January 04, 2021
Four days ago, we rang in a new year. It’s exciting. We can’t help but be hopeful. Almost everyone in the world is hoping for a better year than 2020.
Personally, I am expecting that 2021 will be different. And while I was pondering on it, a thought went through my head (and you’ve probably encountered it in one form or another).
What if my 2021 turns out to be much worse than my 2020?
The past year brought us different pains and sufferings: the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next; the stress of being forced to work or study from home; the grief of losing a loved one; the longing for the company of friends and family while being isolated; and the feeling of not being in control of what’s happening around you, more so of what’s happening in the world.
I don’t know how to respond to that question. I just told myself, “I hope not!”
But what if it becomes a reality? What if, however terrible 2020 was for you, 2021 manages to be even worse?
I remember the story of Horatio Spafford. He was a devout Christian and a prominent lawyer in the 19th century. He enjoyed many years of success in his business and a comfortable life with his wife, their four daughters, and their son.
But just as Horatio was at the top of his game, his son died of scarlet fever. Not long after, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost all of his real estate investments. When they decided to go to Europe to escape the turmoil, he sent his family on a boat ahead of him. A few days later, he received a dreadful telegram from his wife informing him that the boat sank and his four daughters perished in the tragedy.
On his way to join his wife, the boat he was on passed the same sea that claimed the lives of his daughters. In that part of his journey, he was able to write a hymn. It began like this:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
This, and the rest of what he wrote, became the timeless and enduring hymn that we know today.
But, is it really well with my soul?
I’ve asked myself that many times. During my last semester in college, when I had challenges in finishing my requirements, God asked me, “What if you don’t graduate? Is it still well with your soul?”
A few years back, when my mom was terribly sick and she nearly died, God asked, “What if your mom doesn’t survive? Is it still well with your soul?”
In 2020, I had my share of frustrations and anxieties. Was it really well with my soul?
How about you? You may have just survived the most challenging year of your life yet, but there really is no assurance that 2021 and beyond will be kinder. Will it really be well with your soul?
This question reveals our answer to an even bigger one: “Are we satisfied in Jesus alone?”
I remember the very first time I met Jesus for real. There was no other day like it. I was filled with awe and wonder. I was overjoyed to know and experience the love of God. I can’t help but share him with my friends and classmates. No amount of discouragement from my family, friends, or academics could bring down my spirit. During that season of my life, I just knew, I was satisfied in Jesus alone. It was well with my soul. It still is!
Jesus is the only one who can satisfy every longing that we have. Every acceptance and approval, Jesus supplies it. The unfailing and unconditional love that we are looking for, Jesus alone provides it. The forgiveness of the worst sins we are hiding, Jesus gives it. Everything our hearts long for, Jesus is the only one who can satisfy it. God gave the ultimate provision that we would ever need, and that is Jesus alone.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
John 6:35 (NIV)
For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
We see and experience the fullness of life when Jesus Christ is at the center of it. When He is our constant source of joy, love, comfort, satisfaction, and strength, our soul is made well every day.
And so this is our hope: while we may not be certain of what happens next year, we can be assured that our God is working behind the scenes. He is sovereign and in full control of everything. We can’t see it yet, but He is accomplishing His good will in our world. What’s more, this all-powerful God loves each of us more than anyone else ever will. He has proven His love for the world when He became man and willingly lived in pain and suffering, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death, just so we can have a shot at heaven.
The truth is, we have limited influence on what will happen to our personal lives and to the world. But we can influence the posture of our heart.
Is it well with your soul now? Are you satisfied in Jesus alone now? Because if you are, no matter what 2021 would look like, you know that nothing shall separate you from the love of Christ. Nothing that you do or don’t do will make God love you less. None has the power to remove the security you can find in Christ.
As you start the year, ponder on these questions: Is it well with my soul? Am I satisfied in Jesus alone?
Let us move forward in this brand new year with the right posture of our hearts. Happy New Year!