If you could describe 2020 in one word, and for the record, let’s eliminate the word “pandemic,” what word would you suggest to capture your thoughts about this past year? What would be your guess as to the winner of the contest to decide what the 2020 “Word of the Year” is?
There are so many nominations for that honor — words like unprecedented or challenging, or socially-distanced, or even Zoom. One author suggested that for him the Word of the Year is humbling. I agree with all those assessments.
This year has been a roller-coaster year insofar as feelings are concerned as well. For young and old alike, those feelings throughout the year could be described by various terms — words such as off-balanced, confused, lonely, angry, fearful, envious, anxious, frustrated, inconvenienced, and, for many, sickly.
But personally, there is one more term which for me describes the year in review. That term is grateful. Some years ago, I decided to do something which I believe changed my life. That decision was that at the end of every day of my life from that point on, before I pillowed my head at night, I would thank God for the day — the good things, the bad things, and the indifferent things. No matter what had happened during the day, I thanked God for it. Sometimes I was clenching my teeth when I did it. Sometimes I dreaded doing it, but I did it anyway. I still thank God every night to this day. And don’t you know, I believe it has changed me. And I have discovered that when I thank God at night for the day I have just spent, I tend to wake up thankful as well for the good night’s rest and for the day I am about to enter.
In this Age of Covid, I have discovered that I have much to be thankful for this year, including more time with my bride of 47 years. For an old man, I am in relatively good health, even though I could still lose a few pounds. I believe I have been able to adjust to the new realities of life with a mask on. And this year has also brought less wear and tear on our car and our golf cart.
We all know that there was nothing magical about midnight last Friday. We woke up to the same world we lived in Thursday. We can change that. Hope is good, and wearing gratitude is essential. If you’re looking for 2021 resolutions, consider those, because they start with you regardless of what is happening in your world.
So far in this new year we have been looking for things to inspire us, to motivate us to look ahead with anticipation and excitement rather than fear and trembling. One of the most important thoughts we can spend our time and energy considering each day is the thought of just how and how much to pray this new year into existence.
And when I consider prayer there are a lot of heroes in the Bible who spent much time in prayer. The Bible, in fact, is a book about prayer, and it has a lot to say about it. To understand that, we could turn, for example, to the Lord’s Prayer. Many of us regularly repeat the “Our Father, who art in heaven…” prayer almost without thinking.
And while that prayer is one of the most important prayers in the Bible, if not the most important, there are others, which can be summarized into two words, which are equally important as examples for us to follow. One commentator has delineated five of the most important prayers in the Bible as follows: David: Search me, Moses: Show me, Samson: Strengthen me, Isaiah: Send me, and Peter: Save me.
Now, being the student of the Scriptures that I am, I would also add a sixth. That is from the patriarch Job, and the subject of his prayer is “Why me?” Anyone who has read the book of Job in the Old Testament will realize that question is one that Job asked often. Notice as well that God did not condemn Job for asking that question. Nor will He condemn you if you ask Him that question. God only dealt with Job when Job demanded that God answer Him. At that time God did speak, but He did not answer Job’s question.
But perhaps the most helpful prayer that you and I can pray each and every day during this new year is found in Psalm 73:24-26, where we read: “God, you guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”
Oh, and there is one more thought worth considering today: People who wonder if the glass is half full or half empty miss the point. The glass is refillable.
May God remain the strength of your heart this year so that you can have a happier new year!
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.