What 2020 Taught Me

Pastor Marty Blog

What-2020-Taught-Me

I think most everyone can agree that 2020 was a year, unlike anything we have seen. Many have stories of difficulty, frustration, loss or pain. I can say without reservation that the most painful and difficult season of my life fell within the months of 2020. It was a year that marked me, humbled me, scared me, and stretched me.

Something that we need to do, that we sometimes fail to do, is to look back at our darkest season through a lens of discovery and evaluation. I had a counselor one time that used to call this “sitting in the suck.” We can be so focused on getting out of the pain or the dark that we don’t stop to evaluate what happened, how it happened, where God was (and He was there—He will never leave you or forsake you) or what we need to walk away with.  Sometimes instead of moving on in denial, delusion or just a desire to not stay stuck, we need to sit in the suck—feel it, grieve it, analyze it, learn from it, forgive them, receive grace and allow healing to begin. When I “sat in the suck” of 2020, God showed me a lot about Him, myself, life and faith. I thought if these truths helped me, they might help someone else.

1. Loss isn’t God’s plan, but it does happen.

Before you remind me of the story of Job, or the vines and branches of John 15, let me qualify my point. God never creates a plan for permanent or destructive loss.  God’s plan for Adam was fruitfulness, multiplication and expansion—He didn’t talk to Adam about losing anything.  When God came to Abraham He told him that He would bless and multiply him. I think we must understand that God isn’t a God of subtraction, but of multiplication. Yes, He will prune areas where we are bearing fruit to cause us to be more fruitful, but that doesn’t mean that God takes from us in a way that permanently devastates us.

We live in a fallen world where there is loss, suffering and sickness and so it is important to remember that God isn’t a taker, but a giver. He doesn’t call us to pain, but to purpose and He isn’t the author of loss, but of life. If we believe God wants to hurt us, we will never trust Him for help.  If He is a God that says he wants to give, but we believe he takes, we won’t trust him with our lives.  When loss happens, we have to remember that God is the God of restoration and good for those who can and will trust Him.

2. Books aren’t named for one chapter.

Ecclesiastes says, “to everything there is a season a time for every purpose under heaven.” Just like a book is written in chapters, life is lived in seasons. Don’t let a bad chapter dictate the title.  When we go through loss, trauma and pain, we are all tempted to believe that it won’t get better, that this is the end or that our entire lives will be characterized by this moment.

But don’t get stuck in your season. The quality of a book isn’t determined by one chapter and neither is your life identified by one season. If you have gone through a bad season realize that while that season may mark who you are, but it doesn’t make who you are. Don’t let it become the title of your story, keep it as one chapter and realize there is more to God, to you and to your story than one bad chapter.

3. The plot may thicken but the promise doesn’t change.

When we walk through a difficult season or wrestle with pain or disappointment it can cause us to doubt God’s promises to us. We may feel that what once seemed certain now seems impossible. Many times, when our lives take a turn for what feels like the worst, it can seem that we have departed from our previous route and we can no longer reach our planned destination or destiny. The truth is that God can get us anywhere from anywhere. He is the best at recalculating our route. I am sure, like us, Joseph struggled with believing this. He had a dream of ruling from a position of power. Then he was tossed into a pit, sold as a slave, taken to a foreign country and eventually thrown into prison. The plot had thickened, but God’s plan hadn’t changed. None of what Joseph went through looked like the route to destiny or a position of authority, but it was. I am sure to Joseph it looked like he had taken a turn and was lost in the desert, but to God, Joseph had merged onto his expressway to destiny. God is not concerned with scenery as much as he is with efficiency. He really wants to get you to where he called you to be at just the right time. If what you are seeing looks like all is lost, trust that God doesn’t change His promise and He is still working to complete it.

4. If you are still breathing it isn’t over.

Psalm 139:16 says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” I translate that verse to this: if you are still breathing, your story isn’t over. This year, as I sat praying and grieving over the losses of 2020, I felt like the story was over. I felt like I couldn’t recover and like life would never be better. It felt like failure and it felt final. Then this verse came to me and I realized, “I’m not dead, so there must be more to my story.” There is more to my story and there is more to yours. If you’re breathing it isn’t over. God really works all things together for our good. That verse implies that bad things happen and then God goes to work to make them good. If you have found yourself in a bad season, but you are still breathing, know that God is still working. The good news is that what is ahead is better than what is behind.

I hope these truths spoke to you as much as they did me. I pray as you embrace 2021, you know your best is ahead.