Happy New Year to you all!
The year that we have now dismissed with a sigh of relief has been variously named the non-year, the stolen year, the crazy year, or the year of loss and limitation. But, upon reflection, it has created an unexpected opportunity to stop and think, to work out alternative modes of operation, learning new skills and discovering new resources along the way. Moreover, we may be reconsidering the value of community and mutual support systems. Might 2021 be a truly happier year of kindlier attitudes and positive changes that benefit our beleaguered society? We have come off the old highway and are heading down unexplored routes towards a destination as yet misted in uncertainty. We can scan ahead with doubt and anxiety, or with a spirit of adventure. Whatever happens, we will need the robust spirit of Emily Bronte who wrote:
“No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And faith shines equal,
arming me from fear.”
This is our time to look deeper, higher, wider into life. Where normal routine would find us on the treadmill of duty and responsibility, harried by red-ringed dates on over-filled diaries, we have been nudged into a different gear. Many have reached a turning point in career or found time to re-order schedules to make space for a clearer vision of priorities. Which things enduringly matter? Are the things we have taken for granted now calling for more appreciation and gratitude? Are some old established habits no longer ‘fit for purpose’ as we review our use of time, or will we live more in the moment and seize the day? Perhaps we might now choose enough rather than excess, contentment over consumption, simplicity rather than super-abundance.
Michel Quoist, the French writer, posed a thought-provoking suggestion; “Only love enables humanity to grow because love engenders life, and it is the only form of energy that lasts forever.”
The Apostle Paul reminds us that love is the force that demonstrates the very nature of God, the dynamics of new life, the source of HOPE. When hope comes hand in hand with faith and the confidence of experience, it wears the sturdy cloak of trust rather than the wispy veils of wishful thinking.
When Phoebe set out on a journey to Rome, she carried a precious document. The Apostle Paul entrusted her with the transport of his letters to the new Christians in that great centre of power. They were enduring many trials, persecuted, misunderstood, accused of instigating every misfortune that beset the locality. Phoebe’s name means ‘radiance’ and the message she carried was intended to pour the sunlight of encouragement into weary hearts. It was a benediction, a prayer. It was an assurance based on Paul’s personal relationship with God who informed, inspired and guided him.
He wrote, “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.” (Romans 15v13) Hope, if it departs or loses potency, leaves only despair and emptiness, but hope, when it beams over the horizon, strengthens resolve, brings purpose and releases the creative energies to produce solutions, plans, strategies. Paul envisages trust in the God of Hope as a continuous well- spring, affirmed and refreshed. Its bonuses will be joy and peace. This is not the resigned lethargy of the battle weary, but peace that turns anxiety into expectation and donates the surprise of joy. God is faithful.
“Great is thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not,
Thy compassions they fail not
as Thou has been, Thou forever wilt be.
Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.”