So I have taken some time just to think back as 2011 sputters to an end. The year certainly was not boring, whether the topic is world events or the personal life and times of Rick Myatt. In world events we saw the unexpected. I did not hear anyone forecasting the “Arab spring” of this year that has resulted in regime change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya so far, with Syria in the throes of a near revolt still. Who knows where all that will end? In May we were surprised when we received the news that Osama Bin Ladin will no longer be around to bring mayhem and death to the world. American special forces troops brought an abrupt end to his reign of terror in a raid on his home in Pakistan. I regard both the Arab revolts and the death of Bin Ladin as good news so far. I guess I’d have to put the passing of Kim Il Jong in that category too, although I have little hope that conditions in poor North Korea are going to improve much. The departure of the last American military units from Iraq is also in the positive column, though it seems the fate of the fragile democracy in that land is still unclear. I suppose one could consider the wedding of Kate and William to be good news, although it is certainly not going to have any effect on my life one way or the other.
What will prove to be the most significant events of this year as time rolls on? What trends are developing and where will it all lead? Unfortunately the answers to those kinds of questions are above my pay grade. I would love to believe that the things that have been taking place in the Middle East will, in fact, prove to be the first evidence of significant movement toward peace, freedom and stability in that region of the world. However, it appears to me that is far from a sure thing. History in that region suggests that oppressive regimes there are often overthrown only to be replaced by equally oppressive regimes, if not worse. Maybe I’m affected by a theological lens through which I view that part of the world. It seems to me that conditions there near the day of the Lord are far from idyllic, so I lean toward suspecting that somehow things there just won’t improve much. Similarly I have a somewhat negative outlook on the economic news in this world. I may be overly pessimistic, but there the signs seem downright ominous. The populace in our nation seems committed to demanding more and more benefits from our government while at the same time insisting on not paying for them. We need leaders to get the situation under control, but I see little evidence that anyone is going to actually make the substantive changes necessary to stave off an economic cataclysm at some point down the road.
Perhaps my perspective is rather too gloomy. I hope that’s true and that conditions in this world are heading in a positive direction. I wouldn’t want to bet my house on it either way because what is going to happen is way too uncertain. In fact, that is one of the most important points that emerges as I reflect on the year gone by. Uncertainty is an absolute fact of life. I would not have predicted many of the things that have happened this year. This is true on the personal level as well as the international relations level. Just a day or so ago Laurie and I were discussing the fact that one year ago we had no inkling that by the end of 2011 our son, Toby would be thinking about attending medical school or that he would be engaged to be married. Who knows what is going to happen in 2012 (other than those who are certain the world is going to come to an end as per the Mayan calendar of course)?
James 4:13-14 says, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Now there’s some absolute truth. I do not know what is going to happen tomorrow, much less in the next year. This means we live in a cloud of uncertainty. But I believe this is a good thing. This constant uncertainty serves to remind us where our security lies. If we try to anchor our security and thus our peace in the ability to have particular outcomes in this world and to control our circumstances we will never have a moment’s true peace. Life will ever be full of threat and disrupting, unexpected events that obliterate the peace we wish we could find. But if our peace is grounded in God’s love for us, in his sovereign rule over this world and all that is in it, in his ever wise and good plan for the world and for our lives, then we can be rock solid at all times. My security is not in a stable world, but in “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Peace does not come from knowing what is going to happen next and being certain my plans will be fulfilled, but in “the Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” In short, this world’s uncertainty is both a reminder and an opportunity to live by faith in our Almighty God. It motivates us to live by faith in our God who is good, wise and far more powerful than any of the forces at work in the world around us.
This faith in our God provides the anchor we need to hold firm in the face of the storms that will inevitably break upon us in a tempest-tossed world. I was recently reading a novel in which the main character was in his sail boat in the middle of a storm at sea. He was reveling in the adventure of cresting mountainous swells and the howling wind. In such conditions he felt most alive. Perhaps this is how we must learn to live in a stormy world full of the unexpected. Secure in the knowledge that our God has our lives in his hand we can boldly face the raging seas and the gale force winds as well as the sun-splashed days of placid calm. Where is this world going? I don’t know. But I do know when it gets wherever it is going, God will be there, and he will have been with us the whole time whether we saw him or not.