Lessons from 2020 for 2021

People are hoping to forget 2020. With all its difficulty, we are hoping the troubles of this year will fade away and be forgotten. I saw a video online that showed a group of people taking the numbers “2020″ made out of wood and they threw it into a dumpster fire. It was a symbolic representation of saying, “forget you” to the year 2020.

But I personally don’t want to forget 2020, because the past year played a unique role in my sanctification and has refined my outlook on life. So I took the time to think about some of the lessons I learned during this past year. It was a sobering reflection for me, and I recommend that you do the same for yourself. These are lessons I hope to take with me into 2021 and beyond. They are in no particular order, and I am sure there are more lessons I can list. But here are a few of them:

1. People Are Important

Being quarantined and lockdown has made me appreciate being with people more and more. We were created to be with people, not away from them. Even introverts around the world were longing to be with people in 2020. That’s how isolated we felt. So I am reminded from 2020 that friendship matters, and relationships take effort to sustain. Without other people, I couldn’t survive, so I hope to cherish the people in my life for many years to come. And I am determined to make better efforts in maintaining those relationships.

2. Wellness Can Be a Dangerous Idol.

The fear of death and the idolatry of good health is a dangerous trap. And this year I was ensnared by this trap along with everyone else in this world. Let me clarify. Wanting to be well is not wrong, it is a fine pursuit. But this year has revealed something about our idolatry of wellness here on this earth. Some were willing to sacrifice everything to protect their wellness and life, even at the expense of their spiritual wellness and the wellness of others. But wellness, as good as it is, is not the center of our existence. Our Christian existence is to live for the sake of Christ and if we die, then our gain is Christ. Not a reckless living, but a faithfulness to the Lord that takes up our crosses in a dangerous world. For the years to come, I pray that I will righteously pursue health, and wellness, but not to the point of idolatry anymore.

3. Pastoral Ministry Is Still Hard.

No pastor had been prepared for a season like this. As wonderful as ministry can be, this year reminded me of how hard this job is even bivocationally (how much more for those full time?). I pray continually for God’s sustenance for myself and for all my pastoral colleagues. The temptation to quit is ever-present during the internal battles, increased pressures of people, conflicts, and mischaracterizations. But the Lord is gracious. I am optimistic that God will bring some sort of fruit to our hard labor and perseverance in this season. Yet the moments of lament over Gospel ministry still exist, and we continue to agonize in prayer and labor over the sanctification of God’s people. God help us!

4. The Only Security is the Savior

Everyone wants job security, relational security, financial security, and health security. And people, especially this year, have looked to the wrong places for ultimate security (government, vaccine, etc.). 2020 reminded me of the fleeting nature of all earthly securities. The year proved these earthly protections to be weak and frail, and none of them can bring the eternal protection and salvation desired by men. The only true security is Jesus Christ the Savior. He has not changed, and He will never leave His people. He is the true refuge.

5. Life Is Precious

Thinking upon death this year has made me appreciate all of life. My heart goes out to those who have lost their lives and those who have lost their loved ones to this sickness. I am grateful for being alive and for God’s protection every day over my family. I pray that I would never take that for granted since it is not guaranteed. Life and its sustenance is truly the daily grace of God and I want to appreciate whatever quality of life He gives to me and my family in the coming years.

6. The Church Still Matters

As hard as ministry is, I still love the church. My love for the church has grown, especially in this era of livestreams and the so-called “online church.” Many have deemphasized the importance of the local gathering and its role in spiritual vitality. But for me, being present with the people of God is something I will cherish for years to come. I won’t trade it for a fabrication or a convenience. To me, being surrounded by God’s people in worship is a precursor of heaven. I am most healthy when I am with my church family.

7. I Am Still A Selfish Person

Laziness and lethargy was on the rise for me this year. It was hard not to be in a daze or a vegetative state when days blurred together. Motivation was difficult for months at a time, and it revealed that I still am a very selfish person. I desire to repent of this. Lord, help me in the coming years to give myself to You and to others. Help increase my joy in You rather than increasing the idols of my heart or tinkering with fleshly time wasters.

8. I Love My Family

Time with family has been hard and wonderful at the same time. It hasn’t been perfect with all the meltdowns, hard conversations, and sinning against each other. But there were simple moments that I will cherish forever. Moments like laughing at the dinner table, or teaching my daughter to ride a bike, or sitting on the couch with my wife eating a cheese plate. Simple things that I have warmed my heart and have been etched into my mind. The increased family time from this year has grown my affection for my loved ones. I cherish my wife and my little girls more and more from these mini-moments of grace. I cherish my parents, my sister, and her family as they too have been a present encouragement. For some people, family is unfortunately like a curse to them, but mine has been a true blessing from God during this season of weakness.

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