My Dear Friend,
A blessed New Year to you! It is my sincere hope that today’s word of encouragement will remind all of us that in the hardest of times, we can find our most valuable blessing and our greatest strength.
Love in Christ Jesus,
“Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word.” Psalm 119:67
2020: Year from Hell or Blessing in Disguise?
We all have heard them: Rants against the year 2020: “The worst year ever!” “The year from hell!”
The unexpected blows of 2020 caused some to fall prey to Satan’s deceptive whisperings:
“Isn’t it obvious? God is dead.”
“Isn’t it obvious? The joy of the Lord is a false promise.”
“Isn’t it obvious? The Holy Spirit has run out of breath.”
Unbelievers have taunted, “So where is your God now?”
Spiritual strugglers have queried, “God, where are You now?”
And those looking for an excuse to go astray from God found 2020’s hardships to be the perfect out.
It is undeniable that 2020 brought some of the most daunting challenges that many of us have ever experienced. But depending on the choices you made, 2020, far from being the “the year from hell,” just may have been “the year from heaven.”
In today’s Bible verse, the psalmist confesses that before he met with severe affliction, he had wandered away from God in his heart. But he has enough sense to know what to do: He must come back to the Lord and obey His Word. He came to an important realization:
A “year from hell” can be more eternally valuable than any year of ease.
Like the psalmist, when life is easy, we may drift away from God, not feeling the need for Him. Let us imagine that 2021 brings complete relief from the hardships of 2020: There are plenty of unused hospital beds, the economy has fully recovered, and gloriously, the churches are packed with people who are once again experiencing the presence of the Lord in praise and worship. That is a wonderful thought, and we pray for it to happen!
If 2020’s hardships succeeded in bringing us to the same place that the psalmist’s afflictions brought him – closer to the Lord and His Word – while 2021 should bring a return of such comforts that we once again drift away from God, then ultimately, the year 2020 will have been a better year. This is not to minimize the suffering or tragic losses that many have experienced over the course of the previous year. It is only to remind us that,
Afflictions can be blessings in disguise.
Whether we allow our afflictions to draw us farther from or closer to the Lord will determine our ultimate peace of mind and hope of eternity. The Apostle Paul summed up the potential for the hardships of 2020 to be blessings in disguise when he encouraged:
“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
It is quite okay to say, “I won’t miss 2020.” But if you choose to allow its hardships to make you stronger in the Lord and His Word, you may someday realize that it was the best year ever!
One final note: After having gone astray, the psalmist needed affliction to bring him back to where he needed to be. (May that not be the case for you!) But some people do the opposite: They find it easy to trust the Lord when things are going well but begin to doubt and fall away when afflictions come. Whatever is your tendency, please take a moment now to go to the Lord Jesus Christ and pray this prayer according to the Apostle Paul’s encouragement:
“Lord, help me not to lose heart. Though the world is passing away, please renew me inwardly day by day. May my momentary troubles achieve for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. And please help me to fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, and I long to see that which is eternal. Amen.”