By Rhett Burns
America has hashtagged, memed, and bemoaned the year 2020. People have shaken their heads, cracked jokes, complained, and otherwise wished the calendar would change, in hopes their fortunes would change with it.
But let me remind you: 2020, for all its challenges, hardships, setbacks, and sufferings, is the year of our Lord. This year—this particular year—is the year the Lord had for us. Not one event of 2020 happened outside of God’s providence.
Every viral molecule, every government order, every vote tabulation happened within God’s control and will serve his good purposes for his people and his world.
To be sure, a robust belief in God’s providence neither strips man of agency, nor charges God with sin. Rather, it puts the sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Christ in bold, underlined, ALL CAPS font, highlighted in neon yellow for all the world to see:
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
This year, it has pleased God to send plague, pandemic, and protest. He gave us riots, a contested presidential election, and a devastated economy. And by the edicts of helicopter governors, our Father sent us to our rooms.
God doesn’t treat his children with kid gloves. But through adversity, he raises us up to maturity. He calls us to meet his challenges with faithful action. Providence does not entail fatalism, a stiff upper lipped resignation to being tossed to and fro by the woes of the world. Rather, providence calls us into the story God is writing.
Will we be faithful characters?
Or will we be complainers, sulking about the very challenges that are meant to bring us to glory?
Thou Shalt Not Wallow
Faithful Christians may not wallow in the woes of this year. They may not poke out their bottom lips, cross their arms, and defiantly tuck their chins to chest, while making their eyebrows touch. They may not drone on and on about how hard this year has been.
Why? Because fussing is unbecoming of kings and queens. If God is raising us up to rule with Christ, then we must fight the dragons he puts in front of us. We must cross the wilderness he places us in, and meet the loss, heartache, and uncertainty of our days with courage, trust, and joy. This is how our Father brings us into maturity. This is how he raises us up to rule.
So, be done with the commiserating #2020 hashtags. Be done with the grumbling and whining. Misery loves company, but we ought not allow it the pleasure. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the discontent, nor stands in the way of scorners, nor sits in the seat fussers.
Not a Callous Joy
A word of qualification is in order. None of this exhortation minimizes the very real suffering and trials people have faced this year. Let us have nothing to do with a callousness toward the grief many experienced this year, whether that be from the death of a loved one, job loss, or some other hardship. My father-in-law died in April after a battle with Lewy Body Dementia. Another family member has attended eight funerals in the last year. As I edit this article, one dear brother from my church is in the hospital with Covid, fighting for his life. I’m sensitive to the weight of the burdens many carry.
If you carry such burdens, may you cast your cares upon the Lord. He upholds the universe by the word of his power, and he cares for you. Your faithful response may include grief, lament, and cries out to the Lord. None of that is considered the complaining and pessimistic gloom in view in this article.
Born for This
All things are from God’s hand and in his grip. Therefore, let us also have nothing to do with despair. If God is providentially working all things together for good, then one of the many things that follow is that you were born for this moment.
At the Fight Laugh Feast Conference in October, Douglas Wilson addressed parents who are anxious for their children’s future given the trajectory of our nation. He remarked, “your children were born for the problems of 2040; the one thing you may not do is feel bad about it.”
Well, we were born for the problems of 2020. Before the foundations of the earth, before God poured out the ocean waters into the depths and painted the sky blue, he determined when and where we would live. Knowing all that would take place, he put us here, now.
The one thing we may not do is feel bad about it.
Rather, seeing the challenges before us, we get to work. We search the Scriptures for how God would have us respond to any given circumstance, and then we do that. We were born for this.
“…but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” —Job 5:7
Grace for This
God does not leave us to our own strength in the day of adversity. He knows our frame and that we are but dust. So, he gives more grace. He gives more strength.
God’s grace is stout. It straightens the back, lifts up the chin, and strengthens weak knees.
And he gives it freely: in Lord’s Day worship, in the Lord’s Supper, in daily Bible reading, in prayer, and in fellowship with the saints.
There are deep wells of God’s grace for the drinking. But we must go drink.
Gospel for This
When we think about our overbearing State, Big Tech, Antifa riots, compromised leadership, and many other problems, we see a world tied up in a gnarly knot of sin. If we are wise, we will also see our own sin. It’s hard to see a way forward.
But we have a Gospel for this.
Jesus died and rose again for this very purpose: to untie all the gnarly knots. The blood of Jesus makes us clean from even the worst of sins. The Gospel of Jesus transforms even the worst of sinners. It is potent enough to upend nations and set them upright again.
A Feast for This
So, as Christmas approaches, it is not inappropriate to feast, even in a hard year. With every bite of fudge, with every swig of eggnog, we push back against the despair of adversity. We choose the joy of the Lord to be our strength. We choose to give thanks in all circumstances.
We see that God has looked upon our estate and come to dwell among us.
And so we raise our glasses high, lift our voices loud, and sing and laugh and eat. For though we have tribulation, we also have Jesus. And he has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Rhett Burns (@rhett_burns) is an associate pastor and small business entrepreneur living in Greenville, SC with his wife and four kids. He publishes Get Your House In Order, a newsletter about building a household that lasts.
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