Updated: Dec 29, 2020
I looked through my calendar for 2020. January showed markings on every single day; all the extracurricular activities, meetings, and events. February was much the same. Then we entered March and the blank spaces began.
At this point of the year, we are eager to jump into 2021. Many of us just wanting to escape the trials of 2020 in exchange for something new, hoping that January 1 will push some type of reset button.
During this season, it might feel like drudgery to reflect on this unprecedented year, frightening, even. We’ve experienced hardship and struggles, seen hostility in people we never would have imagined, and known the startling pressure anxiety can wield on our minds. Looking back on this year is daunting; we don’t want to remember the dark moments, or the pain of navigating them.
Reflecting on 2020 is an invitation for us to see our need for a Savior.
As much as we don’t want to go back to those moments, the invitation urges us, that we would gain a greater understanding of our poverty, and our distress, so we might join our hearts and minds with the truth of the gospel. We see in Scripture how remembering, even the bitter times, can propel our hearts to repentance, dependence and renewed vision for what lies ahead.
Repentance in our weakness
Led out of a life of slavery in Egypt, into the wilderness, the Israelites entered unknown territory. Caught in uncertainty, their trust in God wavered; they trusted their emotions rather than his word.
“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deut 8:2).
Israel likely didn’t want to remember those days, their sin, the consequences they faced, or the shame of their disbelief, but Moses calls them to remember. See, God was with them through all of it, he provided for them despite their unbelief; he showed them faithfulness in discipline, and he persisted in leading his people.
Their weakness reminds us of our own. We, too, have wavered in unbelief, wanting to turn back time, erase the past, and fast forward to the future, without trusting the Lord for today. We’ve seen how easily our faith can falter.
The trials of this year have opened our eyes to see our great need to trust and lean into our Savior. To repent of our sin and unbelief, and by his grace, step forward in deeper obedience.
Timothy Keller reminds us that, “repentance is like antiseptic. You pour antiseptic onto a wound and it stings, but it heals. That’s how repentance works. It creates a terrible inner turmoil, because you have to admit things you don’t want to admit. You have to acknowledge weakness that you don’t want to acknowledge.”
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20)
What sin do I need to repent of this year?
Dependence on Jesus
As 2020 winds up, and we are clueless to know what 2021 will hold, we know for certain we depend on our Savior.
This year, we’ve tried to control our circumstances, panicked when we haven’t been able to, resisted being told what to do, and when our efforts have failed we’ve fallen into anxiety, fear and anger. We remember the moments we want to forget, the anxiety that kept us awake at night, the deep ache of loneliness, or the dread of going to work.
Jesus tells his disciples, “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
As Jesus broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, poured the wine and shared it, he called them to continue this practice in remembrance of what he was going to accomplish.
The broken bread reminds us of a broken body. The wine shows us love poured out for us.
The suffering and sacrifice of Jesus’ death reveals his trust in the Father, and it shows us a heart completely surrendered. He wished for his suffering to be taken away, but his greater desire was for God’s will to be done. May we offer our own hearts with the same surrender to the Lord, with our desire for His will more than all others.
How can I step forward in 2021 depending more on Christ?
Renewed vision for the complacent
The church in Sardis was lively on the outside, but dead on the inside, they had become complacent. Jesus’ words to them called them to remember the gospel and to repent.
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent” (Revelation 3:3)
For the church to be effective, we need a renewed vision for the gospel, holding on to truth and living it out in our families, workplaces and communities. A unified body of believers, serving and loving others as the hands and feet of Jesus.
In 2020, it has been a challenge. We have been pressed, perplexed and afflicted. We’ve had to figure out different, more creative ways to serve, as our gatherings are on hold. Yet, we are not crushed, forsaken or destroyed. “So we do not lose heart” (2 Cor 4:16) because there is an eternal hope, and our daily grind is all for his glory and the good of others.
Last year in December, I felt excitement and anticipation of all that the new year would bring, the work that God was going to continue doing in my life, and in the lives of those around me.
It definitely came about in unexpected ways.
Today, I carry that same hope and anticipation. The hand of God is over our circumstances, his love and faithfulness is ever present. “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14). As we reflect on 2020 may we grow deeper in love and relationship with the one who saves us.
How have you seen God’s hand at work in 2020?
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