How best to announce the new blog re-title and a return to writing for 2017? How about with a new post about 2016?!
For those that are wondering where I have been, I may post a family and life update another time, but for now, here you go!
Is the verdict in on whether people liked 2016? Have been online some for the past month or so but can't tell?
— Ben Rector (@benrector) December 31, 2016
This tweet from Ben Rector made me laugh. Many of the things he does have that effect on me. He’s right. We’re about to hit 2017, and just about everyone is making jokes and complaining about how awful this year has been. There have also been reactionary Facebook posts and the like to try and reframe 2016 positively by counting one’s blessings, as it were. On one level, I applaud these sorts of reactions. That’s because they are bucking the generally accepted trend these days that if something is broadly viewed as crummy, we all get a free pass to complain about it.
Except, as Christians, we don’t. Paul writes to the Philippians:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world
I tweeted this verse with a simple exhortation to remember not to grumble about 2016 but be different from the world and let our lights shine. That was the 140 character post application for Twitter… but there’s a lot there to unpack.
Complaining and Disputing + Social Media
I don’t think anyone will argue that our social media is basically where disputing lives. Face to face, most of us our civil, cordial, and pleasant. Get us on social media, we’ll easily become argumentative and angry. And yet, increasingly, we are spending our time on social media, which gives us an avalanche of information to digest and react to. So we argue with our friends and relatives about things that are important to us much more freely, and likely less cordially than we would in person because of that nice buffer the computer, tablet, or smartphone provides us from such awkward face-to-face disagreements.
So it goes also with complaining. We complain about our flat tire we had on our way to work. Or in my case, the leak in my closet that went on for 12+ hours before I noticed. We complain when celebrities or politicians say stupid things. We even complain about our favorite show’s midseason finale lacking enough action to keep us interested. Complaining, like disputing, is not just sanctioned on social media, it’s one of the main reasons we go there.
2016 – The year we all decided to hate
Don’t get me wrong. There have been some dreadful happenings in 2016. This post isn’t really trying to sweep all the hardship, violence, ignorance, and political insanity that has plagued the last twelve months under the rug. As Christians, we’re to be sober-minded and not ignore reality. My heart has broken over senseless tragedy and death that has marked this year and I have prayed for our political leaders when I have failed to understand why things are happening in that arena. But that’s not the same as grumbling.
Enduring hardship is something that the Scriptures actually speak a lot about–probably because our Savior endured hardship just like us! And his was to a degree that we cannot fathom. This is why we should be…
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I want us to think about that verse. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. The cross and its shame is a hardship like no other, yet Jesus endured it for the joy that was set before him–the resurrection and reign to come. For his followers, it is the same joy that is set before us. We have tremendously good news in Christ! We have a joy that can persist through every trial and tribulation, according to James 1:2. So, why then as believers are we wasting time on social media engaging in grumbling and disputes?
I want to be clear, it’s not that life isn’t hard. It’s not that as believers we aren’t dealt horrible blows to our lives. Maybe for you, 2016 was a remarkably difficult year personally on top of all the junk that happened in the world, and you’re saying, “How am I supposed to have joy when this has happened to me in my life?” I know people dealing with the loss of a foster child they had hoped to adopt. I know people dealing with the death of a spouse. People who deal with clinical depression. People who lost their jobs.
For us, 2016 began with a hopeful turn in Andrea’s health, with some procedures giving her a brief respite of some persisting symptoms, but in the wake of those procedures the last 5 months have been marked by her tremendously frustrating new diet and a diagnosis of a syndrome that is not really treatable–just manageable.
We all have reason to complain, according to the world. According to the Scriptures, we have joy set before us. Christianity is not about simply “looking on the bright side” or “staying positive.” It’s about the kind of joy that can’t be taken away even in the worst of circumstances–the joy is the glorious mystery of Christ in us, the hope of Glory. For 2017, I want to try and always keep that joy set before me. Whatever “the year” may throw at me, setting my mind on things above and remembering the glorious, mysterious Good News of Jesus daily is how I want to spend it.
That’s the only New Year’s Resolution you’ll get from me on this blog… Well, that and to actually write more posts here
Happy New Year!