We are barely two weeks into 2021 and I’ve already asked my wife if anyone paid attention to the return policy on this year. Intuitively, we know what the fine print says. The only way through it is to continue taking the next step forward, one day at a time.
I cannot count the number of phone calls, text messages, and online chats that I’ve fielded, asking generally the same thing: How is this going to end? What is God doing here? Are we going to be ok? What is God trying to say to us?
Many of us are looking for certainty — certainty about an end to the virus, certainty about the political future of our country, certainty about our own family’s health and safety. It strikes me, however, that following Jesus is not really about certainty over such temporal matters. For two thousand years, Christians have faithfully navigated a veritable maze of uncertainties. They have endured political and social upheaval, persecution, martyrdom, plagues, schisms, and an untold number of other trials.
As I read the scriptures and listen to his teachings, it seems to me that Jesus was not all that interested in filling our hearts and minds with these kinds of certainties. After all, such certainties have a way of eroding the more important goal of Jesus: to inspire faith — a deep trust in the God who created the cosmos, keeps it spinning, and will carry it to its intended conclusion.
As we enter into a new year, I am not certain of what lies ahead. Therefore, I find myself echoing the prayer of Thomas Merton more and more in the quiet moments of my day:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
Honestly, I feel like Peter responding to the beggar in the book of Acts: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you…”
I do not have certainties about the year ahead, friends. But here is what I have: a profound conviction that God is with us and a deep reassurance that God will never leave us to face our perils alone.