“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40: 15, 17).
The beginning of a new year has traditionally been a time to take stock: a time to assess the year that has passed and to re-focus the mind and spirit for what is to come. For Christians it is a good time to re-engage the key truths that give context and perspective to everything that happens, whether personally or globally. We have a constant need for this kind of refocus. It is a condition of this fallen world of ours that important truths concerning our identity and our destiny tend to get lost in the midst of life’s frenzy. Even if not entirely forgotten, they recede to the background and cease to provide the living vision by which we navigate our lives. To counteract this tendency toward fog, Christians remind themselves, day by day, week by week, and year by year, of the truths that light up our road and point the way forward.
Given the year that has just passed and the year that is opening upon us, one of the important guiding truths to keep fixed in our minds and to allow to permeate our thought is the one expressed by Isaiah in the passage cited above. This truth is especially important to remember in a time and amidst a culture that, in the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, has “forgotten God.” Rather a serious omission. We find ourselves dealing with microscopic organisms and macronational tech giants, with domestic unrest and geopolitical threats, with an increasingly complex and unmanageable global economy, to say nothing of the daily challenges and questions facing each of us; and we are taught by the world around us to be very, very worried. We assume the absurd position of thinking ourselves the most intelligent and powerful beings on “the planet,” and we subtly take upon ourselves the responsibility to see that the world somehow goes right. No wonder we are so worried: if our own meager resources are supposed to deal with all the evil and fragility of a fallen and corrupted race of immortal beings making their way through time, we should be terrified.
But though we may have forgotten God, God has not forgotten us. He continually takes thought for what he has created. He is unimpressed by what we think so overpowering: “All the nations are as less than nothing and emptiness.” He is not worried, not wondering what to do. He orders all things according to his own mysterious will. He has all things in hand. This is not to say that we need not take concern for the world as if it were no affair of ours. But we need to be clear that this is God’s world, and that all of history, including our own personal history, is dominated by God’s plans. He honors us greatly by inviting us to cooperate with him as he upholds the universe with his word of power and battles the forces of darkness that surround us. But we are the junior partners; so junior as to be accounted as so much dust on the scales compared to the overwhelming goodness and potency of God.
As we look toward the coming year, let’s allow this truth to provide the backdrop for how we look at everything around us and how we determine what we need to do. Let’s pay no attention to the world’s constant incitement to fear and to anger, remembering that we are told to “have no anxiety about anything” (Matthew 7) and that “the anger of men never works the righteousness of God” (James 1). Let us maintain serenity in the midst of our struggle, and by so doing, witness to the great hope that has taken hold of us. Let us believe and act upon the truth so often expressed but so little realized: that God is Lord of heaven and earth.