Traditionally, Jewish/ New Year is a time for looking back and hoping ahead… yes, you got that right and it’s not a typo – hoping (not hopping) – ahead. This past year has certainly been one that has made us look ahead with many hopes and not a few fears. The pandemic and local politics (wherever we have lived) have absorbed our attention, in some cases, far more than we would like to admit.

Looking back without regrets

As I consider this past year, I’ve realized that I have a choice – to moan over the unleashed insidious and more blatant evils around us – or to be thankful for the manifold mercies and graces I’ve experienced over the past year. Quite honestly, how I view all that has happened in 5780 (or 2020) will color how I approach 5781. I want to look back with no regrets. However, to do this, I have to be quite honest before God and you, about what I could regret. When I do that, I realize how much I am thankful for in the past year!

I could regret….

… precious moments lost to complaints instead of praise.

… all that I have lost – a visit to the USA to see my new granddaughters, and marking another year with my other grandchildren and step children. The grands are growing up so fast, and emails, zoom, and Facebook just are not the same as a face-to-face visit with family and friends.

… the wasted time – playing games, watching old reruns, reading forgettable books to while away the time.

… all those empty calories that have kept me from moving ahead in my personal goal for weight loss.

… my selfishness, my failures, my laziness, and all my other sins of omission and commission…

… my anger at the politicians and evil around me – and my powerlessness to change anything

… my ignorance when I first heard about a virus in China and my initial lack of compassion for all involved…

But I am thankful!

That God remains faithful even when I am unfaithful, because He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13) – and so I will praise Him, with all my hear!

That I have heard from most of my step children and been able to see great pics of my grandkids – and for Amazon, which helps me remind them that we may be far apart, but I still love them.

That God is teaching me to submit my time to Him, and that I am learning to look at whatever I do and to ask myself if I can do this to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)

That I have not gained any weight over this period of time and am learning, not just to say no, but the meaning of moderation. I can eat whatever I want – but whatever I want is not healthy (1 Corinthians 10:23) – and this teaches me to say no!

That I am praying more, listening to others more, and learning to give to them the encouragement that I have received, realizing that we must help to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) but remain responsible for bringing our own to the Lord for grace only He can give (Galatians 6:5).

That God is all powerful (Job 38:4-7), that His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that all powers, authorities, rule and dominion are ultimately subject to Him – the virus and the nations are amazingly being led by Him for HIS purposes! (Daniel 4:34-35)

That God has given me the mind of Christ, and that of course nothing makes sense when I don’t look at what is happening through His eyes (1 2:14-16).

That God forgives and cleanses me of all my sin, and will never stop working to change me (1 John 1:5-10).

What I am NOT hoping for next year…

As I count the victories that God has given to me over the past year, I realize that I no longer hope for many things.

Not for political solutions to the world’s situation.

Not for a political leader to solve my country’s problems.

Not for a vaccine to protect me from COVID-19.

And, not for a return to life the way it was before the pandemic.

Looking ahead with hope…

This next year is filled with hope for me, because my hope is in the God who made the heavens and the earth – and nothing and no one can take Him from me.

These past few months a particular passage from the book of John has been particularly comforting to me. Perhaps I’ve quoted it before, I don’t recall, but forgive me if I have.  

Jesus had been warning the disciples that He would soon depart from them and was trying to give them the hope of His ongoing presence through His spirit. But one of the Apostles, Phillip, was totally confused.

“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?

John 14:8-10

If I’m going to be honest, I don’t have a lot of expectations from the coming year, based on what I see happening around me. As a hospital employee, I’m not allowed to leave the country, so all my plans to visit friends and family in the USA, and friends in China, are on hold. I have no idea when we will be allowed or able to have a church meeting packed to overflowing like we once used to have – or if we will continue to meet in small groups for many months to come – as long as no one is in quarantine or isolation. I have no guarantees that despite my being careful (for me), that I will not catch COVID-19 (thought I hope not!). To be honest, none of us really knows anything. I don’t even know if I’ll be alive tomorrow!

But are any of us really sure of anything? No.

This pandemic has stripped me (and I’m guessing, you) of all worldly assurances. So I either trust in God and rest in Him, or I just give in to the fear and stress and unease around me.

This coming year is sure to include things that will challenge our hope… but oh, Hallelujah! Jesus does not change! God remains on His throne! The promise of His spirit to His children is not temporary or conditional on anything we do or don’t do! Our wonderful savior has promised to never leave us. And so, having thought it all through, I have decided to be thankful for the past year, and to hope in this coming year, in my precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach). May this hope be yours as well! Maranatha!

Shana Tova — Happy New Year!