December 31, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 31:14-16 (NRSV)
But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
As we say goodbye to 2020 and welcome 2021, it’s good to remember that our times are in God’s hand (Psalm 31:15). There is so much in life that we can’t control. But we can entrust ourselves to God and God’s gracious care. Knowing that our times belong to God reassures us, even as it also motivates us to live with purpose and joy.
A New Devotional Resource – 52 Workday Prayers
As you get ready to start a new year, I’d like to mention a brand-new devotional resource you might find helpful. It’s called: 52 Workday Prayers: Learn from the Psalms How to Pray Through Your Work. I have gathered the Psalm-based prayers I’ve been working on for over a year, editing them, adding to them, and gathering them in this collection. You can purchase a neatly-designed PDF version from our store, for use on any digital device (phone, computer, tablet) or for printing (if you prefer a hard copy version). You can learn more here.
Well, we have come to the last day of 2020. You might want to add, “Finally!” In so many ways this has been a long, hard year. If all we had to deal with was a global pandemic, that would be tough enough. But layered onto this affliction has been a divisive election, the ugliness of racial injustice, economic hardship, and an extraordinary plague of natural disasters, including devastating floods, fires, and hurricanes. To this list you can surely add difficulties from your personal life and that of your friends, family, church, and city.
The events of 2020 reminded us that, as much as we might want to be in control of our life and might even believe we are, in fact we really aren’t. So much of what happens to us and to those we love is way beyond our control. I’ll admit that I don’t like this very much, but it’s true.
My feeling out of control led me, several months ago, to add a simple element to my morning devotions. One of the things I do each morning is recite portions of several psalms, ones I have memorized so I can have them with me throughout the day. My collection includes beloved passages, such as Psalm 100 (“Make a joyful noise to the Lord”). In May I added a few lines from Psalm 31: “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love” (Psalm 31:14-16).
This psalm, attributed to David, is a cry for help from someone who is in a dangerous, distressing, and dreadful situation. Right before the verses I just quoted, David laments the fact that people are plotting to kill him (Psalm 31:13). So how does he respond? David reaffirms his trust in the Lord. God is not just the God of heaven and earth, but “my God,” the God whom David knows intimately.
On the basis of this relationship, David prays, “My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15). What happens during the times of his life and how long he will live are ultimately God’s to control. Yet, this isn’t a prayer of resignation, as if David believes that his life is established by fate. Rather, he knows that he can call out to God for help. So he asks to be delivered from the hand of his enemies. David implores the Lord to look upon him with mercy and to save him as an expression of divine love.
When I echo David’s prayer each morning, saying, “My times are in your hand,” I feel a sense of release and relief. It’s as if I’m leaning back into God’s strong, trustworthy arms. I’m reminded that I belong to God, that I exist for the praise of his glory. I find myself wanting with greater urgency to use the time God has given me for his purposes. I can let go, at least for a moment, of the worry I carry around about myself, not to mention the world around me.
So, as we bid farewell to 2020 and say hello to 2021, it’s important to remember that our times, our years if you will, are in God’s hand. Though the calendar may change, though we may face unexpected challenges, disappointments, and losses in the new year, we are safe in God’s strong, merciful, loving hand.
As you look back on 2020, what comes to mind? What thoughts? What feelings?
When you feel out of control, what do you do?
If you were to believe, really to believe, that your times were in God’s hand, what difference might this make in your life?
As you think about the past year and prepare for a new year, let the fact that your times are in God’s hand sink into your heart. You may even find it helpful to memorize this verse so you can take it with you all the time.
Gracious God, as we come to the end of the year, we look back upon 2020 with such mixed feelings. This has been a hard year for so many, Lord, a very hard year for our world. We have often felt out of control, helpless in the face of so many tribulations, disappointments, and losses.
We recognize, Lord, that we cannot control so much about our lives. We really can’t even guarantee that we will be alive tomorrow. But you, Lord, hold us in your strong arms. Our times are in your trustworthy hand. Our lives belong to you.
Relying on your grace, Lord, we ask you to let your face shine upon us now and in the new year that lies before us. Save us, we pray, in your steadfast love. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Father, I Entrust My Spirit into Your Hands
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.