There’s Hope Within Those Clouds

A year ago, we all breathed a sigh of relief. 2020, with its lockdowns, social distancing and masks, was finally receding into the rear view mirror. Two vaccines had been approved, and a third was pending. We heard vague promises that schools would reopen and we’d be eating indoors at our favorite restaurants again. My doctor assured me that, once people got their shots, mask mandates would end and I could use para-transit and public transportation without anyone questioning her note exempting me from wearing a mask. We greeted New Year’s Day 2021 enthusiastically. This year would be better!

In some ways, life actually did improve. As more people got vaccinated, restrictions slowly lifted. As restaurants opened their doors and children returned to their classrooms, people regained optimism that the worst was behind us. I looked forward to returning to church and maybe even going into Boston. (My back didn’t heal to the point of allowing me to go anywhere, but I suspect that para-transit would not have honored my doctor’s note anyway.) Surely the pandemic wouldn’t go on much longer.

Amid the optimism, however, it became evident that life really wasn’t getting better, especially for Christians and political conservatives. Blue states imposed massive restrictions on churches, ordering them to meet outdoors and eliminate singing. Canadian pastors went to prison for conducting services. Increasingly, social media insisted that people not challenge the prevailing narrative about the pandemic. As summer moved into fall, people (including a friend from my church) faced threats of job loss unless they complied with certain mandates. Even for health reasons. And religious exemptions seldom get accepted.

Meanwhile, the Defund the Police movement has resulted in a startling rise in crime, An unprecedented number of illegal immigrants flood our southern border. The closing of the Keystone Pipeline led to inflation, and severe problems with the supply chain caused shortages. Hurricanes, tornados and fires devastated large portions of our country. The war in Afghanistan ended by meekly giving power to the very enemy we spent two decades fighting. And Omicron — despite having generally milder symptoms — has reintroduced talk of lockdowns, mask mandates and school closures. Vaccine passports are slowly becoming normalized.

Suddenly, 2021 looks just as dismal as 2020. To tell you the truth, I don’t expert 2022 to be magically better. When that sparkling ball drops in Times Square, nothing will change except the calendars on our walls. We may say good riddance to 2021 with great passion, all the while knowing deep down that 2022 promises more frustration.

But in all this disaster, Christians have hope. Unlike other people, we look forward to something beyond this present world. Jesus Christ will return to earth to reign as eternal King, bringing perfect justice and peace that we can’t begin to imagine. All the corruption, sickness and destruction will vanish. Even death shall cease. If we remember the 2020s at all (which I doubt we will), we will only see their wretchedness as light trouble against which the Lord will display His glory.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ~~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NASB95)

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