Regardless of our expectations or resolutions, 2016, like every year since we were evicted from Eden, will bring both wonderful and profoundly difficult moments.
What we need is a perspective on our coming year that’s hopeful, yet grounded in eternal certainties. No Christian should be a pessimist. We should be realists—focused on the actuality that we serve a sovereign and gracious God. Because of the reality of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and His promises, biblical realism is, ultimately, optimism.
If we build our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ’s eternity-shaping redemptive work, we can be optimists. Why? Because even our most painful experience is but a temporary setback. Our pain and suffering may or may not be relieved in this life, but will certainly be relieved in the next. That is Christ’s promise—no more death, crying or pain; he will wipe away all our tears (Revelation 21:4). Indeed, any other foundation is sand, not rock. It will inevitably disappoint us.
Knowing that our suffering will be once and for all relieved and God will use it for our eternal good (Romans 8:28) doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it bearable. So too does the promise, “The sufferings of this present time aren’t worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Same for the profound truth that our present sufferings are light and momentary, but are achieving for us something weighty, glorious and eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Locking our minds onto these truths allows joy in the midst of suffering. Jesus said, “Happy [makarios] are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you. … Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23). We who will one day enter into our Master’s happiness can frontload that happiness into our lives today.