As we start the year with fresh hope, it seems like the odds are stacked against us. According to a recent U.S. News & World Report study, eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions are bound to fail. Even in light of that number, I’m not a cynic—I’m an optimist. But my hope is grounded in something more trustworthy and permanent than my own strength or circumstances.
We will soon be inaugurating our new president. You may be one of those who are dismayed by the results of the election, or someone who is hopeful for the possibility for change. Our hope is not found in a new administration or a politician’s promise. Our best hope is found in something that isn’t new at all. This month, you will find our Jews for Jesus staff and volunteers in Washington, DC, at the inauguration festivities talking to people about the hope found in Jesus, the One who always was, always is and always will be.
The prophet Jeremiah encouraged people who had experienced disappointment to live for God’s promises. Israel had been taken forcibly into exile. Jeremiah wrote the best possible advice for a people who had experienced complete and utter devastation. He told them, “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). We all are living in a type of exile because ultimately our truest home is with God. Yet God still wants us to live full of hope now and to live well, even in our exile, because ultimately we represent Him.
Our exile may feel like a real sense of loss. Eventually life delivers disappointment to us on many different levels. It may be that we experience dysfunction in relationships that we still carry with us, and we may struggle with loneliness and alienation. Maybe things haven’t turned out the way we hoped in terms of our career and we feel stuck. We have disappointed ourselves and others, and we have to fight a sense of being less than what we had hoped for ourselves.
We find God’s encouragement for us through the words of Jeremiah to Israel. The first word of hope is to live for today and don’t let regret rob you of the joys that are still to be had here and now. Engage with people, engage with our culture and pray for it, be a part of our world and experience the joy that life has to offer us in our exile.
The second word of hope is that we should live for His promises. James Hagerty, White House Press Secretary during Eisenhower’s administration said, “…cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up, and sure enough, they got worse.” This was Jeremiah’s experience. Despite Jeremiah’s faithfulness to proclaim a message of hope, he had to live to see the destruction of his own people and city and then was forcibly taken into captivity where he died. And yet in the midst of it all he was able to pen what are perhaps the most hopeful words in all of Scripture: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23).
Because we are in exile, we cannot avoid pain and brokenness; we can, however, live hope-filled lives because God has promised us a much better tomorrow. We were made for much more than just this life—we have eternity in our hearts. Life on earth is temporal and what we think will make it perfect here doesn’t satisfy us. It’s because we are made for a permanence that is in God’s presence, a love that only He can give and a joy that never fades. He is the only pleasure that is permanent; He is the only just, wise and loving ruler. As refugees and exiles, we are citizens of God’s kingdom. We look forward with hope to the day when there is no more death, no more tears and no more pain—only the pure, rich and ever-satisfying love of God. That is our resolve and hope for the New Year and for all time.
Find out more about David Brickner, his writings, speaking schedule and possible availability to speak at your church at j4j.co/david.