Editor’s note: It’s fitting to reflect on 2020 like this. Tara actually wrote this a bit ago, but it’s very timely. I’d like to welcome other year-end reflections too—please email me! —Jennifer
This is the year most of us would like to forget: 2020 was supposed to usher in a new decade of possibilities. Couples planned wedding days to correspond with clever dates, Instagram was filled with quotes like “2020 will be my year!” and all were filled with anticipation of great change in their lives.
Then things came crashing down. The entire world went into lockdown, economies crashed, mass casualties soared, cities burned, suicides increased, communities became isolated, tensions boiled over… we have experienced a year like most of us have never seen before. It seems everyone is simply surviving until the elusive “end” of all the madness.
Traditionally, we wait until the New Year to take a look back on the events of our lives over the past 365 days but it seems that every day of 2020 has been a long year in itself. Attempting to think ahead of what is yet to come only induces more anxiety and unease. So, instead, let us pause and review on what we have learned about ourselves and our world thus far.
We are an incredibly selfish people. If the hoarding of toilet paper and ready-made pasta was not enough to convince us of our pursuit of self-preservation, we are simply blind to the events that have taken place around us. Articles written about panic-buying support our need to avoid suffering at all costs. While homeless shelters and food pantries were running at maximum capacity and diminishing supply, we were sitting happily on our stash of wet wipes. The Bible is clear that we Christians are not to be selfish, looking only to our own interest, but to the interests of our neighbors also.
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17
Mankind’s tendency towards hatred of fellow man is not necessarily a new concept. The story of Cain and Abel introduces us to man’s hateful heart only four chapters into Genesis. In recent months, we have seen and heard the vitriolic speech spewed from one “side” to the other on issues ranging from race to political ideologies to body image. Acts of violence towards image- bearers of God have created in us a weariness and apathy towards the hatefulness in our world. Our inability to open our hearts and minds to the possibility that we may be wrong has led us to instantly vilify our fellow man. God speaks directly to man’s sin of hatred and how our hate keeps us grounded in darkness.
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” – 1 John 2:9-11
In some ways, it has been relatively easy to identify our idols during this time of unrest. We have clung to our belongings, amassing more than what our family could ever need. We have turned to social media to amplify our own voice, trampling on those who may interfere with our self-created stage. Our need for safety, security, recognition and freedom are just a drop in the ocean of idols we drown ourselves in to feel anything at all. When our idols no longer suffice we simply move to the next shiny object that brings us fleeting happiness. God detests idols. He is sufficiently clear that our idols bring us nothing but further away from Him.
“The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.” – Psalm 16:4
Christian, here is the good news of 2020. For all our selfishness, for all our hatred, for all our idolatry, for all our sin still to come, God is still good.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:4-9
He is still forgiving our sins. He is still sanctifying us to be more like Christ. God’s goodness and grace does not change with the events of our world. He is our constant and ever present hope. It is by God’s grace alone that we can love our neighbor and be willing to stand up for justice while lovingly engaging in discourse with those whose opinions may differ from ours. It is God’s grace that has sustained us through the anxiety and fear despite us running to our false comforts. God is good. While we pause and review what we have learned through 2020 thus far, it is easy to become downcast at the level of brokenness we continue to display.