Congratulations, you did it! You made it through 2020!
To many, this felt like the longest, worst year on record. Indeed, a highlight reel of the year’s major happenings might look like it was ripped straight from an apocalypse movie.
From the Australian wildfires, to the Beirut explosion, to the body bags piled in front of hospitals at the height of the pandemic, it’s been a merciless onslaught of one tragedy after another.
But has 2020 truly been the worst year ever? The history of mankind is a long and macabre tale, after all. The pale horse of death has stalked our streets so many times that we are not short of candidates for that grim title.
The history of mankind is a long and macabre tale.
If you were living in one of Europe’s rat-infested towns or villages in 1348, you could be forgiven for thinking that the end of the world had finally arrived.
That was the year the Black Death tore through Europe, decimating a third of the continent’s population. Few events in human history have exacted such a toll and exposed the dark underbelly of society in such a brutal way.
For the native inhabitants of the Americas, however, the mantle of the worst year in history might instead go to 1520. In April that year, a group of Spaniards arrived in Veracruz, bringing with them the deadly smallpox disease that would wipe out almost the entire indigenous community.
More recently, 1943 has been touted as humanity’s darkest trip around the sun for the sheer amount of suffering inflicted that year. In Europe, the Holocaust was at its deadliest while in India, millions perished when a massive famine ravaged the Bengal province.
But one day in the future looms darker still.
It will be a dreadful day, where the world will be swept into a time of “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21).
Whereas all the aforementioned tragedies only affected certain groups of people, this period of untold suffering will affect every single person on earth.
The Gospel of Matthew paints a chilling picture of what the end times will look like: “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 24:40-41).
Take care how you live your life.
When 2020 first arrived, we celebrated with fireworks and hugged our friends, looking with anticipation towards a promising new decade.
No one could have predicted we’d end up here, picking up the pieces in a world that feels a bit emptier, a bit quieter.
In the same way, no one knows the hour at which Jesus will return.
You can tell yourself you have all the time in the world, but you might wake up tomorrow and realise that the clocks have stopped, and then it will be too late.
So take care how you live your life.
Have you surrendered to the nihilism of 2020’s zeitgeist, adopting a devil-may-care attitude to cope with living in a seemingly godless world ruled by random chaos?
When I’ve faced moments of hopelessness, I’ve made the mistake of losing sight of God, letting myself be engulfed instead by worldly concerns.
However, the small mercies in life – healing from sickness, moments of peace, the kindness of strangers – remind me that He is still in control and Jesus will one day return to vanquish the darkness forever.
That is why Luke 21:34-36 counsels us:
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
As we turn our sights to 2021, we have much to look forward to, like the easing up of coronavirus-related restrictions.
But all these blessings will pale in comparison to the eternity of celebration and rejoicing that we can anticipate when Jesus returns.
He will usher in a new heaven and new earth where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelations 21:4).
Will you face Jesus with dread? Or will you face Him with hope?
Though people have been predicting the end of the world for centuries now, we’re closer than ever to fulfilling one major component of the Bible’s apocalyptic prophecy.
Matthew 24:14 tells us that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”.
Bible translation organisation illumiNations estimates that all of the world’s people will have access to some portion of scripture by 2033. After that, I believe it’s only a matter of time.
On that fateful day, when the heavens open up and the white horse comes galloping forth, flanked by the celestial armies, will you be facing its Rider with dread?
Or will you face Him with hope?
Life does not stop with breath, so now might be a good time to set your sights a little further and consider your plan for the endgame.
Thankfully, there is one easy way to turn the Worst Day In History into the Best: All you have to do is accept Jesus’ gift of eternal life.
THINK + TALK
- Was this the worst year of your life?
- What were some lessons you learnt in 2020?
- Take a look at your life. Are you ready for Jesus’ return?