give thanks

Six Things to be Thankful for in ‘The Worst Year Ever’

Nov 23, 2020

We’ve all heard it – “2020 has been the worst year ever.” Starting with the news of horrible brushfires in Australia, 2020 has delivered gut punch after gut punch – and each blow has landed.

If ever a year was a dumpster fire, it’s this one. And while it’s good and honest to admit that – to lament it (there’s a word we’ve used more in 2020 than ever before!) – there is danger in this narrative, as well.

Following Jesus certainly doesn’t absolve us from pain. But we are not as those who grieve without hope. Being honest about the struggles of this year doesn’t mean that there weren’t (hard-won, sometimes exhausting) victories. We can acknowledge the darkness, and then still light a candle to shine the way home for those who need it.

So in that spirit, here are 6 things we can be thankful for in the “worst year ever.”

Medical Care Workers

The pandemic is a horrible result of the brokenness of the world – a manifestation of the divide between the perfection of heaven and the imperfection of the world. The loss of life has been staggering – and yet, without the advances of medical care or the sacrifice and dedication of front-line medical workers, the fallout would have been far, far worse. Medical workers were on the frontlines, away from their own families to support fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters facing a terrible situation. They brought life in places where there could have been death. Though we mourn those who experienced loss, we can also be thankful for those on the frontlines displaying the love of Jesus in the purest way; sacrificing their time and safety to protect others.

Technology to Keep Us Connected

Though we mourn the loss of physical presence that this year has brought, we can be thankful that technology has offered us alternative ways to “be” together. Birthday parties and baby showers have been attended via Zoom. School has been conducted on Google classroom, and social media (for better or for worse) has kept us up to date on the quaran-happenings of our loved ones. Even churches have taken the leap from physical to phygital, figuring out the best way to use technology to bring the hope of Jesus to people everywhere. Even just a decade ago, these things would have been much harder, if not impossible, to accomplish on a large scale. We can be thankful that 2020 is a year full of technology to keep us connected when everything seems to be conspiring to keep us apart.

Space to Reprioritize

We’ve all done it. Been asked “How are you?” and responded with, “Busy.” Each season of life seems somehow fuller and busier than the last, leaving many of us to feel like we just can’t “adult” anymore. Something to be grateful for in this year is the space we were given to reprioritize. For several weeks, all of our “extras” were cancelled, and we were given room to evaluate what was life-giving and what was draining. We began to see places we could say “no” so that we could give our “yes” somewhere else. Without the forced pause, we may never have been forced to take stock of our pace – and for that, we can be thankful.

Spiritual Growth

1 Peter 4 tells us that we should glory in sharing Christ’s suffering – and Christ suffered in many different ways. He was lonely. He was misunderstood. He saw loved ones fall ill. He Himself suffered physically. To share in His sufferings is a mark of following Him – and one oft neglected in Western Christianity. But in the midst of a racially charged pandemic election year, separated from loved ones and thrown off our routines, experiencing oppression or mourning for those who are, we have all suffered loss of some kind. We all have something to grieve. And tapping into that suffering allows us to grow more like Jesus. It’s painful and not particularly enjoyable, but it’s worth being grateful for.

Remembering Our Own Need for Jesus

Many of us move in the space of “church world.” Our job is to help people who have never experienced the hope of Jesus find a path toward Him – toward Life. It can be easy to fall prey to the faulty belief that we do not need Jesus as much as “they” do. But this year has shone a spotlight on our deep and constant need for Jesus – the Well that never runs dry. When all other things are stripped away, we can honestly assess and admit our need for a Savior that is bigger and stronger and more powerful than we could ever be. And 2020 has certainly stripped away all of our facades, leaving us starkly aware of our needs. Exposed and honest, we can be grateful for Jesus’s faithfulness to us in good times and bad.

A Chance to Sow Light into Darkness

When we are free to pursue the things that we think give us life, it’s hard to admit that we are in need of anything. The challenges of 2020 have made more and more people realize that their lives were built on shaky foundations – that what they thought was light is actually darkness. Finally seeing this truth opens a door for followers of Jesus to introduce a new and fuller way of life to those who are searching for something more. The work of convincing people that something more is needed has been done for us by this crazy year – all we need to do is walk through the door and help people flip on the light.  And that’s a reason for gratitude.

I wish this blog was simpler to write – that we could easily list things to rejoice in. I would love to talk about high school graduations and promotions, health and equality and peace. But those things aren’t the reality of 2020.

And yet, even with life the way it is, we can have hope. There are still reasons to be thankful – always centered on the grace and love of Jesus Christ. He is here, God with us – a High Priest who understands our weakness.

And that’s something worth giving thanks for.

Josie Barton was on the launch team of a church plant in Baltimore in 2013, and as a result, has come to learn first-hand the immense value of church planting and the hard work the job entails. She and husband Trevor were married in 2012, and they now have three incredible boys – Abbott, Branch, and Calder.

Josie Barton

Director of Marketing, Stadia