So, as I was jogging this morning, I was thinking about what 2020 means to me and I'll tell you, I think I'm grateful for it. Hear me out.
Do not get me wrong, I do not like wearing a mask or being quarantined. 2020 has changed our lives dramatically, whether we cannot go to work, we cannot go to school, we cannot see our friends or our family. But I think this year has given us unique opportunities and forced us to kind of tackle things a different way.
Two things that 2020 has forced us to do:
#1 - 2020 has forced us to slow down.
In Exodus, God tells us to be still. God wants us to be still at times so we could hear him. Be still so we can learn from him. It has forced us to slow down in a way we have never imagined. Gone are the times of going to movies, going to restaurants all the time, concerts, whatever those distractions we are used to. Our society has been distracting us from our families, from our friends and from God. They are kind of gone. I mean, you can still go to a restaurant, kind of, but it certainly has spurred our desire to go do that. 2020 has forced us to be still and to slow down.
#2 - It has also forced us to be around our family more, quite frankly.
I am home all the time now. I have two teenage daughters and they are going to school from home. My wife goes to work. She is a school principal and must be there but she is home a lot more as well. 2020 has forced me to be around my family more now, which brings a whole slew of blessings with it. Maybe it has done the same with you.
Two opportunities that 2020 has brought:
#1 - 2020 has given us the opportunity to focus more on God.
Since we are home more now, we have had plenty of time to “be still”. So we have had the opportunity to read the Bible more, to follow Christian social media more and to learn more from Bible plans. It has given us the opportunity to do all sorts of stuff that we weren't able to do before because you were so busy.
Take advantage of this opportunity to get closer to him.
#2 - 2020 has given us the opportunity to refocus our lives.
So as we go into 2021, we all have the opportunity to learn from 2020 and refocus our lives going forward.
Think about how you want to refocus. I, for one, do not necessarily want things to go back to normal. Going back to normal to me means the busyness and the chaos we were dealing with. Refocusing means less time watching TV, less time going to movies, less time going restaurants, less time even to travel to work and back.
It means more time with my family, my friends and with God. It’s given us an opportunity to refocus our lives and not go back to the way they were.
So think about these things, especially as we turn the page on another year. Think about how you can refocus your life and refocus your faith on God.
Can I be honest with you? Of course I can, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not in a good mood. I am stressed, scared, upset, exhausted and discouraged.
Like the rest of you, I am being inundated with bad news all the time here in 2020. Between COVID-19, racial tensions and so much more, this year has not been a great one. Oh, it will go into the history books, but not for any reason we want to remember.
Personally, this year has been tough. It started off with my favorite basketball player of all time, Kobe Bryant (I know he was a flawed human) tragically dying and now I am facing a future where my daughter has been diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. Everything in between has been almost out of the book of Revelation. I am now working from home full-time, I haven’t eaten out inside a restaurant in months and have to wear a mask into the store. Top that off with being absolutely mortified every time I turn on the nightly news.
In times like these, most of us get down, depressed and feel hopeless. Nothing seems to be right in the world. No one seems to be happy. The future looks so dark.
My wife asked me last night “Is this how we are going to have to live forever? Will things ever get back to normal?” I told her I don’t know. I really don’t.
Our church started services back last week. But now with an immune compromised daughter and COVID-19 cases increasing in my area, we still haven’t gone back to our church service. I miss my church family, but also know that God has given me the knowledge to make the right decisions for me and my family.
Where do we go from here? We go to God.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10
We all need to remind ourselves that this world has been in worse shape than this before. History tells tales of fallen governments, slavery, natural disasters, world wars and terrible injustices. The earth is not immune to the work of the devil, my friends. Make no mistake about it, he is hard at work. What happens is that the devil is patient. He is like a tiger in the jungle. He waits and waits and pounces at a moment when you least expect it. But we should expect it. You see, with the armor of God surrounding us, the devil is helpless. But when we let our guard down, when we get too caught up in worldly things, when we get a little too comfortable, he is there waiting.
God is in charge. He always has been.
Every time this world gets too far off course, God intervenes. He did it with Noah. A little over 2000 years ago things got so bad, He came down here himself to show us the way. And we still can’t seem to get it right.
Jesus has already showed us how to cure all of these problems … love. Love God, love yourself and love your neighbor. That’s it friends, that’s everything.
Yes, there will always be some bad things in this world. Like I said, the devil is hard at work. But Jesus already told us that He has it all covered.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33
Those are the actual words of Jesus Christ. God himself, came down and told us to love one another and if we love Him and look to Him, everything will be OK.
So, yes, I am discouraged, but I also have hope. I have hope that my Savior already knows how all of this ends. I have hope that my Savior has a plan. I have hope that my Savior has all of the power and at the right time the sun will shine again on our world.
So today, I encourage you to look ahead and not behind. God is in control. He knows what is going on and He wants us to learn something from our experiences. First and foremost, we need to learn that we really do need Him. If anything shows us that we need God, it’s all of the turmoil that 2020 has brought to us.
Take a moment to pray today. Don’t ask for anything. Just tell God that you hear Him and you will do better. Tell Him that you trust Him. Tell Him that you love Him and will try harder to love everyone else.
So what should we all do when nothing seems to be going right? TRUST GOD. He’s got this. I promise.
Almost everyone has or will be impacted by the recent COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. We ask that everyone take a moment to say the prayers below for some of the most impacted. Together with God's grace, we can conquer this.
Pray For People Who Are Infected With COVID-19 Or Facing Quarantine
During Your ministry on Earth You showed Your power and caring by healing people of all ages and stations of life from physical, mental, and spiritual ailments. Be present now to people who need Your loving touch because of COVID-19. May they feel Your power of healing through the care of doctors and nurses.
Take away the fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation from people receiving treatment or under quarantine. Give them a sense of purpose in pursuing health and protecting others from exposure to the disease. Protect their families and friends and bring peace to all who love them.
In your name I pray, Amen.
Pray For People At Higher Risk Of Developing The Disease
We lift to You our concern for people who are more likely than others to become severely ill from COVID-19 — the elderly and people with chronic health conditions. Protect them from harm and be their comfort in this time of uncertainty.
In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Pray For Medical Professionals, Caregivers, Researchers, And Leaders Responsible For Decisions About Fighting The New Coronavirus
We seek Your wisdom daily. Be with people making decisions that affect the lives and futures of our families, communities, countries, and the wider world. Inspire and invigorate people developing better tests to diagnose the virus, vaccines to prevent it, and protocols and communication to eliminate the disease’s spread. May truth and empathy be the touchstones of people setting policies for our protection.
In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
By: Kevin Jackson
Time does funny things to us. It causes us to slow down, hurt a little more, reflect on everything and miss a whole lot of things and people we have lost along the way. It also brings wisdom from experiences we have. As I get a little older, I am starting to think about what I wish I knew then that I know now.
If I could write a letter to my younger self, I wonder what I would say. Well, here it goes….
Dear Younger Me,
Everything is going to be great for you one day. I know things are tough right now, confusing and stressful. But one day, you will look back and wonder why those challenges caused you so much pain. As I think back on our life and the mistakes I have made, here is some advice I wish I would heard when I was your age.
Listen In Church
Oh, I wish I would have listened more in church. I know, when you are young it seems boring and not relatable. But if I knew Jesus then the way I know Him now, I would have made different choices in life. For too long I made my decisions based on what I wanted and not what Jesus wanted for me. Once I realized that life was about glorifying God and walking the path He has laid for me, my perspective changed and things became so much clearer.
Understand God’s Grace
You are blessed beyond what you deserve. That’s the truth and you need to understand that. It is not only the fact that you were blessed to be born where and when you were, blessed to have the family you have or blessed to have the opportunities you have. But you are blessed because of God’s grace and the fact that He sent His son to die for YOUR sins. I know this is hard to understand or accept now, but the older you get, the more you will understand what a HUGE blessing this is.
Thank Him Along The Way
What you don’t know now but you will later is you will have highs and lows in life. You will not understand why things are happening to you. You almost died at one point, but you didn’t. You have 2 beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. You have lost people you loved and don’t understand why. You have had heartache and joy. But you need to thank God all along the way. This is the journey He has planned for you. You may think you are in control but you are not. Thank God every day for the things you have, the people in your life, the lessons you have learned and, yes, even the heartaches you have experienced. All of it made you who I am today.
You Were Never Meant To Carry The Cross Alone
This is a big one. God didn’t design you to be independent. He didn’t design you to do it all by yourself. He didn’t design you to carry the weight of your sins. Jesus came and died for you and your sins a long time ago. All those burdens you have are not yours to carry, they are His. God created us in a way that we need Him constantly. We are dependent on Him. Think about what you need to by God. We have to have God to survive one minute on earth. We were designed this way by the Creator and Jesus came and died for you. Period. He came to carry the cross for you. Period. Yes, you can help, I guess, but you aren’t going to get very far along. Jesus can handle it, He already has.
Would I Change Anything?
Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I believe they were all part of God’s plan for you. So, sorry, not sorry. Honestly, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to go on dates you wish you hadn’t. You are going to take jobs you wish you hadn’t. You are going to pull away from God at one point (although you will realize one day He never pulled away from you) and wish you hadn’t. You are going to waste money you wish you hadn’t. You are going to make a ton of decisions that that you wish you hadn’t. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. That painful and joyous journey has made me who I am today and, more importantly, who God wants me to be. We go through life sometimes not realizing what we are doing or why. But God does.
So, while you are going through life and becoming me one day, can you do a couple of things for me?
I will leave you with that. I hope you can use some of this knowledge to appreciate your life more and look forward to your future. God loves you so much and one day you will finally realize it. But once you do, it changes everything.
One final thing....read the below Bible verse and memorize it. It changes your life one day!
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
P.S. One day you will marry a beautiful woman that makes your life so much better. Ask God for the patience to wait for her and once you find her, thank God every day for that blessing.
By: Carole L. Haines
Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time, while he was still confined in the court of the guard, saying, “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name, Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." (Jeremiah 33:1-3)
There are times in our lives where we feel confined, boxed in, restrained. The word “confined", here means “closed up, shut up, under restraint.” Ever feel like that? I know I have. When I was in such a time, I did everything I could to try and escape my confinement until God spoke to my heart and said.
“Stop bloodying your knuckles on the walls, trying to scrape and claw and find your own way out. Come to the Center of the Room, away from all those walls, that is where I am. Focus on me, sit with Me, Trust me to remove the walls when the Time is right.”
And so, I learned to Seek First the Kingdom of God in my confinement. I learned to gaze upon the face of Christ, to sit with Him in His Word and learn of Him. Days of confinement can be a mysterious gift from God. Perhaps He has been trying to get your attention for some time now. Perhaps you have not heard His Whispers, His beckoning for You to come away for awhile and just sit with Him in His Word, in His Presence. Walls are not only there to hinder us, sometimes they are put there by God to protect us.
Re-read the Scripture from Jeremiah 33 above. The Lord came to Jeremiah a second time while he was still confined. He told Jeremiah to call to Him and that He would answer and tell Jeremiah great and mighty things which he does not know.
Look to God in your confinement. Call to Him and listen to what He wants to tell you. Find a place alone, away from life’s clamoring and sit with God in His Word. He will speak to your heart there and perhaps reveal more of Himself to You, More of Yourself to You. Perhaps He will tell you great and mighty things that you do not already know. He is soooooo good to us, in every and all circumstances.
This post originally appeared on www.hisshadowings.com and was republished with permission.