Over the last couple of months I have seen so many people waiting and striving in expectation for the joy and rest of one day, Christmas Day, or else New Year’s Day, the start of a new, better year. An attitude of “Let’s get rid of 2020 and all the bad things it brought” has been rife in some places. It’s like musical chairs: people are moving, hurrying, on and on and on and then ‘Stop!’ But there’s no lasting rest in that brief stop for one day of celebration because life keeps moving on and on and on. A new year doesn’t mean all the problems go away. It doesn’t mean COVID-19 suddenly ceases to exist. We haven’t opened the door into a different, fixed world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t open the door to good things. That doesn’t mean we can’t attain rest on any given day.
Personally, I cannot call 2020 a “bad year” because plenty of good things still happened in it. It saddens me when I hear people desperate to be rid of last year because I know they’re hurting, scared or weary. I don’t want people to think they have to live like that. God doesn’t want people to live like that. God wants people’s minds to be healed by coming to him. I know some of us struggle to understand how something that’s brought so much bad could be conceived as good. 2020 brought a lot of bad things and hard things. Some of these things are being passed on into this year and will pass on into the years ahead. But I refuse to label a whole year as ‘bad’ when it has brought a lot of good things too. Circumstances are one thing. Attitudes are another. When I think of 2020, I choose to count its blessings despite the hard things. And none more so than the life of the precious baby growing inside me.
2020 showed our true colours: in what does our confidence lie? Are we operating out of love or fear? Are we choosing an attitude of thankfulness or bitterness? Are we using our mouths or keyboards to curse others or to bless them by encouraging and praying for them? Are we thinking about what we can do or what we can’t do? Are we finding hope or despair? If we’re reliant on Jesus and seek him first every day, if we choose to go to that secret place of stillness with him, he becomes our rest. He becomes our reason. He becomes our confidence. He changes our attitudes. Life becomes about bringing glory to God through all things.
When we go through hard times in life, we see darkness. The fear, the sickness, the stress and the many effects brought about by the pandemic have brought darkness to a lot of people. If we look at the darkness without God it is scary. It’s hard to make sense of. It’s hard to know how to carry on through that darkness. But you know what? God can see in the dark. He’s not surprised or bewildered by anything that happens. He feels sad along with us but he does NOT feel scared. The darkness is as light to him. He knows the way forward.
…he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. – Daniel 2:22
He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. – Job 12:22
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. – Psalm 139:11-12
“because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:78-79
There’s a song by Skillet, Terrify the Dark, that declares this truth, “Your light will terrify the dark; I call upon the name that tears the night apart.” Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of this. If we put our trust in the Lord we don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen. Just because we don’t understand what’s going on doesn’t mean everything is falling apart. Faith in God means we do not lean on our own understanding. Leaning on our own understanding can make us fall over. And nobody likes falling over. True peace comes when we trust in God and take comfort in him despite not understanding everything.
During our lockdown in March/April last year, God brought this scripture to me and it transformed the way I thought about the year.
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan... For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field. “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. – Leviticus 25:10, 12-13
It is fascinating that the time when the Israelites had to go back to their properties was wrapped up in liberty and joy. Enforced time at home doesn’t have to be approached with kicking and screaming. You don’t have to feel reluctance, annoyance or fear about it. It is an opportunity for rest, thankfulness and closeness with those you love, whether physically or by technological means. It is also an opportunity for freedom. Freedom from thinking you have to keep doing what you’re doing. Freedom to dream. Freedom to think about what’s really important to you. Freedom to think about what you want to do with the rest of your life. Freedom to seek God and ask him what he wants you to do, in the small things and the big things.
Jesus referenced the jubilee year in the book of Luke.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4:18-21
That was the point when Jesus began his ministry on earth. He called his coming into the spotlight to teach the world about God ‘the year of the Lord’s favour’. A lot of people weren’t happy about that.
There’s something about the way the pandemic has changed the world that gives us a kick up the pants to share the goodness of Jesus, no matter what people think. While the physical world is in turmoil, Jesus wants us to be free and to be healed. Let’s focus on proclaiming the good things instead of the bad things. With 24-hour access to Jesus there’s no reason why any day or year can’t be one of the Lord’s favour.
Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. – Isaiah 49:8-10
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. – Isaiah 60:1-3
Those are some powerful words from God there. I know I am so insignificant among the people of this world. I’m a pregnant homesteading mum with little authority or power to speak of. Some days I can manage to butcher a couple of chickens and preserve some of our food crops for the coming months. But some days I can do little more than get myself dressed and fed because I’m too sore and tired. Except that I can do more than that. Even when relegated to bed or the couch, I can pray, I can think, I can choose to read or watch things that build me up, educate me, and encourage me and I can write things that are going to help people and inspire people.
I want God’s glory to be seen upon me and I know that it can be, simply because I show up for him, walk with him and dream with him. Yes, I have to set boundaries and say no to things that aren’t in my capacity or in line with what God wants me to do, but I will not say no to being used by God. He knows what I can handle. And I am ridiculously excited about the things that he has to come, even if the road isn’t easy. Are you?
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:10
- How are you feeling about this year? Is there anything you’re scared about or disheartened about? Have an honest conversation with God about it and find out why.
- In what or who does your confidence lie right now? What are you holding onto to make you feel secure?
- Have you been operating out of love or fear in the different aspects of your life?
- Have you been choosing an attitude of thankfulness or bitterness? Start writing down your blessings – good things that have happened. Bonus points for writing down good things that happened in 2020.
- Have you been using your mouth or keyboard to curse others or to bless them by encouraging and praying for them? Next time you’re about to say something bad about someone, stop and say a prayer for them instead. Ask God to help you build this into your character.
- Are you spending more time thinking about what you can do or what you can’t do?
- How can you keep dwelling in hope instead of despair?
All Bible verses are from the ESV (English Standard Version), 2016.