Everyone, it seems, makes predictions for the year ahead. I've heard so far that President Trump will be impeached, congressmen will be revealed to be aliens, and South Carolina will win the SEC football championship. I don't know if any of that will happen, but I'd like to offer my own predictions, with the prediction that all of them will come true.
In 2018, people will think they are the exception to the rules. They will think they can eat what they want and lose weight; spend what they want and not incur debt; and not be late for a 10:30 appointment when they leave at 10:33. People will then complain about the unfairness of life when reality bites them.
In 2018, people will hunger for connection so much they will hold onto unhealthy relationships, remain in circles that are toxic and stay in abusive situations. They will tell themselves again and again, "He or she will change." They will enjoy a few good days followed months of bad weeks.
In 2018, people will be frustrated that they know the right thing but are unable to do it. They will resolve to eat better, exercise more, manage time better and be emotionally healthy, but old patterns will take over before the Super Bowl. As John Ortberg said, "Habit eats willpower for lunch."
In 2018, our leaders will promise to get along, end poverty, lower taxes, stop war, improve the economy, bring justice for all, part the Red Sea and cure cancer. None of this will happen. Our leaders won't tell us the truth about what they can or can't reasonably do because they are reasonably sure we can't handle the truth.
In 2018, thousands of churches will pledge to change the world, while continuing to operate as if it is 1958. Church members, instead of facing their resistance to change, will blame their pastors. The pastors will blame their boards. The board will blame the congregation. The cycle will repeat. No one will ask Jesus what he thinks.
In 2018, sexual wounding will continue at high levels. People will believe sexual satisfaction is the same as soul satisfaction and thus harm themselves. Children will be pushed to choose their sexual preferences before they are emotionally and physically mature. Despite the recent outcry against sexual harassment, harassment will continue.
In 2018, greed will silently drive men and women to avoid rest, work longer, cut ethical corners, go in debt and stab co-workers in the back. Justifications will be made that it is for the good of families or in preparation for the future. No one will want to admit he or she is greedy; he or she will point to someone else who is greedier and proclaim to be not so bad. People prefer their greed to live in the shadows.
These predictions might sound too pessimistic. I simply think the most accurate prediction for 2018 is people will continue to act like people, just as they have for thousands of years.
In 2018, however, the Good News is God will still be God. He will still forgive people when they confess their sins. He will still help those who call on him. He will still advocate for the poor and powerless. He will still call tenderly to people far from him to come home and find the rest their souls long for.
You can count on God loving you in 2018. That means you can live this new year in hope.
Hopeful New Year everyone.
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.