“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” If we didn’t know better, we might think Charles Dickens was referring to 2020.
Sometimes the disappointments seemed monumental and blessings a little hard to find. Injustice and corruption and vulgarity were glaringly apparent, but the kindness of neighbors was too. Our mortality was front and center, but it made us cherish our families a little more. Families realized in our confinement that there was a bit of dysfunction we had normalized, and now we know to work on it.
Doors shut—so we creatively looked for ways to keep them open. And we found while technology fills a void, it doesn’t warm the heart the way a smile can. It doesn’t chase away lonely like a hug. Little brightens the soul the way a few hours with a friend can.
Many of us questioned our status quo. Is it necessary to be so hurried? Does the schedule have to be so full? Why do we refuse to slow down until we’re forced to?
And we found sometimes the headlines are not the worst that can happen. Cancer still struck. Accidents occurred. Desperation led many down tragic roads.
2020 made it clear that in a world fueled by bad news, worst-case scenarios, gossip, and backstabbing, good news is a salve. Many of us found ourselves as that weary woman at the well (John 4), worn out by our idolatry and bad choices, looking for something different and fresh and alive. And Jesus was and is still there, unfettered by our sins, offering us living water and hope beyond the here and now. No strings attached, just an unlimited supply of mercy and grace.
Good news for all people.
When we’re ready to admit it, we aren’t a whole lot different than the Israelites of the Old Testament. We mock them for their stubborn refusal to turn from the error of their ways, but we too have loved things that don’t deserve our love. We’ve given our affection to celebrities and franchises and kneeled at their altars while neglecting God.
2020 was supposed to bring clear vision and focused goals. Maybe it did. Maybe we realized our thirst couldn’t be filled with Netflix or Facebook or Family Feud. In the end, our hearts long for what is real and lasting and good.
2020 is bound to become the dirty word of our generation. But who knows how God will take the lessons we learned and use them for good? This year may be the year we learned resilience. We may find we aren’t as passionate about something as we thought. This may be the crossroad that leads us to our intended purpose.
If we’re looking to 2021 to fulfill our longings, we may want to brace for disappointment. Maybe the goal going into a new year should simply be to walk with God. Then, whether met with prosperity or trouble, great joy or deep sorrow, unprecedented accomplishment or inability to work, we know we’re where we’re supposed to be. Jesus took his disciples on some harrowing day trips but always to show them how powerful he is, to gain their trust, and to expand their faith. God might not answer our prayers how we want in 2021, but he always answers them for our good. And there are lessons to learn even then.