“With one word, how was 2020 for you?” a friend asked me. I replied, “Unprecedented.” My friend nodded. That was the buzzword from global news to conversations in our own circles throughout 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That word reminded me of how 2020 had been a shocking, sad, and difficult year with many Covid-19-related losses — the loss of many lives, jobs, overseas travel, and social gatherings, and the loss of safety and freedom to go to places without a mask. Yet with the painful losses also came gains — gaining of clarity to realise what really matters and to be thankful for people and things that we used to take for granted, such as our family and friends, having a stable job, good health, and a caring government to go through the hard times together.
With the pandemic raging on, entering this new year may not be as light-hearted and celebratory as in past years, but there is one word that God is putting on my heart for 2021, and that is “Renew.” Even though the future may seem uncertain and we may feel tired from keeping up with the volatile changes (and countless Zoom meetings) in a COVID-19 world, as God’s children, we can enter 2021 with hope and strength because of the renewing work God does in us.
In the Bible passage of Isaiah 40, God gave these comforting words through the prophet Isaiah to God’s people long ago who would be in years of captivity for their sins: “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” What a beautiful picture of renewal, from falling to flying.
Although the people of Israel at the time had sinned against God and would receive judgement through captivity, God remained faithful and loving to give them this encouraging promise — He would renew, restore, and redeem His people from the captors. The reason why this promise could be trusted then and can be trusted now is because of who God is and what He says He does.
In the chapter’s earlier verses 10 to 29, God reveals Himself as a caring shepherd who marks off the heavens with His hands, brings rulers of this world to nothing, and knows each star by name. And because He is the everlasting God who will not grow tired or weary, He will give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak. This inner renewal does not come from our own efforts, power or wisdom, but from God, the Source of life and strength, the loving Creator who never forgets His people.
As we cross over into 2021, no matter what ups or downs await us, we can find comfort and assurance in knowing that “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.” We don’t need to be afraid of an uncertain future, because we have an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God who is with us. May we be encouraged to commit our lives, plans, and dreams for this new year to God, trusting Him to do a renewing work in us, and to lead us ahead with His strength, wisdom, and grace.