Wow! What a year, right? But the end of 2020 is in sight. In 2 Chronicles 21 we have the account of a wicked king of Judah whose name was Jehoram. We read of his demise in vv. 18-20, “And after all this the LORD struck him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great agony. His people made no fire in his honor, like the fires made for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one’s regret.” I feel like if Jehoram was a “year” he would be 2020. This year will soon pass…to no one’s regret. No one will light a fire in its honor. It has been that kind of year.
I don’t’ know about you but for me 2020 started with great optimism and energy. I was focused and had started the year successfully addressing areas where I wanted to progress as a believer but especially as a pastor. I had targeted four areas in which I felt I needed growth and I was engaged in doing that with vigor and enthusiasm through mid-March. I was on a really good path.
Then…well you know what happened. COVID-19 happened, and the world changed for all of us. For nearly three months, we were not able to have our kids and grands with us. We no longer had our “Blue Bloods” family dinner every Sunday like Tom Selleck does with his TV family on that show. It was hard for all of us as we sequestered ourselves in our home. For months, I would be the only one here in the church during the day. It was a flashback to those years in Columbiaville and at Lakes when more often than not, I would be the only one in the building. It was strange. For months, my routine was getting up, get a coffee at Tim’s, drive to the office, spend the day there alone, go home and stay there. I remember for over three months I never so much as went to a store as Michal did all the shopping. I remember when I first came here in 1992, the traffic on Victor Parkway was so light that one barely had to check for on coming traffic before pulling out of the parking lot. But in the last few years traffic got so heavy, I often have had to wait for traffic to clear before pulling out. Well, during the shutdown, I could almost lay in the middle of the road and not fear being run over. It was strange. For eleven Sundays, we had no church gatherings, only live streaming. Preaching to an empty auditorium was, again, weird.
And just about the time (last Sunday in May) that we opened up again to a modified gathering, all the social unrest beset us. Now, not only did we have to deal with the pandemic, but we also had to deal with protests that were sometimes violent. On top of all that, there was a rancorous and contentious election year progressing. The economy was tanking. Many were dying. Funeral services were prohibited. Weddings and graduation celebrations were cancelled. It was a “perfect storm”.
We began to get back to some semblance of normalcy over the summer and determined to reintroduce some of our ministries in modified form (like small groups, men’s and women’s ministry) in September. Our attendance began to rise to the point that we had to institute a third service. But in October, the virus kicked in with a vengeance now surpassing in severity the outbreak in the spring. Attendance slumped again, and currently; we are back to two services.
Listen, we could all tell stories of how the year has been difficult for us. Some of us lost loved ones to the virus. Some lost jobs. Depression has beset many. Discouragement abounded. Others of our loved ones have become ill with COVID… some seriously so. So, while some have suffered disproportionally in relation to others, all of us have been affected in some way. We would like to just claim a “mulligan”, forget this year ever happened, and start over.
But we shouldn’t.
This year was not a mistake. This year did not happen outside of God’s sovereign oversight. This year had a purpose to it customized in its particulars to each one of us. What God was aiming to do in my circumstances were perhaps different than what God was purposing to do in your circumstances, but if we read Scripture correctly, none of it was left to dumb, impersonal fate but was rather orchestrated by God.
A few years ago, John Piper was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In light of that, he wrote a book entitled, “Don’t Waste your Cancer”, in which he postulated that God has a plan for our cancer along with any other circumstance of life that beset us. So, I would say to you, don’t throw the year 2020 away. Ask of it:
– What failures and weaknesses in me did God reveal in these circumstances?
– How was God challenging me in the events of the year?
– Did I grow in my personal walk with God in these circumstances?
– How did I relate to people with whom I disagreed in these gnarly issues?
– Did I lose my contentment and joy because things did not go as I had planned?
– What idols of the heart were exposed in this past year?
You might come up with any number of other diagnostic questions to ask yourself in relation to what God has intended to teach you through 2020. But don’t waste the year. End the year with an evaluation of what it is God was intending to do in your life through this tumultuous year.
2021 is right around the corner. Nobody is so naive as to think that simply flipping the calendar from December 31st, 2020 to January 1st, 2021 is going to make everything go back to normal. Sadly, it looks like we have a ways to go yet with COVID. But 2020 stands to be a great learning year for us. If nothing else, it should make us a more thankful people for all we have but that was taken from us at least for a short time. It has not been an easy year. But it has been a year to never forget. Let us not forget what God has done and still can do with what has gone down in 2020. The year will die in a few days, “to no one’s regret”. Let it go…but let it not be forgotten for what God has intended to do through it.