Today the calendar has turned: 2020 is officially in the books. And most of the world is shouting, “Good riddance!”
The year 2020 will likely go down in history as one of the strangest we’ve known. Sure, many years throughout history have been far more tragic; however, in most of our lifetimes, this one ranks near the top for sheer stress and weirdness.
Looking back over the last twelve months, bizarre is the only word I can find to describe it. If it wasn’t Australia in flames from wildfires, it was reports of murder hornets, toilet paper shortages, and coin shortages. If it wasn’t riots destroying Minneapolis, Portland, or Seattle, it was reporters standing in front of the burning buildings, telling us in all seriousness that the protests were peaceful. If wasn’t that fact that it was an election year in the United States, it was that fact that the guy who remained tucked away from the public saying as little as possible was declared the winner.
Of course, if 2020 had a label it would be the “Year of COVID-19,” named after the virus that came out of China and spread rapidly across the planet. This pandemic caused a nearly universal shutdown that brought the world’s economies to a screeching halt. Schools had to recalibrate for distance learning from home, a process that created massive extra work for teachers and found both them and their frustrated, distracted students glued to a computer screen for hours each day. As a teacher, I have to say that distance learning is something I would never choose to do again. In my experience, it has been almost wholly ineffective.
As the year dragged on, government officials mandated rules that we should all stay home, wear masks, keep social distance, and close down most small businesses and religious services. These rules applied to everyone except the government officials themselves and any protesters they agreed with.
While those in the medical field had to deal directly with COVID itself, most of us had to deal more with trying to stay sane. As we followed orders to “stay home,” we were pummeled with endless ads filmed as Zoom calls, and filled with phrases about being “alone together” in “these uncertain/troubling/unprecedented times.” After several thousand such ads, they got pretty old.
The virus also created a new stereotyped group of zombies called “karens,” who considered it their duty to publicly shame, shout down, and even attack anyone not following “the rules” to their satisfaction. Often they recorded their rants on social media to support their noble cause.
Sadly, the most horrific casualty of the pandemic of 2020 has been what was once called “a sense of humor.” One joke about the pandemic, and you’ll be mocked, shamed, and crushed into silence. A few of us are still struggling to keep a sense of humor, but the number is dwindling each day. (Side note: If you take issue with this paragraph because you believe I am belittling the tragedy of the pandemic, then you are afflicted with this malady, and you should seek help. Watching a movie such as “Airplane” or “Blazing Saddles” might be a good antidote.)
Sarcasm aside, 2020 started out very strange for the whole world, and ended up growing very heavy for me personally.
In late September, after a week of a debilitating headache, fever, and lightheadedness, I tested positive for COVID. This fact led to a week of hospitalization that included one night in ICU. Apparently, I got a side order of pneumonia served up with my COVID. I was so grateful when I got to go home, but the symptoms (fatigue, shortwindedness, severe cough) stayed with me for several more weeks.
Then, while still in recovery, on November 6 I lost my father. I sat at his bedside as he passed from this life to the other side. One moment he was breathing, and the next he wasn’t. Up to that point, even after being in ICU with COVID, I had still been able to chuckle a bit over the surrealness of 2020. But after this loss, the whole of 2020 turned very heavy for me. The combination of COVID uncertainties and the loss of Dad was almost too much to bear.
Now, here we all are, staring 2021 in the face. A new year always appears to bring a sense of hope to the world. We believe that the stroke of midnight on December 31 will bring the craziness of 2020 to a halt and usher in an entirely new chapter of normalcy. But that hope may be more superstition than reality, because in truth, we have no idea what this new year will bring. It could be even stranger and more traumatic than the last one. (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.)
Maybe COVID will finally be conquered, and the world will finally be able to breathe again (both literally and figuratively). But there’s no guarantee we won’t see new strains of it—or the rise of something even worse.
The U.S. will have a new president. But whether that is good or bad remains to be seen. I’m guessing it will be more of the same garbage coming out of Washington. We just don’t know what the new year will bring? Will 2021 be riot-free? Will racism finally be overcome? Will Facebook and Twitter quit annoying us with their community standards? Probably not.
In 2021, I am sure there will be uncertainty. There will be crisis. There will be rage, fear, and loss.
Yet that is not all.
In 2021, there will also be gain. There will be success. There will be triumph, courage, and laughter.
This new year will have all of that—good and bad. And God is still good.
This is the main lesson I have learned from 2020: God is still good. And his goodness is not related to our happiness or our suffering. His goodness transcends everything. Regardless of life’s uncertainties, it is imperative that we always remember and proclaim his goodness.
In the uncertainty and stress of 2020, God is still good. His sovereignty is greater than murder hornets, coin shortages, or a media with an incredible lack of self-awareness. And his goodness is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NLT).
Despite my own COVID scare in 2020, God is still good. I need not fear a virus because, even if I should die, God’s goodness still reigns supreme. And despite the loss of my dad, God is still good. Even as my family grieves, we know that God uses death as a transition from this life to a place without sorrow or pain. Job himself proclaimed, at the height of his suffering: “God might kill me, but I have no other hope” (Job 13:15, NLT).
God is still good. And his goodness is not tied to the turn of a calendar page.
In 2021, no matter what, I pray that we will all cling to him and his goodness.