Throughout 2020 we talked about fear. In the eight Bible studies UFC Women offered, we put ourselves in the shoes of God’s children, who faced the emotional response to flee from what was uncomfortable or dangerous. This year alone, the word appeared in 20 percent of our blog posts, likely because so much of our fear is rooted in not being in control. Fear is a reality in our sin-scarred, virus-infected world, but fear is commanded against throughout Scripture. Why? Because God wants us to live ever aware that He is with us every step of the way.
In our Summer in the Psalms series, we looked at many songs of lament, the raw expression of sorrow or grief that we all expressed at one time or another in 2020. As we studied Psalm 102, we saw that lament should lead us to worship. When our hearts are heavy and overwhelmed, we choose to remember. We choose to remember who God is and that He is the one who still sees us, hears us, and will be with us no matter what we walk through in this life. We choose to remember that He is a God of redemption and can make something beautiful out of brokenness. We choose to remember that despite our circumstances, He remains our living hope.
Thankfulness is the great antidote to ugly emotions, so throughout the year, we highlighted women who named the blessings God freely gave them. We chose to accept the will of God for us and “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Looking back we see how fitting it was to open 2020 here at ufcwomen.blog with a post about courage, not the kind we muster from positive thinking or an arsenal of weapons at our disposal. No, this is the courage God supplies as He goes before us, lays His hand upon us, and acts as the rear guard of our lives (Psalm 139:5). God knew it would take all the courage He provides to confront days of uncertainty, anxiety, and grief, and He reminds us even today as we await a new year, “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).
We have the immense privilege of knowing our God through His Word and confidently coming to Him in prayer so that when unwanted circumstances arise, we are rooted and grounded in the knowledge of His character and love. Together, in His strength, we will believe and remain steadfast in order to bear fruit in and out of season: “But blessed is the woman who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. She will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
A few of us early birds caught glimpses of God’s glory in the past weeks as multiple sunrises blazed indescribable color into the fog and darkness. Some attempted to capture images to share with others, but not one snapshot accurately portrayed the hope that welled up inside each of us as we gazed intently on God’s artistry. In the sunrises, God gifted us with hope, the confident expectation that He will act on our behalf to bring His glory and our good. The good news is that hope doesn’t disappoint because hope’s sure and steady anchor is Jesus Christ, the One who never abandons us in the storms of life (Hebrews 6:18-19). Just like each sunrise peeking from the darkness of night is unique, the way God works good into our lives will be varied. But don’t be fooled, for good doesn’t mean ease. No, sometimes God accomplishes the most beautiful, breath-taking things in us through hardship, but He promises to never leave us alone in the challenges.
Jeremiah 29 is especially fitting for us today as we stand on this bridge between two years — one we now know was fraught with hard days and one that remains clouded in an unknown future. The prophet writes a letter to the Jewish exiles remaining in Babylon, and in it, he directs the people to embrace hope. He writes:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Then the joyous words from the Lord in verse 11:
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
But that’s not the end of the instructions for the exiles or for us, for hope doesn’t sit still. Hope includes an element of God-directed work and God-focused rest in Him.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile” (29:12-14).
Hope. The glorious sunrise on the horizon of 2021.
What good things are you expecting God to do in your life in 2021?
Listen: Jon Reddick’s worship song You Keep Hope Alive is especially fitting as we ring in the new year with expectations that our Living Hope will work all things for our good and His glory in the days ahead.
— From the Editors