Two years ago I abandoned the traditional but—for me—futile practice of making resolutions and replaced it with another strategy for improvement: choosing a word on which to focus during the coming year.
So far, this plan has served me well. In 2017, I chose the word balance, and I think I did a decent job of allotting time for development of mind, body, and soul throughout that year. Joy was the choice for 2018, and focusing on it reminded me to look beyond temporary problems and recognize the many reasons I had to be joyful.
This year, my word is hope. I decided on it a few weeks ago when—as my Sunday school class was studying the Old Testament—I realized how critical God’s gift of hope is. We were covering the years before and during the Babylonian Exile, and—to make a centuries-long story way too short—God’s chosen people once again found themselves in desperate straits. After enjoying a golden age under the reigns of David and Solomon, the Hebrew people grew defiant toward God and His laws. They slipped into a decline that ultimately resulted in defeat and diaspora.
At that lowest of low points, God knew exactly what was needed: hope. He gave a message of hope to Jeremiah to pass along to the dejected people. What a challenge that must have been, and yet the prophet rose to the task.
In the past, Jeremiah had chided the people for their disobedience, but now it was time to renew their broken spirit. God provided Jeremiah with the perfect words: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘… plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:1
No matter how many times I read or hear this verse, I always experience a shiver of excitement—a “thrill of hope”—because I believe it applies to God’s people today as much as it did back then. If hope could get the Jewish people through seventy years of captivity how much more can it get us through our times of personal and shared adversity? If our hope is in God, we will discover the tiniest flicker can light the way through the deepest darkness.
Praying you experience health, happiness, and the light of hope in God in 2019!