Near the end of 2016 I found myself bombarded by articles, blogs, whiny memes and huffed chatter about how horrible the year 2016 had been. Most cited the numerous celebrity deaths and one celebrity turned president elect as the main ingredients for the concoction that made for a bad year. I would like to argue that it was bad for far more numerous and more reprehensible reasons. 2016 was the year of countless terror attacks in the U.S. and around the world, we saw young kids drowned while fleeing war, father’s and husbands of color killed by police, police brutally shot and attacked, people trapped and burned in buildings, hundreds of people killed by hurricane Matthew, or displaced by earthquakes. The year was full of tragedy, people were ripe with anger and tired of grieving. Many looked to the New Year, 2017, for some relief. But I have no hope in 2017. By that I mean I do not put my hope in the 365 days that end in those four numbers. I put my hope in Christ.
Let me say despite this I’m not optimistic about the already begun, but far from over year. Sometime in the last month when my phone prompted me for an update I somehow opted to receive news updates to my phone all hours of the day. What I have found is that the year is already out to a tragic start. A nightclub in Turkey was attacked by a shooter in the early hours of New Year’s day. Another shooter killed five people in the Fort Lauderdale airport. In Southland’s church community we lost an old friend and a new baby in the same week. How can anyone have hope in anything?
I found my hope in Christ last year and this. It didn’t change the circumstances of the world, but this is why I can still put my hope in him. He is with us through the circumstances. I think of Job in the Bible. Everyone knows about Job. That he suffered loss in so many ways. His possessions, his family, and his health were all lost. But do you know what turned him around? It wasn’t the immediate promise that everything would be restored, although we know that everything he lost was restored even better than it was before. It was realizing how powerful and mysterious God is. That he works in ways beyond our control. He is the creator of all things and that we often don’t see how he protects us, provides for us, and has plans for us. We just focus of the difficult things.
When I was young I used to hike with my family in the foothills of my hometown. One time we found ourselves lost in thick but beautiful shrubs with dark shiny red bark, dark green leaves, and pink flowers. They grew clinging sideways to the steep incline of the hills. I grabbed hold of them for support and sat under them for shade while eating a snack. Later I learned that they were the Manzanita tree. They quickly became one of my favorite plants to enjoy while hiking in the coming years. In 2009 we had to evacuate our home as a large fire destroyed homes and set these mountains ablaze. These Manzanita trees were left charred and black. Months later I hiked up those same mountains on a warm night and I remember crying over the ghostly trees and the bare trail. I wondered how it would ever be restored. Little did I know that in nature the way that Manzanita trees germinate is through fire. They need the heat of forest fires in order to open up their seeds to reproduce.
I’m not sure if I will ever know the purpose of any of the atrocities that happened in 2016 or the inevitable coming tragedies of 2017, but if God cares enough about the Manzanita tree, I’m certain he cares about me. And because of that I do not but my hope in 2017, but in Him.