It feels like a grueling reading assignment. Ever had one of those?
You have to finish the book. Not by your choice but because your professor, your supervisor at work or your therapist demands it. And it is far from enjoyable. It’s even painful.
You turn each page hoping for something better. One paragraph in and, well, it just gets worse. You’re not reading with the same eagerness and joy that you read other blogs or books you choose on your own.
So you wonder, “Why am I doing this?”
That makes it even harder to finish your reading assignment. Your excitement builds just a little bit as you begin the final chapter. Not because it’s so good. But because you’re almost done!
I believe that describes the year 2020. We endured it. In no way did any of us, in this position last year during the closing days of 2019, think, “I sure hope that in 2020 our world is inflicted with a pandemic that upends my life, causes riots, polarizes politics, and infects and even kills people.”
We didn’t choose this. But it is our assignment.
As with most difficulties, discouragements and disappointments in this life, we just want them to go away. Because we assume that without them, life will be better.
Please pay attention here. That is a childish, immature view of life.
It’s how a toddler in a car seat thinks during a two-hour drive to grandpa and grandma’s house. There will be a big meal, lots of Christmas presents, and family fun but first the long, unpleasant ride in the car strapped to a car seat. So when the toddler complains by whining and crying, mom or dad stops the car, apologizes to the toddler, and says, “I’m so sorry for this trouble, let’s just turn around and go home.”
No spectacular meal. No presents. No family fun. No memories made. Because it meant taking a little time to endure something unpleasant on the way.
God isn’t interested in removing everything unpleasant from your life. Because he sees a better version of you than you can see. He knows you can grow, become stronger, and be filled with much more grace, kindness and forgiveness than you think you can. Like a teacher or parent or therapist who believes in you in ways you don’t believe in yourself.
So, 2020 was like the long ride to grandpa and grandma’s house or like an unpleasant reading assignment. It’s part of our journey and growth as a blessing from God. Yes, a blessing. Because God is good all the time and works for your good in all things.
Paul, the most prominent person in the New Testament of the Bible besides Jesus himself, was imprisoned for being a Christian. He didn’t ask for it. But there he was. How did he see his unpleasant and painful experience?
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12,13).
Instead of seeing 2020 as a bad book or a torturous journey or a failure or mistake, see it with the faith that can say, “I learned something. It taught me about myself and my God. I discovered what is truly important. I found strength in Jesus Christ more than my circumstances.”
By the way, that book you found difficult to read? Well, a year later, you realized how valuable it became for you. It helped you get a promotion at work, or manage your emotions, or learn to cook healthier meals.
God’s assignments are full of holiness, hope and yes, health. So trust in him as good, all the time. Thank him for a difficult year that has prepared you and our world for 2021. And expect some more assignments from him this coming year, too.
PRAYER: God, you are good all the time. 2020 has been a different and difficult year, but I believe you were in it, working for my good. Open my eyes to the blessings of 2020 you want me to see. Give me wisdom about it that helps me grow into your better version of me. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Read Philippians 1:10-20. Where do you see Paul’s reliance not just on God, but on the fellowship and support of other Christians? According to v. 19, there is a condition for God meeting all your needs, what is it? Why is that good?