If you’re like me, looking ahead to next year and what may be on the horizon seems a bit overwhelming. A whole lotta trepidation.
What do I mean by that?
Well, let me see. An ongoing worldwide pandemic, job security, heating bills, the cost of gas, inflation in prices of almost everything I buy, supply chain problems (if you need something you can’t find), being isolated again (maybe), going back to the office, shortage of help in my business, school for me or my kids, paying the rent, violence in my neighborhood, rumors of war and major conflicts, will there be a vacation, my children’s well-being, the recent loss of a loved one, how am I going to make it through all of this?
Add yours to the list.
Let’s peek at just one issue. Isolation, loneliness, and a lack of community that I once knew. Yes, I said I. After a virtual lockdown in 2020, everything changed. Admit it or not. It just did. Bouncing back from that has been tough for many, me included.
I ordered a book published by The Barna Group entitled The Loneliness Epidemic – Why So Many of Us Feel Alone and How Leaders Can Respond. Sounds serious. Even before the pandemic, people in American had been feeling more isolated and disconnected. Eager to learn more about this growing problem, Susan Mettes—behavioral scientist and researcher—partnered with Barna to study the causes of loneliness and how Christian communities can better minister to people experiencing loneliness.
Surprising as this may sound, 31% of US adults report feeling lonely at least some of each day. That seems high to me. Yet it is quite possible to feel lonely even in a crowded room. As an extrovert, I didn’t think that was possible, but I know it to be true even from my own personal experience as of late.
Here’s a little back story.
In 2018 God asked me to lay down my business career to move into full-time service as co-founder of Embracing Brokenness Ministries. Not so easy when you’re counting on additional income added to Colleen’s in an effort to meet our obligations and garner the necessities of life. But nonetheless, I complied, and God supplied. It wasn’t easy and there were plenty of $5 dollar gas-ups so she could get to work the day before payday without tapping into our retirement account. But we made it and I was able to expand the ministry as a volunteer at the Mission where Colleen works and in prison under their Chaplaincy program. I would continue to blog, record video content, teach, start a bi-weekly podcast, and write a significant part of the book Embracing Brokenness. That’s a lot.
Then COVID hit ………….
In my little world, everything came to a screeching halt. Unable to teach, do one-on-one ministry, or make prison visits, I decided to focus on writing and producing online content. It was hard to make the shift. But over the next 18 months, I muddled my way through it realizing my priority was supporting a wife who worked tirelessly – 7 days a week – to help lead a team in keeping those experiencing homelessness safe in the Mission community where she serves.
No question this worldwide pandemic will be on a timeline in history when people that live long enough will say “Remember COVID?” Like, remember Y2K, or 911? Pick your moment in time.
So much changed for all of us but the most significant effort our spiritual enemy engaged in was creating an isolated population focused on their own survival. Coupled with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty each one of us has experienced some sort of PTSD. We can deny it all we want but there are long-term implications for our kids, ourselves, and our society at large. Pile on the racial tensions, violence from it, political upheaval, loss of personal freedoms, a host of other unintended consequences and we’re still struggling with the outcomes, and likely will for years to come.
Back to my original question. How ya’ll feelin’ ‘bout calendar year 2022?
I talked to a dear friend the other day who was struggling with his own questions about the innumerable injustices around the world. Human trafficking, violence, starvation, lockdown consequences, attack on liberty and freedom, natural disasters, threats of major conflicts or war among allies and enemies. Shall I go on? It’s been rocking his spiritual fortitude, of which he has an abundance. Saved in the ’70s miraculously, he was running from God and pursuing every worldly pleasure imaginable. He didn’t get away with it, thank our Creator.
We had a lengthy conversation about the struggle we all have at times knowing a God of love would allow such devastating happenings around this ball of dirt. It was hard not to revert to the old cliches. “God is in control”, “free will was part of the plan”, “it’s all about original sin”, “God allows bad things for a reason”, “trust and obey”, on and on.
My conclusion was a simple one. The only answer is to ask God what He wants for us in this season. What is He saying to each of us individually as we wrestle with the questions that all mankind has wrestled with since that slimy serpent showed up telling Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them? That they too could know evil AND good. The problem was they had no clue what they were getting themselves into. How could they? Evil wasn’t a thing until that second they bit the fruit.
Our focus must be on Him. Developing an intimate enough relationship that when uncertainty is staring us down, we can honestly take it one day at a time and trust Him for the outcome. My go-to is remembering all the times He did come through and having the faith that He’ll do it again.
My buddy called me back the next day and shared a scripture that God took him to as he was listening to a podcast that morning. A scripture that God laid on him 40 years ago that changed his life forever.
Isaiah 45:9 (ESV)
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?”
Read that again.
Why are we striving for control? That’s how I read it. What possible good can come from exerting control over our lives snatching it from the one who created us? Can we just rest in the knowledge, that as Believers in Jesus Christ, we need only trust Him? Living our life one day at a time. What a novel concept.
If you’re feeling a certain way about 2022 there’s only one way to approach January 1st or even tomorrow. Relinquish it to Jesus when you open your eyes. Ask Him for peace, grace, and an attitude of gratitude for the day ahead. Thank Him for the people in your life and the ones yet to come. Believe that He has your best interests at heart, even in a world that is seemingly falling to pieces. That He truly does have a plan and purpose for your life. Remember, it’s the darkest right before dawn, as someone once noted. Step into the light of the day and let Jesus drive away the darkness that surrounds you.
It’s the only way.