Real Time Hope (or what if 2021 is worse than 2020?)

What if the coming year is worse?

We seem to be pinning a great many hopes on the tick of a second hand.

Life doesn’t always march by our calendars. And our faith would be better invested in the character of God than in the year’s new digit.

2019 was likely the worse year of my life. It was marked by loss, rejection, trauma, and grief that altered not only my present and future, but also my understanding of the past.

I had many hopes for 2020 on the final eve of 2019.

Likewise, my grandson turned 10 in 2019 and had great hopes for his birthday. Then, my father died that day and it turned into a different gathering than he’d hoped.

So, we promised a bash in 2020 that would compensate for what death had stolen in 2019 only to find ourselves locked apart. What we realized in 2020, that we had learned in 2019, was not to wait for a new year but to exercise hope in real time – to celebrate anyway. I hope that was his greatest gift – that carpe diem truth.

We purchased a cake and cut it into thirds, distributing it to each household. He retrieved his presents trick-or-treat style, from our porches and front doorsteps, and then we shared cake together via Zoom.

Our family learned to be cautious about promises for tomorrow but to live fully in the day we find ourselves, no matter what the day may bring.

This isn’t to say that we live in the desolation of fearing the future, of prophesying only gloom, of banishing all planning for tomorrow. Not at all.

Instead, this year, the Lord has taught us to hope in Him – in real time – not just for eternity.

In this year of trial that followed a year of pain, I have yet found healing. In a year in which my plans were destroyed, my ministry altered, and the form of my calling brought into question, I have known deep and abiding joy.

And this experience of healing, joy, and growing contentment while I sit on the sofa designed by “no-one-saw-this-coming” provided greater hope for 2021 than I held in my heart last year.

Because now I remember that even when the turn is for the worst, God is truly Emmanuel – God with us.

The Apostle Paul once warned a captain not to sail but the captain sailed anyway. The ship encountered a mighty storm that would have been their doom had the Lord not made other plans for their passenger, Paul.

The ship was finally wrecked on Malta. They set out to make a fire, no doubt relieved to have escaped the death of the sea. When Paul gathered a bundle of sticks, a viper attached itself to his hand and the native gasped, surely Paul would die. Who escapes a tragedy at sea to be immediately bitten by a snake except under judgement of the Almighty?

Paul shook off the snake.

They waited for the signs of the venomous death, but it never came. The people imagined Paul a god, but Paul knew better. Paul knew he was just a man.

More importantly, he knew he was a man whose days were sealed by the Almighty God – sealed in such a way that neither raging sea nor piercing serpent could overrule God’s sovereignty and rule.

We have a hope that will not fade, even if 2021 causes us to look back at 2020 with wistful nostalgia as it puts the trials of this year to shame.

Our hope is a hope that we can exercise in real time. It is not only a hope for eternity, but a hope invested in Emmanuel – the God who is with us, come what may.

Or, as the Psalmist writes:

“The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”
Psalm 33:16-22 ESV

As the new year approaches, may we be found, not hopeful in a change of season, but hopeful in the One who was, and is, and is to come.


Happy New Year, my friends. May the Lord be with You – and may you know if full well in the new year.

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    The Conversation

  1. Jan Clough says:

    When all is stripped away ‘ Who else is there like thee O Lord ‘ l thank you that through great trials and great disappointments you have shown me that all l need is you and you alone. Our Heavenly Father fails us not and knows our needs even before we know them ourselves. I fail him miserably at times, yet He loves me as no other
    Who else is there like thee O Lord, no one!

  2. Deb Kreyssig says:

    Amen and Amen Lori! Our hope is in Jesus and Him alone.

  3. Doris says:

    Amen! Thank you. Blessed New Year to you.

  4. Cheri says:

    Thank you so much for this timely encouragement, Lori!