So, how was 2013 for you?

Pretty bad, if the latest Economist/YouGov poll is to be believed.

  • 69% called 2013 a “bad year” for the world.
  • 15% called it a “very bad year.”
  • 3% called it a “very good year.”
  • 29% said it was a “good year.”
  • 41% called 2013 “a bad or very bad year” for their families.

The pollers and statisticians conclude: “There are almost no issues where a majority of Americans have seen improvement…Put simply most Americans are happy to see 2013 go.”

The only consolation is that people are happier this year than they were last year. Wow! We were even more depressed a year ago? Is that possible?

Some interesting (though somewhat predictable) variations in the stats:

  • Young adults are more positive with 75% saying this year has been a good year for their families, and 50% think it was a good year for the world.
  • Less than 50% of those who earn $40,000 a year said this was a good year for their families, compared with 72% of those earning $100,000 plus.
  • Although all groups are more negative than positive when assessing the state of the world, only 13% of Republicans say 2013 has been a good year for the world.

In other words, if you’re over 30, Republican, and earning less than $40,000, you’re probably on Prozac.

Christians too?
Seriously though, I hope these statistics don’t accurately represent the Christian population. If so, it’s a disgrace and a shame upon us. Sure, this year has been challenging – morally, politically, culturally, and economically. We don’t need to look far for discouragements and downers: gay marriage victories, Miley Cyrus, the Obamacare debacle, Miley Cyrus, un- and under-employment, Miley Cyrus, Boston bombings, Washington overspending, etc. Oh, did I mention Miley Cyrus?

But is that it? All of it? There’s nothing to balance it or even counter balance it? Of course there is. We just need to work harder to find it, think about it, appreciate it, and talk about it. Somehow, it’s much easier to default to the negative rather than the positive.

Search for Inspiration
Why don’t we follow Peggy Noonan’s example, who, recognizing the gloomy political scene, asked “some smart, accomplished people: What was the best thing that happened this year, some breakthrough, some joy, some encouraging sign.”

Many of those asked found joy in the personal and the close to home: Chris Christie’s daughter admitted to Notre Dame, Mike Huckabee rejoiced in being a grandfather, Matt Drudge discovered prayer(!).

Others found joy even in the political rubble:

  • Two possible 2014 government shutdowns prevented.
  • Some basic bi-partisanship beginning to emerge.
  • Progress degrading Syria’s chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear capability without having to go to war.
  • A record-high Dow.
  • Pakistan didn’t fail.
  • China and Japan didn’t go to war.
  • The euro didn’t unravel
  • Jordan didn’t collapse under the weight of refugees
  • The U.S. didn’t default.

We can also celebrate the technological advances in multiple fields or look ahead to 10 Amazing Science and Technology Innovations in 2014. 

Theological and Spiritual Joys
The Christian will take all of that – the blessings of providence in our personal lives; national and international progress; scientific advances, etc. – but will also add multiple more theological and spiritual reasons for gratitude in 2013 and hope in 2014. For example:

  • We love and are loved by the one true and living God.
  • God is our perfect Father.
  • We know Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
  • The Holy Spirit is sanctifying and empowering us.
  • Our sins are forgiven.
  • We are justified and adopted into God’s world-wide and heaven-wide family.
  • We have all the promises of God.
  • Everything is working together for our good.
  • God is our guard and guide.
  • God lives in our hearts.
  • Jesus has prepared a place for us in heaven and will welcome us there.

All these things are true regardless of Obamacare, Miley Cyrus, or shrinking paychecks. Another year of life, another year of grace, another year of preservation and perseverance, and so on.

So, let’s fight for joy, let’s live a counter-cultural, hope-filled, light-giving life in the midst of a dark and darkening world.

This is a day of great opportunity to demonstrate the difference that faith in Christ makes to our lives, and even to our sufferings and sorrows. Shine, Christian, shine!