November 30, 2020
Rev. David Van Dam, Retired Presbytery Pastor
This time of year has the shortest daylight hours, the darkest cloudy weather, and often some of the coldest dampest days that feel like they go on forever. There are lots of reasons to be depressed and feeling abandoned when darkness and cold prevails, and now we also live apart from each other in the devastating effects of a pandemic. So where do we find hope when we cannot gather to worship, encourage each other, and to pray in person with each other?
Recently I have been reading a book, THINKING, FAST and SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman. On page 201 in the book he talks about people who said they “knew” the financial crisis would happen in 2008. He then states, “What is perverse about the use of ‘know’ in this context is not that some individuals get credit for prescience that they do not deserve. It is that the language implies that the world is more knowable than it is. It helps to perpetuate a pernicious illusion. The core of illusion is that we believe we understand the past, which implies that the future also should be knowable.” What that does, he states, is to, “reduce the anxiety that we would experience if we allow ourselves to acknowledge the uncertainties of existence.”
Mr. Kahneman does his work as a research scientist and I appreciate that work. But what he does not consider is another level of certainty that is present in this world. It is the certainty of a promise. The promise begins with the affirmation of God’s faithfulness in the story of the past that allows us amid all the uncertainty of the world to have a certainty of promise for the future. In other words, to “know” the future.
The promise, for me, has been stated best by the prophet Jeremiah from the midst of the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people. In 29:11 Jeremiah states these words from God: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
As I personally enter this Advent season of waiting, I am going to claim these words as God’s promise for the future. May the dark days of December for each of us not be filled with worry but with the promise of faith.