Annus Horribilis

by Joanie Butman

Good riddance 2016. I can’t say I’m sorry to put last year to bed. I now know what Queen Elizabeth meant when she coined the phrase “Annus Horribilis” when referring to 1992. Though it sounds like something you might treat with Preparation H, Wikipedia defines Annus Horribilis as a Latin phrase meaning "horrible year." That said, 2016 wasn’t all bad. There were highlights for sure: two joyous weddings for example. Sadly, they don’t offset three funerals. That’s life – parallel paths of joy and sorrow.

There’s something about a New Year that fills me with hope. Not the wishful thinking kind of hope like when you’re looking for a parking space or playing the lottery – a biblical hope, a confident expectation, a calm assurance that God is in control despite appearances to the contrary. What better way to end a year and begin a new one than to celebrate the birth of Christ in whom my hope resides?

Even though, or perhaps because, the following promise was given to the Israelites as they were entering 70 years of suffering and captivity, it’s one of my favorite verses, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Those plans may not resemble anything we had in mind. In fact, they usually don’t, because God gives us what we need, not what we want. And for some, the future He promises may not be on earth.

Many people like to quote Jeremiah 29:11 out of context giving the false hope that God will take away our suffering in this life, and we all know that’s just not true. God is good, but life isn’t always. God’s not promising a trouble-free life because we’re all captive to sin in some way. What He’s promising is a life in which He resides and presides over. It is for this reason that we can have hope amidst suffering. Personally, I can’t think of a more positive, love-filled promise with which to begin a new year. Bring it on!

I’ve got a lifetime of experiences where God has gotten me through challenging, sometimes crippling, circumstances. They are the building blocks of my trust in Him – a divine Jenga* tower that can’t be toppled because it is grounded in Christ and held together by faith, which is a gift from God. Jesus never gives up on anyone. The Bible is full of promises that can fill you with hope in any situation because nothing is impossible with God. This truth is why I can be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer as Paul suggests in Romans 12:12. 

My New Year’s prayer for you is from Romans 15:13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

May 2017 be “Annus Mirabilis” – a wonderful year!