I’m not sure how you fared this holiday season, but I felt a little…well, off. It started with the crazy-short timespan between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I spent most of December in a daze of “to-dos” — shopping, wrapping presents, writing cards, attending events, and packing for holiday travel. Life moves so fast. I wanted to focus on what mattered and gear up for an awesome 2020, but reality just wasn’t living up to my expectations.
Now, a week into the new year, I feel a little deflated. And I’m not alone. Some have said that January is the most depressing month, culminating with Blue Monday, which falls on January 20 this year. Christmas spirit is in the rearview, and we’re left with the aftermath of the extra debt (and pounds) that often come with the holidays.
As I was thinking about my own new-year melancholy, it occurred to me that the past year has been a difficult one. Many people I love have suffered serious illness, the death of loved ones, job losses and other tragedies and disappointments. And while my own struggles may be less significant, they’ve still brought pain. I’m very aware of God’s blessings, but the overdose of sadness has left me feeling a bit let-down.
The questioning prophet
I recently heard a sermon on John the Baptist. John was Jesus’ cousin, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. There are many cool things about this man, including his strange diet and wardrobe choices, but among the most significant is the fact that he was the first prophet Israel had heard from in over 400 years. He would prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah.
God’s people had high hopes for the coming Messiah whom they believed would rescue them. And though Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies perfectly, He didn’t come to establish a kingdom on earth, which was a surprise to some. His ways often confused His closest friends and followers.
Even John, who baptized Jesus and declared Him to be the One the Scriptures had foretold, had his moments of doubt. In fact, from a prison cell, he sent his own followers to Jesus to deliver a message: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Can’t you hear the unspoken frustration in that question? Why aren’t You acting? Why isn’t life getting better? Was I mistaken to put my hope in You?
Jesus responded by healing plagues, restoring sight to many, and casting out demons all within a single hour. He then told John’s followers to report back to the prophet what they had seen — the undeniable power of God. We don’t get to see John’s response, but I imagine that Jesus gave him just the answer he needed. Days later, John was beheaded by Herod.
When I glimpse the vast “un-right-ness” of this world — the pain and suffering and injustice — I have questions about Christ’s methods, too. My finite brain concocts the ways I might do things differently if it were up to me. And those thought patterns can lead to feelings of hopelessness, doubt and fear.
Go forth with courage
The truth is, I don’t have to understand God’s ways. John didn’t. Jesus said we will have trouble in this life, but this world is also not our true home. I relate to Paul’s words in Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
While heading into a new year is exciting in many ways, we must walk in wisdom when evil seems to close in on us. That wisdom involves studying God’s Word, spending time in prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, and serving. We may not always see clearly what the Lord is doing, but we can trust Him — the One who healed the sick, preached to the poor, and redeems us from sin and death. He is our glorious Savior, and He wants to fill our empty spaces with His Spirit.
So if you’re feeling a little “off” as you head into the new year, take courage! It’s not too late to refocus on the powerful Savior who came to change lives for eternity — and then follow in His footsteps.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.