Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Here we are at the first week of a new year. I realize the persistent pessimist will say it’s just another day, but I would strenuously disagree. It is truly a time of new beginnings, a time of new things, a time for new hopes and dreams.
Christmas has just passed, as have many of our Christmas wishes. You may have had a long list of things you might’ve been hoping for, some of which materialized, and some didn’t. Some of those may already be on your list for Christmas 2018.
But Christmas isn’t the only time for a wish list. I believe the beginning of a new year is also a time when our hopes and dreams should be spelled out, and not only written down, but shared with others. Doing so just might ignite a spark of hope, desire and action in others.
What kinds of things should be on a New Year’s wish list? I guess that depends on the person. Since I happen to be one who believes in, and has faith in, the God of the Bible, and since nothing is impossible for God, I think my wish list is going to be broad and far reaching. If it isn’t a God-size hope, then it probably isn’t worth reaching for.
I am praying for unity in a country torn by division, distrust and selfishness. I believe God desires us as a nation to be a blessing to each other, as well as to those in the world around us. We will never agree on everything. But there are so many needs in our nation we do agree on, we could easily work together on those. In doing so, not only will we gain ground for those who are hurting and whose lives have been torn apart, but we will gain an appreciation for those we work with and whom we might disagree with in one area or another. The truth is, without unity, our nation is doomed to stagnate or lose ground.
I am praying we will do more than just talk about the poor and disadvantaged. There are so many in need. Over 50 million people in our nation currently live below the poverty line. We can argue all day as to why, but the Lord tells us that if we are His followers, then we need to help those in need when we encounter them. He also tells us He knows the truth when we say we weren’t aware.
I am praying our leaders from all segments of society will begin to work together on the problems and tensions that lead to murder, suicide, accidental overdoses, and other forms of heartbreaking deaths. In 2016 over 17,000 people were murdered in our country. Between murders, accidental overdoses, and suicide, we lost over 100,000 people last year. I am praying we would begin to actively care about these tragedies so there would be far less lives torn apart because of them.
I am praying that right would win more often than wrong in our nation this year. It’s a sad reality, but many people believe doing wrong to others is OK — as long as they get their way. How sad we have fallen to such a deplorable depth in morality that we could choose wrong as a legitimate strategy to get what we want.
God makes it clear such an attitude and action may gain what some consider a temporary victory, but the cost to a soul and society as a whole is far more damaging than we can begin to access. I pray that God would greatly impact the hearts of the individuals of our nation with grief over the ways we have embraced such illegitimate and immoral strategies, and bring us back to more of a desire to do right, even if it may not immediately gain for us what we desire in our social or political struggles.
I have seen so many who have so little who live with such joy in the face of adversity. These individuals not only infect us with hope, but their selfless attitudes often cause many of us to be ashamed of our pettiness and selfishness. I thank God for that shame, and I pray humility and hope will infect many more of us in 2018.
As a nation, we are blessed with many resources and abilities. We have more of everything than we need, including a surplus of those things the needy often have to go without. Just look around any city and you will find homeless people without hope. I pray that this year, instead of arguing or rationalizing as to why they are in that situation, we would simply ask ourselves and others, “How can we make a difference?”
Such things as I have mentioned will not go away overnight, but if we strive together for good, seeking God’s help in these concerns regarding the lives of others, then maybe we will see a 10- or 15-percent decrease in murders, suicides, overdoses, and homelessness each year instead of an 8- or 10-percent increase each year.
This is just a part of the wish list I will be lifting up to our sovereign God each day this year. What will your 2018 wish list look like?
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.