With the first day of each new year, there always comes time that I carve out to sit and reflect on the past year. To re-read my journal entries, look through photos, remember all of the highs and lows that the year brought, and to thank the Lord for His faithfulness through it all. That’s my favourite part, being able to see the year from a birds eye view and the ways that each circumstance pieced together into the overarching story of that year in my life.
When you hear of “20/20 vision”, it’s referencing clarity. That’s why you hear the phrase “hindsight is 20/20” : because when you look back on something you see more clearly than when you were in the moment. I love that this past year was 2020, because I feel that so much of what I learned throughout the year had to do with seeing things more clearly than I did before. Whether it was clarity that came through reading my Bible more, or clarity gained from going through experiences that caused me to grow, there seemed to be an overarching theme of clarity. I am thankful for so many ways in which the Lord opened my eyes to His truth, and all of the things that He taught me.
This was the year I finally got to marry my best friend. Though our wedding was a rollercoaster to plan, the Lord provided the most perfect day for us. This was the year that we bought our first home, got to move into it together, and began to make it our own. This was the year that my family got closer than ever. This was the year that my faith grew like never before. The year that I learned the value and importance of Biblical literacy. The year I learned how to be discerning. The year that I learned not only what I believe, but why I believe it, and how to defend it. It was the year of making hard decisions, a year of standing up for my faith like never before, and a year that forced me to be deeply rooted in the Lord. We began attending a new church this year. I made so many new lifelong friends. And through each moment, whether filled with joy or filled with loss, God was faithful in providing exactly what I needed. He filled my lungs with breath each and every morning, and for that I am so grateful.
2020 was a hard year, there’s no denying that. But one thing that I have learned this year is that hard is not the same thing as bad. It’s like a child earning how to ride their bike without training wheels for the first time – they are going to fall a few times. There are going to be some skinned knees and some tears. It is going to be hard and they are going to want to give up, but that does not mean riding a bike is bad. You have to look for the silver linings – when the child finally gets the hang of it, they will have learned a new skill that they will always have! They will be able to bike like their older siblings. They will have the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing something new.
As we reflect on this hard year, we must learn to look for those silver linings. We must look for God’s provisions and God’s faithfulness. We must look at all the ways we grew and all of the things that we learned. We must remind ourselves that throughout 2020, the Lord remained on the throne, and He is still on the throne as we enter 2021. It may have been a hard year, but that does not mean it was a bad year.
I think a lot of people were anticipating the beginning of 2021 thinking that the trials of 2020 would disappear when the clock struck midnight. You could tell by all of the comments like “so ready for this year to finally be over”, “this was the worst year ever! can’t wait for 2021!” or “bye 2020, you won’t be missed!” Here is the truth – our hope is not in the next calendar year. Our lives don’t magically get better just because the last number on the year flips from a 0 to a 1. We are living in a broken, sinful, fallen world, and as long as we are breathing this air, we will have troubles. We are promised that.
In John 16:33, Jesus says “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Our lives are not meant to be without hardship, but our hope is this: Our Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world. He is greater than whatever trial we face. He remains in control. He was sovereign over the past year, and He is sovereign over every year to come.
Something I have been reminded of this year as I’ve observed the lives of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ is that those who place their hope in Christ alone are hardly tossed around by the waves of life. Sure, the trials are still hard when they come, but they are so rooted in their faith that it does not shake them up. They just move onto the next thing. Quite often, they even thank God for the troubles they have been put under. They have come to understand that we will never face something that has not been ordained and set before us by God. It is trials that bring us closer to our Father, and not only that – they wean us from this temporal world and make us focus on our eternal home in Heaven. They are a necessary means of sanctification.
James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” It is the tough times in life that makes our faith strong. It is not our natural tendency to rejoice in hardship, but a person firmly rooted in the hope of Christ will see each trial as something which strengthens them. That flows along with Romans 5:3-4, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” and 1 Peter 1:6-7, ““In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Like gold that is refined under fire or rocks that turn into diamonds under great pressure, so is our faith purified when we walk through the trails of life.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Nothing that we undergo is in vain, it is all working for our good in some way. We won’t understand the purpose of a trial in the moment, but over time we may be able to see why something happened the way it did. That is the beauty I find as I reflect on this past year, and on so many other painful moments I have faced in my life. Now that I can see the bigger picture, and see why God caused a certain thing to happen, I appreciate that I had to go through what I did, because the reward is great.
As we enter into a new year, we have the wonderful hope of serving the same God. He has not changed. He always has been and will forevermore remain the same. And for those who believe in Christ and have been raised to new life, no trial will ever come our way that we cannot endure.
Christ is our hope.
Christ is in control.
Christ is sovereign over it all.
Praying that 2021 will be an edifying and fruitful year for you, and that you will see God working through each season as it comes. Happy New Year!