“The Lord your God is in your midst.” – Zephaniah 3:17
2020 sucks, yes?
Like Britta Perry of Community or Toby Flenderson of The Office, 2020 is the worst.
But it’s not.
In spite of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, national reckoning about systemic racism, economic upheaval, and a looming presidential election rife with discord, good stuff exists.
In February, my wife and I finished a thirty-week small group focused on shoring up our marriage; in March, I shaved nine minutes off my marathon best time en route to qualifying for the 2021 Boston Marathon; finally, I have a daughter, our second child, due in mid September.
Also in January, our church prayed for twenty-one days straight in preparation for the upcoming year. Little did we know that in-person services would be derailed as shelter-in-place orders became the new norm week after week. But leadership pivoted quickly and transitioned, like other churches across the nation, to an online experience. Incidentally, the church recently concluded another week of prayer to coincide with the start of another school year. Although I can’t speak for anyone else, I desperately needed that spiritual recharge as the final months of 2020 come into view.
So, a question then: what good emerged for you in 2020? Did you graduate middle school or high school? If so, well done. Truly. Finishing your final year of high school or middle school behind a computer is, well, the worst. But I admire your persistence and grit and gumption.
How about all that time at home during the shelter-in-place orders back in March, April, May? Did you connect with your family members in a new way, in a purposeful manner unencumbered by the hurried pace that ground to a halt as the local community shuttered for a season? Did your relationship with God reach new heights and new depths as time seemingly stood still? Yes? Do cherish those good and holy memories as life resumes in a rickety manner.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things,” writes Paul to the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:8). So often this verse is raised in the context of shifting our thoughts from that which distorts and darkens the mind. And rightly so.
For 2020, however, meditating on that which is lovely is truly a balm for the soul that’s inundated daily with bad news across the media spectrum. Speaking of which, who else likes John Krasinski all the more for starting the “Some Good News” YouTube channel back in March? The premise of his web series is simple: good news. Highlighting positive stores from across the world. Did you see the Maryland couple he helped wed with some help from his office colleagues? Bring some tissues for that video.
I can only speculate what’s on the other side of this season. Most of us, unsurprisingly, are ready to scratch 2020 from memory forever. That’s a fair statement. But we would be wise to remember that God is sovereign. God isn’t distant. God isn’t surprised by our state of affairs.
God is near.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” writes the psalmist in Psalm 121. Yes, I’m praying for deliverance from the pandemic. Yes, I’m praying for a return to some sense of normalcy. But the good things I discovered in 2020 will be kept close as the upcoming months continue to unfold. I’m being more cognizant about how I spend my time. I’m parenting differently. I’m voting differently. I’m working differently. I’m reading differently. I’m thinking about others with new eyes and open hands.
“Hold fast to what is good,” Paul adds in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 12:9). Don’t lose sight of the good inside this year in the swirl of hardship. Grieve this year for sure. Lament the loss. I’m still doing it.
However, hearken back to the good and remind yourself that all good things are from God (James 1:17). If you’re drawing a blank, grab a journal and scribble them down. Return to them January 1st, 2021, when 2020 is finally gone from the calendar.
Guard the good from God.