As the calendar turns from December to January and as 2023 gives way to 2024, a new year is laid out before us. We may have already drawn a few lines and circles on some of the dates—appointments here, vacations there. We may have slotted in a few dreams and plans for certain days and weeks. But mostly the year lies open before us, opaque, mysterious, unknown. What will it be? What will it bring? How may Providence direct?
What is certain is that 2024 will bring both joys and sorrows, both gains and losses. There will be good days and bad, joyful seasons and grievous. Some circumstances we will look forward to and some we will dread. That’s the nature of life here between Genesis chapter 3 and Revelation chapter 22—between sin’s entrance and abolition, between the first tears and the last.
Today I find myself thinking especially about those hard days and difficult times. As 2023 drew to its close, I witnessed an unusual number of friends endure the most trying of circumstances. I had a close-up view of Christians passing through dark valleys. And, to my encouragement and joy, I was able to watch them pass through those trials unbroken and triumphant. Even with hurting hearts and crying eyes, they remained victorious, unwavering in their love for God and unswerving in their commitment to his cause.
What is left when a Christian man is forced to bid farewell to the wife of his youth, when she comes to the last of her days? What remains when death finally separates two hearts that had for so long beat as one? Faith remains. Hope remains. Love remains. There is grief, too, of course, and many tears. But faith, hope, and love live on and shine all the brighter in the darkness of loss.
What is left when investments collapse and a Christian man’s wealth is destroyed in a moment? What remains in the wake of a financial disaster of that magnitude? Honor remains. Praise remains. Thanks remains. There will be sorrow, too, and much uncertainty. But the loss of money will not cause the loss of the honor, praise, and thanks that so naturally flow from the heart of one who has been redeemed.
What is left when a husband packs up his possessions and leaves his wife on her own? What remains when vows are broken and hearts are shattered into a million little pieces? Trust remains. Prayer remains. Peace remains. There will be difficult days and sleepless nights, to be certain. There will be deep pain and sorrow, to be sure. But trust and prayer and peace cannot fall prey to even the most grievous of circumstances.
None of us know what 2024 will bring. It may be a year of great gain or a year of great loss. It may be a year of great gain and great loss—of triumphant gains and shattering losses. Only God knows. Only God exists outside of past, present, and future and only God knows them all at a glance.
Yet no matter what may be taken from us in the year ahead, we know that we have possessions beyond measure that are ours in Christ. No matter what may be added to us in the year ahead, we know that the greatest gain on earth is as nothing compared to what already awaits us in heaven. And this means we can live with open hands, becoming neither idolatrous toward our gains nor defeated by our losses. We can trust God in all he gives and all he takes, in whatever his providence decrees we must receive and must surrender. We can trust him with our future as we did our past. He will lead us as surely to the end as he has from the beginning. He will prove himself true to us in 2024 and he did in 2023. And with all that in mind, we can confidently say, “Happy New Year.”