Almost a full calendar year later and we’re all still here.
Given that I feared at the beginning of the year that the current President would have triggered World War Three by now, this feels like more of an achievement than it sounds like.
At the start of January, I confessed that what I wanted from 2017 was “to survive it”. Not much of a goal, but with political craziness apparently advancing on all fronts it seemed like the best I could hope for. Between the near-miss of the potential dissolution of the United Kingdom in the Scottish independence referendum and the direct hits of the Brexit vote and the US Presidential election, it seemed this time last year as though the world was on a scary downward spiral into chaos. Survival seemed not an assured thing but something to be wished.
Politically I still feel a lot like an unwilling participant in some sort of crazy version of a Japanese game show with a name something like How Sucky Is Your Future?, but though the end is indeed near, as the Scripture says, it isn’t quite yet, and in the meantime we have a job to do.
Ultimately my future doesn’t suck at all, and the politicians thankfully can’t do a thing about it, because I’m fairly convinced that this administration are looking for a way to mess it up.
As a legally-resident non-US citizen I watch politics the way a sailor watches the weather, and for the same reason: he can’t do anything about it. I don’t have the vote as a non-citizen, but the political situation blows upon me regardless as a tempest, and I have to weather the storm for my family as best I can.
What I’m looking for from 2018 is to find a way to thrive despite the circumstances. Placing my confidence more fully in the God who can save rather than in the political princes and policies that cannot, I want to look forward with joy to the final future in which evil is done away with and the Lamb is enthroned in the world. Depending on His power and strength, I want to raise up my family in spite of what the world and society would do to push them down. God is my strength and my song and my salvation; He is my source of provision and my ultimate Resource for when, like in these days, my own simply can’t manage.
I want to experience the “life, and that abundantly” that Jesus said He had come that we might have. Too much of the last year has felt like the devil coming to try and steal, kill and destroy. Enough. Emmanuel has come: God With Us. Life, and that abundantly, because in Christ all that God is is with us.
A New Year is right around the corner, full of who knows what. It’s tremendously easy in these days to focus on the potential trouble we see being fomented around us by our adversary, but as I said this time last year, the idea is that we take our attention off of the waves and put it back on the Saviour in the middle of them. God is bigger than the troubles. Salvation doesn’t come from a party platform or a change in the laws, but from trusting in the One who died to put an end to the old Law with its written code opposed to us.
It feels like a good time to shout “Hosanna”. Though today that means that we’re really thankful and pleased with how things have turned out, the word really means “Save Us!”. It’s Hebrew for SOS, and it seems appropriate on both levels right now. Help us, save us, because we’re in it up to our necks and we can’t see a way out, but thank You that You are the God of the Way Out! In You there is salvation, no matter what it looks like, and we celebrate that and shout Hosanna.
As 2017 draws to a close I feel a little like the Israelites in the First Book of Samuel. Having just survived their first battle against the terrible iron-wielding Philistines, but foreseeing how many still more difficult battles there were undoubtedly ahead of them, the nation of Israel under Samuel erected a memorial stone called Eben-Ezer, or “Stone of Help”, saying “thus far hath the LORD helped us”.
I feel like this is my situation. Or as the old hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing put it: “Here I raise my Ebenezer/Hither by Thy help I’m come/And I hope, by Thy good pleasure/Safely to arrive at home”.
Biblical Hope isn’t the sort of wishy-washy “wouldn’t it be nice” feeling that sets the goal of “to survive it”. It’s confident expectation, knowing that God is bigger than the problems we might face. There are dangers on the road, but by Thy good pleasure, if the LORD is pleased with us (and we know that He loves us and wants good for us), we will arrive safely at home.
So here in this post I raise my own Eben-Ezer. Thus far hath the LORD helped us.