I’m aware many readers might feel friction reading this article’s title. For many of us, 2020 has felt anything but a gracious gift. Perhaps you attribute disappointments on another proof of this year’s wretchedness or are excitedly anticipating 2020 ending. I personally can resonate with this sentiment. For my family 2020 has held every possible emotion. We moved from our home city to a new town and ministry in the midst of a pandemic, have grieved two miscarriages, and are praising the Lord for a healthy third pregnancy – all in 2020. This year has seen wonderful moments intertwined with deeply painful ones. If you’re like me, you might be tempted to forget this year entirely and hope for a better year.
However, I would humbly discourage Christians from dismissing 2020. This year’s difficulties are precisely why Christians should thoughtfully consider what God’s teaching. God is not in the business of wasting opportunities for spiritual growth. Instead, God uses all things as occasions to mold Christians into the image of Christ. As the twice widowed author, Elisabeth Elliot, once wrote, “I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons. Suffering is never for nothing.” Therefore, rather than forgetting this year, Christians would be wise to learn lessons from God’s gracious gift of 2020:
1. God is exposing our heart idols.
Heart idols are often identified either when we sin to get our desires or sin when we don’t receive our desires. In his grace, God has used 2020 to expose our desires that have supplanted Christ on the throne of our heart. Whether through canceled sporting events or even the loss of livelihoods, this year has revealed what our hearts value most. Since God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4), whatever exposes our heart idolatry is a gift from the Lord.
2. God is giving us an eternal perspective.
Over the past month I have officiated a handful of COVID-19 funeral services. This year is a powerful reminder of life’s brevity. The Apostle Peter candidly warns, “The end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7). Far too often Christians have lived as though God wants us to have our best life now rather than longing for the coming eternity. God has graciously used 2020 to expose the lies of earthly glorification. We are not made for this world but for the heavenly glory of God’s continuous presence. God’s gracious gift is bringing Christians to recognize life’s brevity and “groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:2).
3. God is calling us to get serious.
This year has exposed the cracks in our sense of security. Many of us have found comfort in our pleasures, confidence in our achievements, safety in our abilities, and security in our possessions. God’s grace has stripped our sense of ownership and control over our lives. This year has forced us to cling to the immovable rock of our salvation, crying out with the Psalmist, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” (Psalm 91:2) We would be wise to get serious about God’s calling upon our lives. God’s gracious gift is calling us to seriously proclaim and live out the Gospel.
Whatever hardships 2020 held for you, don’t miss the God-given opportunity to learn valuable lessons. If nothing else, 2020 has proven God is enough. Even if that’s the only lesson learned, it’s one worth knowing. This year was a gracious gift from a kind and merciful God.