2020 was a year of unexpected happenings. I had envisioned a comfortable year, but what transpired were events that could not be foreseen: a global pandemic hit, the dynamics of some of my friendships shifted, and studying to become a teacher challenged and stretched me in ways I did not anticipate. I struggled with an ocean of emotions and wrestled with a million questions throughout this period of time. However, looking back now, each of these events revealed to me a new thought that collectively pointed me towards God’s character.
When COVID-19 hit in March, not only were social interactions suddenly prohibited due to lockdown, but it affected the way we knew life. Routines had to be adapted to adhere to safety guidelines and downtimes were either spent quietly at home or out in the natural world rather than in regular social spaces. It was as if the world took a pause. The standstill was suffocating at times, but it forced humanity to rest. As a result, these questions came to my mind: What is the purpose to life if busyness is removed from our lives? What are humans without productivity? Prior to the pandemic, I had always been “too busy” to spend time with God. Distractions or a feeling of hurriedness would usually deceive me to move onto the next thing on my to-do list, but the sudden abundance of time allowed me to ruminate. Finally, I was brought to the conclusion what the pandemic only emphasized: God is the purpose to life and humans are worthy not because of productivity, but simply because we are created and loved by Him.
While the state of the physical world was strange, my personal world had also turned upside down. What I thought would remain constant changed, and what I worried would change stayed the same. I read the book of Job to gain insight on how Job dealt with the turn of events in his life. I did not find the answer to my questions by the end of the book, but I did learn three things: nothing that happens goes unfiltered through God’s hands; it’s okay to not know the answers; and the process is the point, as most growth tends to happen during the process of our suffering. To this day, I still do not understand what purpose the shift in my friendships served. I can only hold onto the assurance that they did not occur outside of God’s knowledge.
The third way in which 2020 took me by surprise were the obstacles that I faced during my short and long practicums. I felt the most hopeless I had ever felt, questioned my future, saw how weak my faith is amid trouble, and learned more about who I am through my reactions to situations. I recognized how prideful, selfish, ignorant, and ugly my core self can be. It was an eye-opening and frightening experience. Had I never noticed? As being my own saviour was impossible, God came to be mine. In my disfigured and broken state, He came to my rescue by remolding me. I had to start by changing my ways of thinking, then my habits, which then led to my actions. The process, like peeling off an old skin to put on a new one, was difficult but my God had the ability to transform me with His strength.
2020 was undoubtedly one of the most difficult years; yet, it is one which I strongly believe displays God’s sovereignty. No one could have predicted or controlled the events in 2020 nor will anyone be able to do so for 2021. However, this only makes more evident the supreme power that God possesses. We were never in control of our lives anyways. He is the King who holds the scepter for now and for forever and we are to be brought low in humility.
Romans 5:3-5 and Isaiah 55:8-9 are verses that became a running theme for me this past year. The former one reminds me that none of our sufferings go to waste, while the latter one reminds me of my place in relation to God’s:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”– Romans 5:3-5
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”– Isaiah 55:8-9
Phil Wickham’s song, Battle Belongs, is also my song of the year. The battles I faced which had seemed impossible to overcome were only overcame because of the One who was fighting them for me. Instead of doing more in my own efforts, I learned to “fight on my knees.”
Despite the challenges of 2020, there were still many highlights that marked my year. I got to spend much time with my family, outdoors on my patio, writing, exploring the beauty of Vancouver through hikes and walks, eating homecooked meals, and building both new and old friendships. I am grateful for the health and safety of my friends and family members and for the lessons I learned through God’s grace.
2020 marks the end of a chapter for me. I have completed my years as a student and am about to embark on a new career. In addition, hearing about my friends’ engagement plans, and seeing some of them get engaged and married has been hitting me how fast the process of growing up is. I feel a mixture of curiosity, excitement, uncertainty, and nostalgia starting 2021 – curiosity for what is to come, excitement for the stories yet to unfold, uncertainty for the obstacles I will face, and nostalgia for the days I am leaving behind… Suddenly, life feels like it is moving very fast.
I hope that I will carry with me the reminders that direct me towards God’s sovereignty while I move into the unknowns of this year with courage, resilience, and discipline. May our 2021s be a year of fresh beginnings, growth despite discomfort, truth in love, and gratitude.