cheer my heart as I look ahead and wonder what is hidden in the unknown of 2020. For some, January is a new beginning, a fresh start bringing hope, but for others, the month can stand as an unsmiling gatekeeper to a new year, one dotted with so many question marks and yet so many things already set in ink by man upon the calendar that will leap to 366 days this year.
I pause and wonder — and fear a little — how the next chapter of God’s great story in and through me will unfold, and yet I hear verses from Psalm 46 come to me like beams of light in the darkness of the unknown.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way… (46:1-2).
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God will help her when morning dawns… (46:5).
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (46:10).
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (46:11).
I know from an earlier study of this chapter that “be still” is the Hebrew word raphah, which means to cease striving, to let go, to sink or to relax. The definition makes me think of my nightly habit of running a hot bath and pouring heaping cups of epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil under the running water to soak away the tension of the day and rest quietly before my God to remember that no matter what I lived through today or will face tomorrow He is with me.
The repeated failure to live up to expectations I set on the eve of each new year caused me several years ago to start a new habit. I select a word to define my year ahead, a word I can lean into when I need to be reminded of what God says is true about His character and about His love for me.
Courage. Yes, this will be my word for 2020, and so fitting after our UFC Women Bible study in Joshua in which God promised Joshua that He would never leave his side:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9
Earlier, Abraham had received a similar message from God:
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”Genesis 28:15
By faith, Abraham obeyed God, and I have no question that his faith was laced with courage because he knew God wouldn’t leave him alone. Both Abraham and Joshua peered into a darkness like that in a winding tunnel where they couldn’t see the end, and yet walked forward in faith.
Their stories remind me that I can walk into the dark unknown of 2020 in courage, not fear, because God is with me. I need not be dismayed. He is my God, strengthening and helping me, upholding me with His “righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:9-10).
Whether you need the reminder to be courageous in the Lord, to be still before Him, or you find some other promise to cling to in the coming year, may you trust the One who will bring you through everything this new year holds for His glory and your good.