Yesterday was Groundhog Day. Its Punxsutawney Phil’s 15 minutes of fame. The media attention is all about him on his day. Everyone wants to know, “Well…did he, or didn’t he see his shadow?” They don’t so much care if Phil got some rays of sunshine or not, they want to know what’s the prediction for the end of Winter. For 2021, Phil did in fact see his shadow. According to folklore, we will have another 6 weeks of Winter.
Is this really how we want to look at and ascertain what our future will be like? We have meteorologists whose job it is to sift through the scientific facts and give their best assessment of what the weather will be like in the coming days, weeks and months. This is important stuff, we all want to know what’s coming so we can be as prepared as possible.
Now, let’s take a look at what it means to have a glimpse at our future, over and beyond what the weather patterns can tell us. I know we are getting antsy. We’re all wondering to ourselves, and aloud, when will we get beyond this time we’re in where we are so separated from one another? Daily numbers related to infection rates and mortality rates have been all over the place. Currently, they seem to be going down and people are beginning to be vaccinated. These are good things and good indicators that we are headed in the right direction. But just like Punxsutawney Phil, they are not accurate predictors of what we may yet face.
So what do we do, where do we turn in order to get some sense of peace about what the future holds for us?
The Psalmists, in Psalm 32: 8 tells us God is speaking to us… “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” There is comfort here in knowing God will speak and guide us. We may not be able to know the future, but we can know God is with us as we make our way there.
We all want to know when all that we’ve been going through will be over. Our concern and our anxiety might not be well placed with those thoughts. In Matthew 6: 31-33, Jesus tells us, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly God knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” You see, our chief concern, our most pressing attention, needs to be concentrated on how in the time we’re in, will we seek God’s kingdom? When we strive for that goal, all else pales in comparison.
We can’t help but be worried about whether we will be safe as things begin to open up again. We can’t help be concerned about whether or not this pandemic is really going to come to an end, whether we will be safe. In Isaiah 43:2, the prophet is assuring the people that no matter what circumstance they find themselves in, God is WITH them. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” This is how we can go into our future, boldly, knowing God will keep us safe from those things that can destroy us. Of course we’re talking about what can destroy our soul, our eternal selves.
We all want some assurance about the future. We all would like just a little glimpse into some crystal ball that can assure us of what lies ahead. Unfortunately, neither Punxsutawney Phil nor a crystal ball, have much to truly reveal about our future. We, however, know God has plenty to tell us that should ease our worried minds, and help us concentrate on being open to wherever God should lead us.
I leave you with one of my favorite passages from the Bible, it is one that gives me assurance and helps me face the future with much less worry, and with great hope. The prophet Jeremiah was speaking to a remnant of God’s people who had been through devastation, calamity, and upheaval. Their past was littered with broken cities and broken spirits. Their future looked bleak indeed. Yet, in the midst of all this anxiety ridden and depressing sense of what was yet ahead, Jeremiah speaks these comforting words…”For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future with hope.” God’s future is always laden with hope. God’s future is always one that has our best interests in the forefront. I don’t know what each of you may have gone through, or are facing, but I do know God’s future for you is one filled with the very best God has to offer you. If we are nothing else, we are a people filled with hope. Remember what the Apostle Paul says about hope in his letter to the Romans, Romans 5: 3-5…”Not only that, but we even boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Friends, I don’t know whether we will have 6 more weeks of Winter, but then again, neither does Phil. I don’t know when we will be able to loosen the time of separation we all have been enduring. I don’t know when our in person worship will be able to resume. What I do know is, God has been with us, is with us, and will be with us in the future. I know we have nothing to fear about that future. God’s love, peace and most definitely God’s hope is all over whatever we will face and we can rest easy. Let God’s hope fill you today, and speak hope into your own future and into the future of everyone you meet.
Blessings and Peace,