So. We made it. A new year is a comforting sight after a year so thoroughly shot-through with uncertainty, chaos, division, and strife. 2020 was a year of hardship, but also of hidden fruit. God was undoubtedly at work — maybe doing more in one year than in ten. But we couldn’t see much of the fruit right away because of isolation and social disruption. We’re just now starting to see the shoots of new growth breaking through the topsoil, signs of life, healing, and renewal.
Where am I starting to see fruit from 2020? In three areas. First, I see a broad social humbling in our true limitations. We aren’t as invincible as we used to think. Human beings are very strong in some ways, but we are also weak. Realizing our weakness isn’t a bad thing when it reflects real, God-given limitations. Despite wonderful advancements in science and medicine, COVID-19 exposed just how vulnerable we are to disease — something that’s always been true. Pride is the path to sin and self, a road to destruction. Humility is a gentle friend, one that helps us embrace our limits and see our need for the grace of God. 2020 humbled us, exposed our weakness, need for help, and mortality. More humility is ultimately a tremendous blessing. The fact is, we were no more vulnerable in 2020 than we were in 2019 or that we will be in 2021. The truth about our weakness is a light to our path, one that will help us walk humbly in the truth. And the truth will set us free.
Second, I see a crumbling of faulty foundations. This fruit is related to the first but is deeper than our health and well-being. In the earthquake of COVID-19, many realized their foundation, the thing(s) they had built their lives on, was(were) shaken — easily shaken. Cracks and fault lines appeared that had been hidden in more comfortable times. When push came to shove, the psychological foundation crumbled under their feet. And this newfound instability was profoundly unsettling. I wouldn’t wish this sort of existential crisis on anyone. But again, if what was exposed (e.g., a bad foundation) was reality, then this is the mercy of God. In contrast, a common refrain in the Psalms is the eternal stability of the Lord God Almighty.
I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.Psalm 18:1-2
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.”Psalm 46:1-3
We may not face another threat exactly like COVID-19 in the future. But there will be times of shaking. And when the mountains quake, there is a foundation to build your life on that will remain secure, unshakable. His name is Jesus. He is the rock that cannot be moved. Other relationships and people may come and go. Your work or wealth may not last. Political parties and policies shift like sand. Beauty fades. If you build your life on any of these things, your foundation will eventually crumble. Realizing this now instead of 10, 20, or 30 years from now is the mercy of God, an incredible blessing. A secure foundation is only found in Christ, the Rock, the Chief Cornerstone. And he will not fail.
Third, I see a new openness to God. Hard times have a way of snapping what really matters back into our focus. Prayer is easy in the dark of night and easy to forget in the brightness of day. For a season, many people will be spiritually open, seeking meaning or answers or peace. And these longings point heavenward. Christians must be aware of this, watching and praying, willing to help those who are seeking. Some predict an era of excessive consumption similar to the Roaring ’20s (which followed the trauma of WWI). And that might be. But I believe a time of spiritual renewal is also possible. And given the disruption caused by the crumbling of faulty foundations and the broad social humbling, I think revival is not just possible but is likely. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Many of our friends and neighbors are starting to hear and heed his calling. May we have the courage to love and serve and share good news when the time is right.
God was not surprised or nervous by what we faced in 2020 (not that that means it was supposed to be easy for us!). And we are only starting to see the good that He brought out of the pain and difficulty of our year. In the new year, a year full of newness and potential and growth and change, may we see and enjoy more and more of the hidden fruit as it’s revealed — and praise God, from whom all blessings flow. He is good, and he is faithful, both now and forevermore.