There is little doubt that 2020 was a challenging year. 2020 was dominated by the COVID pandemic, lockdowns and border closures. The pandemic created an environment of much fear and uncertainty about the future across Australia and the world.
The challenges and difficulties of 2020 prompted people to want to put 2020 into the bin, get the Christmas decorations out and wait for 2021 to come. This photo was in a Melbourne shop late last year:
“Just put the tree up and call it a year”
The feeling in our culture is that suffering is an aberration, an abnormality.
These feelings are understandable, but they also reveal that our culture struggles with suffering and adversity. The feeling in our culture is that suffering is an aberration, an abnormality, it’s something that holds us back from achieving our full potential. Hence the response to suffering by our modern secular culture is to want to bin it, forget about it: let’s finish 2020 quickly and look forward to next year where things will surely be better? Indeed many approached 2021 with optimism, freshness and hope: 2021 will be better—how can it be any worse than 2020?
But will things be better in 2021? How is it shaping up so far?
2021 began with the Victorian government slamming the NSW border shut. Then flash lockdowns in Brisbane and Perth, and most recently, in Melbourne. The ongoing COVID restrictions have reminded us that actually, 2021 is starting with great resonance to 2020. It’s too simple to think that 2021 is automatically going to be better than 2020.
There is uncertainty—particularly about travel and making plans. While interstate travel is cautiously opening up, and workers are cautiously returning to offices, uncertainty dominates.
A passage of Scripture pertinent to the present season is James 4:13-15:
Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’
Twelve months ago, many people in Australia’s business community were doing exactly as this verse described: travelling to various cities, carrying on business, making plans and making money. Yet this all stopped very suddenly with Coronavirus lockdowns making travel impossible, severely impacting many businesses and upsetting everyone’s plans.
We really don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We aren’t in control.
Even now in 2021, it’s clear with borders shutting almost instantly, that today we can’t say with complete confidence that we’re going to this or that city to carry on business. We really don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We aren’t in control.
Hence the reminder to begin 2021 with the words of verse 15: Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’.
Being reminded of the perspective of the Lord, means we can make travel or work plans—but hold these plans lightly. Rapidly changing travel and workplace restrictions remind us that life is fragile and certainty is not possible. Be reminded of Proverbs 16:3: Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
So, as 2021 begins, let us be mindful of the one who is certain and solid and entrust our plans to him, who is trustworthy and in control. This can bring peace and confidence when we consider our work and travel arrangements for 2021. Which means that no matter how challenging 2021 turns out to be, we might not have to conclude that it was a wrecking ball.