Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12,13
“One day, we will understand. Sleep on, darling. Your loving wife and sons.”
So reads a headstone near the WWII battleground at Anzio.
Those sober words may clash with the joyous toasts of “Happy New Year!” But the fallen won’t protest, and their loved ones will understand.
The rotation of one year into another one invites one to pause for a bit to review the past and wonder about the future. We can now write down what has taken place so far in our lives. But that does not mean we understand why it happened. The future lies in clouds of fog. We can only wonder what lies on our path—and later wonder why some of that was there.
Especially those things that cause pain.
Some might question why we celebrate the beginning of a new year. Are we so happy we survived the old one? Are we so confident that good things await us in the new one?
Or are we just trying to forget the hurts the past brought us and faking confidence in the future?
We may not really know.
But those who know in whose hands the future lies have something good to look forward to. Those who know whose hands have carried them in the past have something to be thankful for.
Thus, those who call upon a Father in heaven have a double reason to celebrate.
When things go well for us, when happy things happen, we don’t usually search for the answer to the question, “Why?”
We might assume we just made the right decisions or possessed the right skills. Or, maybe we simply pass it off as being lucky.
A person who operates with high confidence may take success for granted. Failure is not expected. When it does show itself, the confidence is shaken. This is unfamiliar territory.
“I do not understand!” may become the pervading thought. A search for answers may ensue. Not finding an answer may shake that person to the core.
“Why?” “Why?” “Why?” are questions that lead to doubt, even despair, if no answer is found.
The Lord of heaven and earth knows this. Through the apostle Paul, he tells us we should not expect to find answers to all questions on this side of eternity. Now we can see only a poor reflection of life, and as in a mirror, the picture may even be reversed.
Why torment ourselves by seeking the unreachable? Why not turn to that which is certain, enlightening, and comforting? Why not grab onto the lifeline the Savior offers?
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
These three will not fade, will not disappear, will not change.
This faith, this hope, and this love are anchored in the eternal Lord God—who changes not.
But we shall change. “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52,53).
Then, “we shall see face to face.” Then, “I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
When will that be? Jesus tells us, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).
She wrote, “One day we will understand. Sleep on, darling.”
Many new years have come and gone since those touching words were written. We wish the battles and the dying were gone, as well. We wonder if her sons saw combat in Vietnam. We wonder if she had to write on their headstones. We wonder if her grandchildren fought in the sandbox of the Middle East. We surely hope not.
The new year we face will no doubt bring changes into our lives. Some, we will rejoice over. We may weep over some others. Only God knows.
But this we hold dear. This we claim as our own. This awaits us as we step into the future. “Faith, hope and love.”
Now we see life as it is reflected in a mirror. Then, we shall see clearly.
Then we shall understand.
Until then, we bid our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus, “Sleep on.”
“Sleep in heavenly peace.”
Then, gracious God, in years to come, whatever may betide us,
Right onward through our journey home, O, stay at hand to guide us,
Nor leave us till, at close of life, safe from all peril, toil, and strife,
Heaven shall enfold and hide us. Amen.
(Christian Worship 367:4)
Points to ponder:
- Jesus once told his disciples that his friend, Lazarus, was sleeping before he raised him from the dead. (John 11:1) Why is that comforting?
- Do you agree with the saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same?” Why or why not?
- Do you think most Americans greet the new year with hope or with fear? Explain.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.