I’ve said it, and I’ve heard countless other people say it as well, “2020 has been a very trying and difficult year.” I’m sure all of us cannot wait for the ball to drop and usher in 2021.
However, before we leave 2020 and enter into 2021, I want to challenge us to think deeply about 2020.
When I think about 2020, I’m reminded of Joseph in Genesis 50. In his exchange with his brothers (who had sold him into slavery years earlier) Joseph shares, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen 50:19–20).
As Joseph contemplated his life, God gave him the gift of perspective. What the brothers saw through their eyes, Joseph saw through the eyes of God. Similarly, looking back over 2020, I would say God brought the same gift this year, perspective. [There may be some irony in this, given the year—20/20.]
In looking through the eyes of God, here are five areas from 2020 that God has given me a deeper more divine perspective.
The year of loss.
2020 was filled with loss—loss of jobs, businesses, sports, entertainment, daily/yearly rhythms, and the death of loved ones.
The loss of livelihoods and people we love affect us deeply. Loss brings about grief and sorrow, and if not dealt with in a healthy manner can lead to a host of unhealthy manifestations—some including anger, resentment, and depression.
Jesus declared when tempted by Satan that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Jesus directs man’s attention to the most important facet of life—God. Job also did this when he exclaimed, “Though [God] slay me, I will hop in him;” (Job 13:15). In short, God is greater than bread and better than life.
2020, the year of loss, has taught me that God is our greatest gain.
The year of social distancing.
I think we have all memorized the three W’s: wash your hands, wear your mask, and watch your distance.
As human beings it is healthy to practice good hygiene. At times, it is appropriate to wear protection against airborne viruses. And, sacrificially, for brief periods we may keep our distance.
However, human beings were not made to live at a distance but in close proximity to one another. We were made for handshakes, high-fives, holding hands, and hugs. We were made for physical community.
2020, the year of social distancing, has taught me the value and importance of physical community and being in close proximity.
The year of pivots.
According to Merriam-Webster, pandemic was the word of the year. I would say the runner-up was pivot.
Businesses, organizations, families, and individuals found themselves pivoting as the pandemic brought about a host of crises. Even churches found themselves having to pivot to engage their members and reach their communities.
Most churches find pivoting extremely difficult. Why? Because churches typically don’t embrace change very well. But 2020 forced the church, at least in the West, to pivot their ministry and mission strategy. As a result, churches saw the birth of new ministry and mission initiatives.
2020, the year of pivoting, has taught me that a fluctuating world needs a flexible church.
The year of shutdowns.
The pandemic disrupted our everyday and yearly rhythms. For a period of time, we found ourselves sheltering-in-place and only going to places that our government deemed essential. We also experienced working remotely, distant learning (for our kids), cancelled sports, park (museum) closures, and limited travel.
I’m sure like many, we were less “busy” this year than in years past. However, closed doors in one area allowed us to seek open doors in other areas. For instance, we were able to accomplish some projects around the house (or my wife did). We were able to spend more time as a family (although it was like pulling teeth). We were able to exercise more and take the dog for longer walks.
2020, the year of shutdowns, has taught me to be more discerning and a better steward of the doors that are open.
The year of longing.
I would say 2020 has been the year of longing. People have longed for the pandemic to be over, for racial reconciliation, for justice, for peace, for consistency from leaders, etc. When there is chaos, people long for order; when there is restlessness, people long for rest; when there is turmoil, people long for peace.
If people didn’t think something was wrong with the world, 2020 has been their case in point.
In the last installment of the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, the ring has been destroyed and Sam, surprised to be alive, asks Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?” J.R.R. Tolkien, the one who penned Lord of the Rings, strikes a chord with the world. We long not necessarily for our dreams to come true, but for our nightmares to come untrue.
As believers, we understand that the brokenness in 2020 will continue in 2021 and beyond. However, we also believe Jesus came to redeem and restore sinners as well as the world marred by sin and has promised to come a second time to fully complete his cosmic restoration project.
2020, the year of longing, has taught me to not only long for the world to come, but to offer people a glimpse of the world that is to come.
In closing, 2020 gave me the gift of perspective. I pray that you will allow 2020 to give you the gift of perspective as well. What have you learned in 2020 that you will take into 2021?