How to usher in the new year when the whole world is so tired
I’ll say it upfront – I didn’t expect 2020 to end like this. And perhaps the same goes for you too.
2020 was beyond heavy on many fronts. The year of perfect vision crumbled as soon as it started. As we were being ushered through the waves of pandemic fatigue, the days blended into months, and months into an entire year.
In the past few weeks alone, we’ve gone from being excited about Phase 3, to some relief upon hearing that vaccines will be made available for free for all Singaporeans, to fear and sian-ness knowing that the new B117 strain of COVID-19 has hit our shores.
It’s a lot to digest. The wind is knocked out of our sails and we’re still stuck on this roller coaster ride. “Goodbye 2020” memes are aplenty. The whole world is so done, so tired.
Now we’re standing at the threshold of a new year, and you might be like me – caught off guard and not ready.
Will 2021 be a Season 2 of 2020? Will we ever return to life pre-COVID?
SAY IT AGAIN (AND AGAIN): REJOICE!
I found myself going through an “emotional amputation” sometime in September.
I got increasingly numb to the things going on around me and started to lose enthusiasm for things that I’d enjoyed doing during the first part of 2020.
The sense of accomplishment from a successful baking attempt vanished, as with the excitement from yet another delivery knocking at the door.
I entered a period of grief without knowing it. I lamented the loss of normalcy and mourned the time that was ticking away. I resented the routines that were here to stay. There was very little to be happy about.
It was like being stuck in an escape room. I felt little or no joy on most days – just an empty vacuum.
We really only need one good reason to rejoice, and that is Christ.
But here’s the catch – in Psalm 16:11, the psalmist writes that “You will fill me with joy in Your presence”. The NKJV translation says “in Your presence is fullness of joy”.
The world needs many “good enough” reasons to be happy. But we really only need one good reason to rejoice, and that is Christ.
Choosing joy brings us hope. Even better, a living Hope.
There will be days when sheer, ecstatic joy raises a song in our hearts and hope flourishes.
And there will also be days when depressing, harsh realities overwhelm us. On those days, hope seems to have languished. This is the dichotomy of life that we live in.
But through it all, we can raise our heads and remember God.
He who bore all of our sin and shame, triumphed over death on the cross, and raised to life again – all so that we may live. In this we rejoice, even though now for a little while, we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (1 Peter 1:3-7).
2021 may not bring you what you desire, but will you plug back into God and choose joy every day?
CULTIVATE RESILIENCE: PRAY UNCEASINGLY
If anything, 2020 saw an unprecedented global united move to prayer, and that was accelerated by the use of social media.
We prayed for Wuhan when the virus was at its peak and the city went into an unprecedented lockdown.
We prayed for frontline personnels in all sectors – healthcare workers, teachers, supermarket staff, immigration officers, migrant workers… We prayed for friends and families that have been separated by social distancing and border control measures.
In October 2020, a friend of mine received a diagnosis for a terminal illness after being declared cancer-free just earlier this year.
Her condition was not good, and it was difficult to stomach the updates that came every day. We walked the days with tears in our eyes and arms high in surrender. A whole community came together to pray and intercede for her, friends and strangers alike.
We learnt to lift our eyes from the situation that was in front of us, and instead looked to our God who is sovereign over all.
Prayer revealed to us our reliance and need for God. Somewhere in there, we built up a quiet strength and cultivated a resilience that was never known to us.
Prayer is never wasted. Prayer changes things, and changes us. Prayer is us choosing to join God as He moves.
Come 2021, pray for God to renew our strength. Refresh our weary souls. Release us from the weight on our shoulders.
FIND THE GOOD: GIVE THANKS, ALWAYS
Prayer and thanksgiving are like your ultimate teh and kaya toast combo – they are good on their own, but even better when together.
I found myself complaining and whining a whole lot more in 2020.
I was more easily annoyed by even the smallest things, like the smell of my neighbours frying fitters at night, to other things like a slow Wi-Fi connection when I’m trying to have a meeting over Zoom.
If there’s one discipline I’d want to sharpen and hone in the new year, it would be the ability to find good.
We can choose to give thanks in all circumstances even though we cannot give thanks for all circumstances. The more we give thanks to God in prayer, the more things we can find to give thanks for.
In 2021, I want to be like Joshua and Caleb, the two who went into the land of Canaan with the other 10 spies, but came back with extremely different reports (Numbers 13).
They all saw the same land and the same people. The 10 reported that the people there were extremely intimidating, and that the place was dangerous. Yet Joshua and Caleb described the land as overflowing with milk and honey, and were confident that God would lead them into the Promised Land (Numbers 14:6-9).
We can choose to give thanks in all circumstances even though we cannot give thanks for all circumstances.
Joshua and Caleb saw things from God’s perspective instead of their own human perspective.
They had a spirit of gratitude instead of a spirit of complaint. They saw the good in the land and were thankful for it. They did not deny the fact that the people in Canaan were intimidating, but they chose to find the good and trust in God.
In 2021, I’m looking forward to stemming my complaining spirit that has quietly taken up residence within me, and replacing it with a spirit of gratitude.
Like it or not, we now stand at the gate of a new year. It is now time to dust away the dirt from yesterday and pick ourselves up again.
There are no clear answers for what 2021 may bring, but one thing is for sure – there is always hope.
Are you ready to reach out to the hand of God, and embark on a journey with Him who is better than a candle in the dark and safer than a known way out of the woods?
THINK + TALK
1. Looking back at 2020, what good can you find and thank God for?
2. How are you feeling about the new year? Will you allow God to fill you with joy and hope?
3. What do you want to commit to prayer in 2021?