I have read many reflections on social media and elsewhere about how difficult this year has been. I have seen memes that show a disgruntled person pushing the year 2020 out of the picture while pulling the year 2021 with great enthusiasm. Come on 2021! Come on relief from all that was difficult in 2020! Come on life that is waiting to be lived!
So here we are in 2021. Does it feel different already? Likely not. Changing out our calendar is not the magic pill. But the hope of a vaccine is certainly lifting our spirits as we look forward to a life that feels more familiar and well, livable. I believe we all know better than to think that life will go back to what it was. Do we really want that anyways? I mean, is there anything that has come out of this Covid pandemic which could possibly be a positive for this world? For us? For me? Or do we just want to get rid of it with all its memories?
Well, today I spent half a day pondering with God the year that has just finished. As I wrote out my memories and tried to systematically go through the year and then review what I had written, I was utterly surprised. The words “calm”, “quiet”, “rest” came up a lot. Mind you, there was also a lot of fear, uncertainty and craziness. I also feel like I have had an amazing year of ministry and productivity. But still what stands out are the moments where I was forced to slow down with less activity, less people, less meetings, more time to read, more time to pray, more time to think and more walks; lots of walks.
I further reflected on what God would have me take from 2020 into the year 2021. I don’t believe for a minute that the year was a waste. In fact I believe that the year 2020 has brought so much good to this world. Think of the fewer airplanes which caused less pollution. Think of the parents who interacted more with their kids this year. Think of the many people who began attending churches when they would never have darkened the doors of a church before the pandemic. I understand of course, there are the flip side to each of these things, but there are positives which we do not tend to highlight and that is all I am saying. 2020 is not a wash. God gave us that year to live and I believe we must try to see what is good in that year which we can take into the next year.
For me, the words of Isaiah stuck out to me. In Isaiah 30:15 it says “In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength”
This past year I was forced to rest. In that forced rest, I realised that I was not trusting God as I wanted the activities to continue which I had become to experience as essential. For this I needed to repent. And as I learned (and who am I kidding, I am still learning this!) to trust God through the craziest of circumstances this past year and as I was able to become calm as I learned to lean into my Abba more and more, that is where I found the strength for my day, for my next moment.
We all have had a tough year. Some of us had more work than we could handle, others had way less which may have caused some depression, still others lost their jobs and possibly loved ones. In our difficult year our experiences have been different. I want to acknowledge this. But I think the following can ring true for each one of us.
It is not until we are brought to the end of ourselves (giving up all that we think we are in control of, but aren’t really) that we can actually hear from God and learn from Him. When we keep getting in our own way, insisting on how things should be, then things are mutled and uncertain. We cannot hear God when we hear our own voices louder than His. This year has brought me to a place where I have had to let God silence my own voice. If He had not, I would still be screaming. I would be fretting and trying to find a calmer way and all the while sabotaging God's plan for quietness and calm.
The lesson I am taking into 2021 is this: Lean more into Jesus as I learn to trust Him more each day and He will bring me the calm, peace, joy and strength that I so desire.
What has 2020 taught you that you wish to bring into 2021?