As 2021 arrived, rejoicing around the world could be heard. With 2020 in the rearview mirror, many anticipated that our long national nightmare is finally over.
Whereas 2020 was a year which saw an unusual amount of suffering, disease and loss, this year certainly is likely to be better in many ways. At the same time, Christians know that life is always full of trouble, no matter what the calendar says.
But, more than that, we know there is always hope. Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). Another Bible translation puts it this way: “take heart, I have overcome the world.”
Whether 2021 ends up being the best year, an average year or one that again is full of great personal and societal struggles, we can take heart because of Jesus.
Sadly, though, there are many people right now who are not taking heart; they are currently losing heart. We hear about it among health care workers, essential personnel, even people in ministry.
These dear people are growing discouraged and simply giving up. Giving up on life; giving up on people around them; perhaps even sometimes giving up on God’s call for their lives.
In his brilliant work, “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis has wisdom for this situation. In that fictional work, Lewis depicts a man who is being tempted and tried by demons, “Screwtape” and “Wormwood.” Through what Lewis called “teaching in reverse,” we see into the mind of the enemy and how he and his minions work against Christians.
One week, he tempts the man to skip church and disassociate from believers as a ploy to weaken the man in his walk with God. In another episode, he tempts the man toward sexual sin. Another time, the demon tries to get the man to buy into the idea of “tomorrow” (I can always get to that Bible reading or prayer or good work “tomorrow,” not now, when “eternity touches the present”).
Finally, we find out from “Screwtape” that where the devil gets his biggest laugh and thrill is when Christians give up just before the moment God was sending relief. The demon says, had the man only known it, God was sending help just on the other side of the hill of adversity he was climbing.
None of us knows how 2021 will end up, for any of us individually or as a nation. Yet during these times, which try the souls of men, Christians have an opportunity to advance the Gospel through the ministry of encouragement.
Brothers and sisters, take heart! Jesus has overcome! Spread that message of hope, and then we will see what a truly happy New Year can be like.