The End of the Year or the Beginning of the Next?
It’s probably not a surprise, but since the year 2021 is coming to a close, I have been thinking about how things begin and how they end (and with the story of Scripture, how new things begin or even how old things have a chance to begin again). I would not describe myself as a sentimental person, nor very nostalgic, except for maybe rare occasions. And yet, every time a calendar year ends and another begins, there is something that seems natural about reflecting on what has been and on what could be.
In the life of Scripture, there are very obvious seasons and rhythms that God’s people follow. There is the larger story of Promise–Exodus–Kingdom–Exile–Anticipation of the Messiah. There are smaller versions that follow the yearly calendar for religious festivals. And then there is the even smaller rhythm of observing and celebrating Sabbath every week, just to name a few.
And these rhythms and seasons do more than simply to mark the passage of time. They serve as tangible reminders of the presence of God in everything from the macro level to the micro. They are ways with which each person can encounter God.
Which makes the reflection and intentionality around these moments pretty important, in my opinion. For the better part of 2 years now, we have collectively worldwide struggled to start and finish things (or allow new things to come from the ashes of the old). Most of that has to do with a virus that is beyond any of our control. Just when we think it is safe to restart our lives (as if they ever stopped!), we seem to have setback after setback. The world closes down, or at the very least we are unsure that we should do anything other than scurry from the grocery store back home. And yet, there is still opportunity, even in the midst of the lack of control we have all experienced, for God.
When you really think about it, that last statement is one of those “Duh” statements. Of course there is room for God in a crisis! God is God after all!
But, what I mean is this: Even though we consistently struggle with beginnings and endings (and not just due to an illness, by the way), God works best in our weakness.
Paul writes in the second letter to the Corinthians about all the reasons why he has been humbled in his life and ministry (2 Corinthians 11-12). And yet, God works through Paul’s weaknesses! In fact, it is precisely the weaknesses that show the strength of God!
When we struggle and are at our worst, that is the very opportunity that we might need to rely on God. To take the next step in our faith. To allow God to be the ruler of our life.
And this has great implications for beginnings and endings. Because these are moments when we often want to hold onto something so very, very tightly. To be in control. To have all of our answers and solutions worked out.
Think about someone starting a business. They need to have their business plan completely perfected and ready to go in order to secure financing, to motivate their employees, and to see success. There is very little room for anything other than what has already been decided or dictated.
Or think about a television series as it comes to an end. There are fewer things in this world that make me get onto a soapbox than an ill-planned ending to a television series (it is really and truly a problem that I care as much as I do about endings).
We are not trained to think of starts and finishes as opportunities for weakness. They must be when we are at our strongest. Yet, God works even in our weaknesses. Particularly when we are trying something out of faithfulness. Now, that doesn’t mean that God will turn everything that we do into success, nor does it mean that planning is wrong. But, as we close out this 2021 year, my encouragement to you is to remember that God works best in our weakness. God’s strength shines through when we try to be faithful, even when we do it poorly. We simply must recognize and learn to see what God is doing for us and through us.
So, as this year ends, and another begins, my encouragement to you is to be faithful. Be ready. For in the transition from one thing to another, we may just find that God has been there all along, and that God is ready to teach us something.