Well friends, can you believe it? It’s the last day of 2020.
We made it!
Do you remember last New Year’s Eve? So many of us were looking forward to not only a new year, but a new decade! The beginning of a new beginning. A chance to start fresh, to see things clearly, to create something new. We thought we were going to have “20/20” Vision, remember?
Instead, as the saying goes, it turns out “Hindsight is 20/20.”
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)
I don’t think anyone can say this year looked like what they expected. I mean, who expects Tiger King, a global pandemic, a toilet paper shortage, a disputed Presidential election, and murder hornets (whatever happened to those anyway? Wait, forget I asked!) all in one year?
And that is only the beginning of what many of you faced this year. Job loss, separation from or loss of loved ones, financial stress, cancelled milestones… it has been a way different year than we all expected, for sure.
Yet, even in the darkness, there are moments of joy and lessons of light to be grasped. If we focus on the darkness, that is all we see, and it’s easy to lose our way. But if, in the midst of darkness, we search for light, even the tiniest spark will illuminate our path.
Jesus came into our world at a time of great political and social unrest. In fact, He assured us that as long as we live in this world, we will experience trouble, hardship, and suffering. (John 16:33) But He goes on to remind us that He has overcome the darkness of this world. He is the light we long for in the darkness! He is the peace we so desperately seek. He is where we find our hope.
I’m sure we are all more than ready to kiss 2020 good-bye, but the reality is that 2021 probably isn’t going to look much different. Masks, quarantines, cancelled events, social media madness, political chaos— I’m afraid they are all going to stick around for awhile. The difference this time around is they are not unexpected.
And expectations can make all the difference!
More than anything, I believe this year has revealed to us the illusion of our own control. Going into 2020, we thought we controlled our time, our travel plans, our priorities, our activities, and even our health to a large extent. How quickly we learned how little control we actually have over our own lives!
Friends, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we are not in control.
We can do all the right things and bad things still happen. We can plan things out perfectly and those plans can disappear in an instant. There is something about uncertainty that clarifies our priorities. When all the excess things are stripped away, we find ourselves grasping for what we value most. And sometimes we can’t discern those things any other way.
So, before we start a new year, I want to encourage you to take some time to peek back into the darkness of 2020 and search for the light. Here are a few questions I am asking myself that I thought might be helpful for you as well.
Looking back at 2020:
1. What am I grateful for?
2. What did I lose or miss out on last year that I am still grieving? What did I gain?
3. What have I learned?
Pondering my answers to these questions is helping me discern who/what is most important to me, what I truly value, and what I need to prioritize as I move forward. It’s important to keep those priorities in mind as we answer the next set of questions.
Moving forward into 2021:
4. Who/what do I most value? How can I make sure those stay my top priority in the coming year (even in uncertain circumstances)?
5. What is God leading me to let go of? (This may be certain habits, relationships, thought patterns, labels, activities, etc.)
6. What is God calling me to BE in 2021?
7. What is God calling me to DO in 2021?
As we were discussing how 2020 has affected our family, one of our girls declared that it really hasn’t affected us that much, and our other kids agreed. And in the grand scheme, they are correct— we have not lost any loved ones to COVID, Jeff’s job is still secure, we are financially stable and currently all healthy, all of which we are grateful for!
But there were plenty of disappointments and cancelled plans, especially for the kids. So when I asked her why she thought we weren’t affected, she said, “Well, I guess it’s because our family is just really good at rolling with things!”
Jeff and I try to live our lives in a way that reflects that God is in control, no matter what. We don’t always do it perfectly, but this year has given us plenty of opportunities to practice it, that’s for sure! Our goal has been to feel the darkness and grieve the losses when necessary, but then to refocus our eyes and look for the light.
And without fail, we have found it. There are always hidden blessings, secret sources of joy, and unexplainable peace waiting there in the darkness, if only we will look for them. Sometimes that light shines like a lantern; other times it is no bigger than a birthday candle. But in the darkest room, even a tiny flame can dispel some of the darkness. And once we find it, it remains with us, casting light in other places of darkness, spreading its glow to those around us, slowly illuminating the way forward.
Friends, take a few minutes today or tomorrow to search the darkness of 2020 for the glimpses of light. Get alone with God and ask Him to speak truth to your heart. Let those glimmers shine into the new year and show you how to start. Don’t worry about making resolutions or planning anything out twelve months ahead (or even two weeks, lol!). Just listen to your Father and hold your days with open hands. Let His voice and the truth you’ve gleaned in 2020 guide you one step at a time.
And do not fear.
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:5 (NIV)
Wishing you all the Light of Jesus to guide your steps in 2021~