Keeping Hope During Tough Times in the New Year

By the Reverend Dr M. Davies Kirkland

“Keep hope! “

Let’s face it, as we move into a new year, 2022, our lives still seem to get out of hand. In the Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul helps the early Christians to face challenges beyond their control: getting along with one another, sin and forgiveness, political and economic issues. Seems familiar? He offers them and offers us a message of hope.

“… Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts…” Romans 5 : 3-5.

Paul offers four words to guide us in these difficult times: suffering, endurance, character, and hope.

Pain. Suffering is simply part of the human condition. Today we, living in the community of Falls Church, are suffering from a Covid-19 pandemic that has changed our lives in many ways. Look at what we’ve been dealing with: masks, vaccines, hospitalizations and deaths, tests. Add to that, we faced inflation and supply chain issues; a divided government unable to get things done; and – just in time for the holiday season – nightmarish travel stories. We are exhausted. Our patience is exhausted.

Endurance. Suffering leads to endurance. Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been asked and heard other people ask the same question, “How are you going to hold up?” This is a testament to our endurance. Endurance is how we will keep going through life’s obstacles and hardships. Endurance is the key to our lives today. When our lives are filled with challenges, disappointments and suffering, we don’t just look to ourselves, but to others. Endurance sustains us in these turbulent times.

Personage. Endurance leads to character. How are we going to act in our endurance? Integrity. Character is the way we live our lives. Character is how people see us as we are through our words and actions towards others. Some examples of character are kindness, self-control, kindness, peace, love, and loyalty.

Hope. Character leads to hope. Hope is something to look forward to. Hope is something to believe in. Hope is an expectation. We will weather this storm. We believe that the love of God is pouring into our lives, helping us through these difficult times.

As the United Methodist pastor of City of Falls Church, I learned a lesson related to COVID-19 using these four words: suffering, endurance, character, and hope.

The COVID pandemic hit us at Dulin Church in March 2020. Like many churches, we had to close our doors. Some churches have started recording worship services while others have started broadcasting live. I was in a dilemma over what to do. I was stuck. I prayed to ask God to help me discern how to make this transition.

One of our youth, Luke Batarseh, a Grade 10 student, contacted me and said, “Pastor Dave, I can record the worship services, edit them, and then place them on the website. the church. What a godsend. As we moved into the live broadcast, Dulin’s staff and followers led the purchase of equipment, helped design a multimedia booth, and told me every week, “It’s going to be fine Pastor Dave. ! Every week I would just say, ‘Just tell me what to do. I was given hope that my ministry would continue, albeit in a totally different way.

“Tell me what to do!” This is my point. Usually, in our typical “DMV” way, we think we have all the tools on our own to take care of families, do heavy jobs, and be good at everything else.

We are now in a “new normal”, as they say. I think the new normal is to believe that we don’t have to do everything ourselves. It’s good to ask for help. We hold out our hand.

How do we do this?

We turn to our neighbor who we barely know to share stories of current challenges.

Putting all the differences aside, we look to family members for advice and reassurance.

We treat each other with a new respect.

We offer kind words backed up by thoughtful actions.

We thank the people in the public service who work to ensure the health and safety of our community.

We will overcome these challenges… but only if we face them together. As we practice the “new normal”, practice forgiveness rather than punishment – working for the common good rather than for our own interests.

So stay hopeful in 2022. Stay hopeful when we feel our lives have been shattered. Have hope when we’re ready to give up! Do not let go !

God is not going to abandon us! Hold on to hope!

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