Lessons Learned in 2020

Lessons Learned in 2020

I want to walk away from 2020 with my eyes wide open, no longer cringing as I shake my head over what I see. I want to reflect on the good lessons learned in 2020 to build on my foundation of faith in God. I want to be prayed up and ready to meet 2021 with the courage and strength it may require. Maybe you’re ready to do this, too.

To accomplish this, I start with advice from one of the wisest Christians I know, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (This quote is from Paul, found in the book of Philippians 4:8-9.)

To put the good God has done in context, and to reassure you this is not some trite attempt to gloss over painful facts, I’ll first share a few anonymous but real-life excerpts of 2020 struggles, these coming from our own church family who were kind enough to share them. You may be able to identify with them.

What was the most difficult thing about 2020 for you?*

“E-learning! While we were blessed with an awesome school that provided everything we needed, it was hard. Also, watching our son work through anxiety and the beginning of depression. We recognized it and were able to coach him through it but remnants of anxiety still remain currently as a result.”

“I struggled with not feeling comfortable getting together with my extended family for big gatherings and also not getting together with our church family in-person on a regular basis.”

“The hardest thing for me about 2020 is seeing the effect not going to school in-person has on my kids, and other kids for that matter. I can personally deal with whatever 2020 wants to dish out, but it’s really hard to watch my kid’s education and emotional state suffer the way it has…”

“Being able only rarely to see family members.”

As you can see, the struggles are real. Turning our eyes to focus on the good in the middle of bad times isn’t easy, but it’s crucial for the wellbeing of our souls. Here is how David struggled with this and overcame in Psalm 77:

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

So, besides all of the examples of God’s faithfulness in the Bible that encourage us, here are some of the deeds the Lord has performed among our church family this year.

What was the best part of 2020 for you?*

“Our family growing closer and really discovering our unique ‘ticks’ and we were able to work things out that may have not been seen if we weren’t at home.”

“More time to read and study God’s Word.”

“Seeing my kid’s relationships with each other grow and flourish.”

“If we are ‘stuck’ at home longer, I see that as a gift of rest. As Americans we constantly GO GO GO. This season has given us a time to REST REST REST…and it has been a blessing.”

“We have seen Him care for us, so in the midst of COVID and with the challenges we have had in the past of unemployment, underemployment, and uncertainty, God has shown us that He is sovereign. He is in control, He has a purpose…My faith has faltered, I wish I could say it hasn’t in the midst of our trials, I often took my eyes off the Lord and instead focused on the trials, the troubles. But He always brings me back.”

“The best part of 2020 was getting more time as a family since my husband and kids were home a lot more than usual!”

Please consider the good things God has done for you as an individual. Each is a reminder of His love for you. Each is a reason to believe more deeply and to have hope for your life in 2021. Let these good things that have come out of your trials this year become what you remember on dark nights as David did. Remember these as the Lord’s right hand stretched out to work in your life!

I wrap up my last blog post for 2020 with recommendations for those of future generations who may face difficult challenges too. These also come from our church family. They contain excellent advice for all of us, in every generation.

What advice would you give to future generations at our church who look back at this point in time?*

“Recognize that the “same” situation or trial is actually experienced differently by different people. For some 2020 has been very busy, homeschooling/remote learning with kids in the house while working from home and still managing a household while stores are closed, have restricted hours, etc. For others, 2020 has been painfully lonely, full of endless days with very little personal connection to anyone. In love, we need to acknowledge and allow for these differences in our comments and actions towards others.”

“…don’t assume you know people’s motivations for the decisions they make. Don’t assume mask = fear while no mask = faith. God sees the intentions of the heart, we don’t.”

“So looking forward, I desire to seize the moments, and make the best out of the situation knowing God has a plan, and I need to trust Him. I need to keep my focus on the LORD.”

“Proverbs 19:21…’Many plans are in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails’. We WILL face trials of many kinds. But God has a purpose and a plan.”

“Take advantage of every opportunity to communicate with your family, especially the older members. There are no guarantees for the length of anyone’s life.”

“Take one day at a time. Each day is unique and the future is unsure. Make plans for celebrations but be flexible if they don’t come to pass.”

“Maintain a close relationship with the Lord. When the hard times come, the spiritual work that has been done will result in stronger faith to combat all of the negative that we have no control over.”

God, thank you for the many miracles You have done among us this year. Please help us train our eyes and hearts to look for You at work for our good and Your glory in all things that are ahead of us and even those behind us now. Remind us often that You are a good, good Father, and that the yoke You put on us is easy and light, not burdensome like the yoke of sin we once lived with blindly. Help us to love You with our entire heart, mind, and strength. May we love each other and those who are lost and in need as You ask us to do. Give us all the courage and strength we need in the year ahead. Remind us to pray often and read your Word regularly. May we boldly proclaim the truth of who You are to this lost and hurting world. In the name of the Messiah, Jesus, amen.

*You’re invited to answers these questions, too. They will be compiled and become a part of our 127-year church history, a valuable resource for future generations who may glean from our faith and lessons learned in this historic year. Please copy and paste these questions and email your answers to me at jcristao@efccl.org. If you would like to remain anonymous, please just note that on your submission and I will make sure your name is not a part of our records.

1. What was the most difficult thing about 2020 for you?
2. What was the best part of 2020 for you?
3. If you knew a year ago what 2020 would hold for you, what would you have done differently?
4. If 2021 is even more difficult, what are you doing to prepare for it?
5. What advice would you give future generations at our church who look back at this point in time?

by Jill Cristao, Director of Connections