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Good Riddance

December 26, 2020 Good Riddance - Black Logo on White - 1.25" Round Button:  Clothing

In a couple of days, we’ll say goodbye to one of the most difficult years many of us have experienced. A little more than 3 months into this year, the world was turned on its ear, and for much of the world normal life came to a screeching halt. OK. Maybe not a screeching halt, but at least a screeching almost-halt. The hitherto robust and growing American economy was choked into a sputter. Travel all but stopped. Toilet paper was impossible to find. Lots of people lost their senses. Lots of people went into a panic-driven survival mode.

And lots of people lost loved ones to a virus that had never been seen. There have been viruses like Covid-19, but nothing exactly like it. Most of the scientific community began pulling all-nighters to try and figure it out. And pharmaceutical companies, driven by compassion for the world and income potential, began a blitzkrieg effort to produce an effective vaccination for it in record time.

Data and numbers began to emerge. A plethora of meanings were assigned to them. Power shifted. Politics found a new sandbox to play in. And, boy, did they play.

Businesses closed. Many started this as a temporary closing, but ended up permanently closed. Employees were furloughed or laid off. Many were left without any guarantee of having a job to return to in the future.

Along with this came Lockdowns. What started as a 15 day effort to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus stretched into months. “Stay at home; save lives.” Except it didn’t seem to work. Covid-19 didn’t go away. But stability did. Mental health tumbled to lows that are unique to my lifetime.

I could go on and on, but I’ll force myself to stop. I don’t imagine I need to convince you that 2020 has been a pretty lousy year for most of us. For lots of us, it will feel good to say, “Good riddance!” to the year 2020. When January 1, 2021, comes, I think we’ll probably all breath a sigh of relief, and hope and pray to be able to emerge from the one we’ve just endured and into a much better future. The jury’s still out on whether or not we’ll be able to crowd together in Times Square and watch the ball drop, though.

Which brings me to my point, really. Forgive me for being pessimistic about this, but the truth is, we have no guarantee that 2021 will be any better than 2020. So there you go. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Like it or not, that’s the truth.

There is no guarantee that turning the calendar page to January 1, 2021 will put everything to rights and life will settle back into a better, more comfortable and acceptable normal. The one thing I can confidently guarantee about the new year is that it will bring its own set of challenges. Some will no doubt be extensions of the challenges and difficulties 2020’s brought us. Some of them will come in the form of other new setbacks.

Has this ever not been the case? Please let me know if your experience has been different than mine. All of the 67.5 years of my life that I can remember have had challenges and setbacks. Not to the degree that or in kind with what 2020 has brought, but every year has had its own set of them.

I think the New Testament writer, James, knew this. Here’s what he writes in timeless wisdom in what we have as chapter 4 of his letter to the churches of his day:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 

“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” Strong words. The future, even the future in as near-term as tomorrow, is unknown. This is a reality that is easy to forget or ignore. Especially in a world where technology has become so powerful and accessible that we easily get infected with the lie that we can control most everything. And what we can’t control, we can somehow fix.

Enter Covid-19.

Apparently we needed the reminder that, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” So here’s a telegram from China to get our attention.

Saying (mostly to ourselves, but to others, too), “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that…” is a way of reminding ourselves that God is in control. We can plan, and probably should. After all, part of stewarding my life is planning. But all the planning in the world will never insure life will go the way I want it to. That’s not my department. I literally have NO control over this.

Chuck Swindoll once wrote, “Ten percent of life is what happens to you. Ninety percent is what you do about what happens to you.” Chuck is a wise man. I think he’s absolutely right. His words here are perfect for 2020 and our step over the threshold of 2021.

You can spend a lot of time trying to figure out why 2020 happened the way it did. You can spend a lot of time railing against what happened in 2020 and what it’s done to you. But you can’t change it. What you can do is decide what you will do about what happened in this monumentally difficult and challenging year.

I believe this is especially important for Parents. Your kids are watching you to figure out how life works. How you do life in response to these challenges is so important. You’re a living textbook for your kids. Whether you want to be or not. So, Mom, Dad, partner with God and model for your kids how someone who knows God is in control faces uncertain – even disappointing – times.

I’ve got a few suggestions for this. First of all, Acknowledge that this is hard. Denial won’t help you. Pretending that everything’s just hunky-dory won’t work for more than a little while. So call it what it is. Hard.

Second, don’t get stuck in the reality that this is hard. Your direction is always a function of your focus. If you focus on how hard this is, and get stuck in that focus, your direction will take you into an emotional tail-spin. So once you’ve confronted and acknowledged it, move your focus to Step Three.

Third, seek God’s wisdom and partnership as you navigate these deep and choppy waters. Pray for His help privately. But also pray about it with your kids. At meals. At bedtime. At any time, really. And as tempting as it might be to whine about it in prayer, consider this phrasing: “Lord, we’re in a really hard time, and You know it. Thank You for being right here with us. We put our trust in You to make us wise so that we can make the best decisions about what to do about what’s happening around us.” Use your own words, but take the focus off your problems and put it on the One Who is faithful to never leave you, to never forsake you. Both you and your kids need to be reminded of this.

And fourth, when God answers your request for wisdom and gives you an idea, THANK HIM FOR IT IN THE PRESENCE OF YOUR KIDS.

“If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” Seeking His wisdom, and then pursuing it, will put you in His will, where you can do this or that.

And in this same letter, James gives us some of the most hopeful words on this: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV) God wants you to call out to Him for wisdom. He wants to give it to you. So ask. Often. He won’t find fault with you on this.

If you’re thinking this isn’t rocket science, you’re right. But it’s counter-intuitive. So counter-intuit and begin weaving it into the fabric of your life and your family’s life as we face the unknown future.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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