by: Kyle McClendon
This week we will be seeing dozens of posts, blogs, articles, videos, etc. about the year that we as a people just went through. The good, the bad, the new, and the old will be discussed over and over in the days to come. However, this will not be one of those stories. We’re going to glance backward for a second but above all else I want our vision to be forward and, most importantly, upward. We all have hopes that next year will be better than this year and we all want things to go back to some form of “normal” soon, but a lot of that hope and that desire is based on our circumstances and on the temporary things of this world. Good things, for sure. But things that easily draw attention away from what is truly important.
Encouragement from Job
As we move into a new year, the best place to go for encouragement and for a remedy to all of our ailments is the Word of God. In this case, we’re going to go to an old friend: Job. We can all relate to Job in some capacity. He was a wealthy, faithful man who experienced extreme loss and tragedy in a sudden, unexpected way that flipped his life upside down and sent him into some dark, challenging places. A lot of us had very high expectations and hopes for 2020 and then life hit us in the mouth and sent us careening to the floor with little strength or even desire to get back up. And even after we got back up, it seems like the hits kept coming and coming; each hit sending breath and life out of our bodies until we couldn’t do anything beyond sitting still and trying to minimize the hurt that the loss and fear caused in our lives.
Job was in that exact spot--doubting God, questioning His goodness, feeling like he was all on his own in this fight against an enemy he couldn’t see--but if we look at his entire journey, we see three points that we can take into 2021 and ensure that next year is better than this last one. Even if it isn’t.
Learning to Lament
The first thing we see is the practice of lament. Lament is a scary word in a lot of church circles because to lament means to admit that something is wrong, that we don’t always understand God, and that we are hurting. Because of this, we often don’t talk about it for fear of cracking the mask we’ve put on and left on most of our life; this leads to believers who don’t know how to go to God with their problems and don’t know the grace that can be found in lament. In a great article on the topic of lament, Mark Vroegop defines lament as “a prayer in pain that leads to trust.” It isn’t just to vent or to complain. To lament is to bring all that you have to God in total transparency and then to give it over to Him because you know He can handle it.
This means we go to God with our frustrations, our fears, our hurts, and our struggles and we let him know exactly how we are feeling and what we are going through. Obviously God already knows all of this: our experiences, our emotions, and our hearts. To truly give ourselves to God and trust Him with what we are going through, we must have the confidence in His goodness to bring Him everything and know that He isn’t going anywhere.
So as we move into 2021, let us become a people that speak the language of lament and aren’t afraid to draw near to the throne of grace with boldness, knowing that our loving, generous Father is eager to show us that His power is made perfect in our weakness.
Depending on Community
The next thing we can see in Job to take with us into 2021 is the practice of leaning on community.
This concept may not be demonstrated very well in Job but that does not change the importance of this--in fact, I think it highlights our need for community even more. Job’s three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) begin their time with Job by simply sitting in silence with him for as long as he needs. This is touching, convicting, and challenging. It’s a great example of mourning and weeping with those who are mourning and weeping. However, once the conversation starts, Job finds no more empathy or grace from his friends; instead, he finds judgement, hopelessness, and blame from three people who never really tried to listen or understand what it is he was feeling and thinking.
Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Unfortunately, this takes a lot of us back to times in our past when we went to people in our churches for some advice, support, or encouragement and we found the exact opposite. This leads to scars that take a long time to heal and that make us less willing to step out of our comfort zones in community ever again. But just because it is tough doesn’t mean we don’t need it.
Can you imagine how Job’s experience would’ve changed if his three friends had pointed him to a good, gracious, generous yet sovereign God instead of blaming him and bashing him? It would have been a completely different story! God calls us to live in community because he knows we can’t go through life on our own.
Even if we think we don’t need people and we are better on our own--thoughts I wrestle with far more than I would like--we are lying to ourselves and we are missing out on the rich, robust, and deeply beneficial relationships that God has for us in Biblical community. This means putting our own comfort, assumptions, and even our opinions aside for the sake of growing closer with our brothers and sisters.
So in 2021, dive head first into community. Find a small group, start a zoom Bible study if you feel meeting in person isn’t the best thing for you at the moment, and cultivate genuine, meaningful relationships centered around the Gospel and the word of God.
Behold the Lamb of God
This brings us to our third--and most important--lesson from Job that we can take into 2021: behold Jesus. That’s it. Take time to truly grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. This isn’t sexy or showy. It isn’t easy. And it isn’t as simple as some of us would like, but if we want this upcoming year to be the best year we have ever had, we must start with making Jesus the center of everything in our life.
Many of us desperately need to have a shift in perspective like Job did when he said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
We can no longer rely on head knowledge or simply going through life on autopilot, only thinking of Jesus twice a week for an hour at a time. We can’t just hold on to our conservative principles or progressive talking points that have Christian taglines on it and expect life to be the rich, abundant life Jesus has for us.
We have to see Jesus as He is in His word and do the dirty work of the Gospel. We need to come face to face with who we really are, let go of our worldly passions and pursuits, and then throw ourselves upon the altar of the Gospel. The Gospel that calls us to actively pursue Jesus, to chase peace with those around us, and to glorify God as we navigate each day as living sacrifices to our king.
This year, don’t rely on behavior. Don’t rely on political talking points that may sound like Biblical principles but don’t seek to glorify God or show compassion for those around us. Don’t buy into the lie that the abundant life is simply throwing the name of Jesus on whatever you do without ever knowing Him intimately.
Behold the Lamb of God. Stop striving. Stop dancing around the conviction of the Gospel, and just spend time at the feet of Jesus as you seek to know Him more and more with each day.
The application of this isn’t flashy but it is the simplest steps that are often the most powerful. An old pastor of mine, Dhati Lewis always says, "The Gospel is simple in its message but supernatural in its application." That means all of these things sound easy and simple, but we have to approach all of it with a heart of dependence and desperation for the Holy Spirit to move! These simple yet challenging reminders can have a massive impact in our relationship with our Savior.
For Jesus to be the center of our lives, He must be the center of everything we do--our schedule should reflect that time with Jesus is the most valuable thing to us. Set time aside each day to simply rest in the presence of the Father. To behold something is to see its worth, to rest in its presence, and to respond accordingly.
We don’t want to simply know about our Savior, we seek to know our Savior and to let him know us deeply; this means we have to talk to him! Pray fervently that God would have His way in your life and that He would show himself to you daily. Pray honestly when you feel angry, frustrated, hurt, doubtful, or scared--pray in pain but end in trust.
And after we do that, we don’t simply leave our faith in the closet until we get back from work or from school. We can’t do that. Instead, our faith impacts each and every ounce of our life and shines in all of our interactions and relationships. This means we seek to foster relationships built on trust, transparency, and mutual devotion to Jesus Christ.
Oh, that we would become people who behold our Savior in each and every moment of our lives! He is so, so worth it. He’s worth all of it. And with Jesus as the root and center of life, it doesn’t matter what 2021 throws at us because we have the bread of life, the Great High Priest, a God who is with us and knows us deeply. Let’s seek to behold Him more and more. Let’s start today.