A couple weeks ago, we went to church for the first time since everything was shut down due to Covid. As we were leaving, I stepped out into the parking lot and realized that so much had changed since last fall.
No one expected 2020 to go the way that it did. In some secret place of my mind, I was thinking that 2020 would be the most perfect, most brilliant year because, uh, the numbers were TWENTY-TWENTY. It was supposed to be great, right? But numbers really can’t define a year or what happens in it. I learned that that hard way.
I know a lot of us want to go back and erase 2020. Skip over it and just forget that it ever happened. But for better or worse, it did happen. The crazy unknowns that rocked our worlds will stay with us perhaps long after life goes back to normal (whatever that is).
I learned a ton this year. If my life had gone the way that I wanted it to, I wouldn’t have gained the knowledge or have the hope that I do now. Do I fully understand everything that happened? No, far from it. Can I trust that it is all part of a bigger purpose? Yes. It took me a while to be able to say that, but yes I can.
A couple years ago, I was in the darkest place mentally and emotionally that I had ever been. I was miserable and angry and I really didn’t see the point of anything. I wrote to one of my friends asking why God was doing this to me and why he wasn’t fixing my life. It all felt so unfair. She wrote back and recounted the story of Joseph to me.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, to a commander of the guard named Potiphar in Egypt. The young man became very powerful in Potiphar’s house. But then, in doing right and not giving into sin, Joseph was falsely accused and thrown in prison. Was that fair? No. None of it was. But the story didn’t end there. The pharaoh had dreams and Joseph was called to interpret them. There was going to be seven years of plenty and then seven years of terrible famine. Joseph became second in command of Egypt, and through his hand, God provided food not only for the people of Egypt but for the Joseph’s own brothers and father as well.
What man meant for evil, God used for good.
I used to think, “Yeah, that sounds nice and all, but that doesn’t happen nowadays anymore.”
I can tell you now that I have seen it in my own life. Things that were bad, unpleasant, ugly…things that I thought no good could possibly come from…God used them to bring healing and hope in the most unexpected of ways. Does the memory of the trials still hurt? Of course. I would NEVER tell someone who had been through deep hurt, “Just get over it. Can’t you see all of the good that has come from it?” Whether we like it or not, the things that happen to us have a lasting impact on us. We have been wounded, and though the wounds heal, they don’t always go away without leaving a scar.
I’m not asking you to forget the pain and fear of 2020. I’m not telling you to get over it because wonderful, happy times are just ahead. All I’m saying is that in this time, keep your eyes open for unexpected blessings. Maybe it’s getting to see an old friend in person. Maybe it’s the fact that you can now go into that store without wearing a mask.
And when this is all over, look back and remember the things that you have learned from this pandemic. Don’t block it all from your memory. Just like the prairies must burn yearly to be renewed and to come back more beautiful than ever, so must we go through times of fire and testing. When the fire passes and the gentle rains come, we’ll grow taller and be stronger because of the trials.
I love part of this poem from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran on the topic of joy and sorrow.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
(Read the whole book, guys, it’s really really beautiful.)
Joy and sorrow, pain and healing are not as different and separate as we believe they are. Together they work in unity to bring us farther than we ever dreamed that we could go. Hope is beautiful and it will never fail or fall away.