2016 was a rough year.
We lost too many friends and family members in a short period of time. Some old and some much too young. We’ve had health scares and broken bones. Moldy walls and leaky pipes. Big bills from car issues and dental work. Dozens of hours in airports and cars. The list goes on…
Just these past two days it took us 27 hours to travel cross-country, back to our home for Christmas Eve and Christmas services. We managed to get a “tree” up and sit in church for the entire candlelight service. Things were looking up! Then we returned to reality with a broken oven, broken dryer, no grocery store, molded curtains from frost during our absence, and……a kid with a stomach bug.
2016 was a rough year.
I know there are a large number of you who agree. You’ve struggled, come up against tough situations, wondered when the light was going to shine through.
I’ve told myself countless times, just make it to 2017. Things will be better in the new year. Next year will be different. Next year will be better.
But today, Christmas Day, as I once again texted that very sentiment to a dear friend, “Can’t wait for the new year!”, it struck me: next year won’t be any different. In fact, it will be the same.
2017 will be the same as 2016. Filled with heartache, loss, brokenness, failure, and struggle after struggle.
God Himself told us this in John 16:33 – In the world you will have tribulation.
You will “groan inwardly” (Romans 8:23).
You will be “brought low” (Philippians 4:12).
You. Will. Have. Tribulation.
I sat in this realization for a moment, thinking about the year. Thinking about how next year will be more of the same.
And thinking about how that’s okay because I know this isn’t the end of my story. Or of your story. Because we can read the rest of John 16:33 – But take heart; I have overcome the world.
And we can read Romans 8:31-32, 37 – What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
And 1 Corinthians 15:57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And 1 John 5:4 – For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Christ overcame the world. It’s done! The victory has already been won. We won’t see the full picture until Christ returns again in glory, but HE HAS ALREADY WON THE BATTLE!
If I set myself up to believe that “next year will be better”, I’m setting myself up to be disappointed. If I set myself up to remember my unchanging victory in Christ, I’ll never be let down.
So, even though it’s Christmas Day, my family will be singing an Easter hymn tonight. “The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done.”
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun.
Death’s mightiest powers have done their worst,
And Jesus hath His foes dispersed;
Let shouts of praise and joy outburst.
Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee.
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free
That we may live and sing to Thee.
(Lutheran Service Book #464, verses 1-2, 5)
2017 will be the same as 2016. Tough stuff is going to swirl around us and try to pull us under. We’re going to be disappointed. We’re going to disappoint others. But our perspectives can change to see the bigger picture. This is not the end.
Let’s start living as if the victory has already been won.
Because it has.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18