The year 2021 is screeching toward a finale, finally. Unlike 2020, when words that we never heard of before (“Covid-19” and “social distancing”) dominated our lives — the year 2021, which was supposed to end it all, didn’t.
And now, as 2021 is all but vanishing in the rear-view mirror and 2022 is fast filling the windshield (with the pandemic still in sight), it’s easy to worry about what this new year will bring. Our humble advice?
Quantum physicist pioneer Niels Bohr had once said, “It’s very difficult to make an accurate prediction — especially about the future.” How true. Stock market experts can tell us everything about a stock, down to the most arcane details, except the one thing that we want to know — What will its price be in the future?
History is filled with famously wrong predictions. A banker told Henry Ford’s lawyer in 1903: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.”
In 1876, the president of Western Union, rejecting as nothing but a “toy” Alexander Graham Bell’s new invention, a telephone, wrote: “The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?” And, too, the IBM executive who, in 1943, perspicuously said: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
The future is hard to predict, isn’t it? We don’t know what tomorrow, much less this upcoming year, will bring. Some things, such as Tax Day, or birthdays, might be surer than others — but who knows? One thing that we do know about the future, however, is that surprises, sometimes good, sometime bad, always come.
Which is why, especially in tense times, when the surprises are often not pleasant, the words of Jesus of Nazareth become especially relevant: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:26).
Jesus is doing a bit of “Natural Theology” here. That is, He is pointing us to the created world, the world that God had made in order to teach us lessons about the character of God. What can we learn about God from what He has created?
Jesus points to birds, these amazing creatures full of beauty and charm (most, anyway. Who has ever seen a charming vulture?), and mystery (we still don’t fully understand how they fly.) And Jesus tells us that these creatures — without planting and sowing and harvesting and reaping, as humans must do — are still taken care of by their Creator. The God who created and cares for them is the same God who created and cares for us, even more so.
That is why Jesus asks this rhetorical question about the birds. “Are you not of more value than they?” Yes, of course, we are. And the God who takes care of birds will take care of you, too — beings created in His own image (see Genesis 1:27).
A comforting thought, this knowledge of God’s love, is it not — especially with more surprises and uncertainty ahead? Which leads to another rhetorical question by Jesus. “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” The answer is obvious. It was supposed to be.
The Present 24
Even amid times like now, we can trust the future to God. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow today. In that same sermon, Jesus said “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).
Jesus wasn’t expressing unwarranted optimism. On the contrary, He said flat out, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The Greek word for “trouble” could perhaps even more accurately be translated as “evil.” As we all know, the immediate 24 hours before us can have enough of their own trouble, their own evil. Why worry, then, about the trouble and evil the following block of 24 hours could bring? Deal with the present 24 for now.
Yet we cannot help but worry to some degree, can we? At these times it’s helpful to focus on Bible promises that reveal what God thinks of us and what He offer to us. The God who gave His own Son, Jesus, to die for our sins, a God who loved us so much that He offers us all salvation in Him — this is a God whom we can trust, even in tough times.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
These are just a smattering of texts written by people who lived in world where, if their todays weren’t evil enough, their tomorrows certainly could be. And yet, despite the troubles and sorrows, they trusted in God, not only for the immediate 24 hours but for all that would follow.
And so, we leave 2021 and face who knows what in 2022. We can’t see the future, but we should come to know and trust the God who can.
Written by Clifford Goldstein