The events of 2020, while unprecedented to us, are not altogether unique. Humans have undergone similar and much worse trials throughout history, and we are blessed to have reliable evidence of some of these events in the Bible. Perhaps one of the most poignant scriptural similarities of undergoing a collective calamity we have is when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt. In examining their plight and drawing parallels to how we are responding to this current pandemic, it brings up the question, do we want to be like the Israelites, who grumbled and complained during difficulty instead of focusing on God’s plan for them, or will we be different?
Will we allow God to make beauty from our ashes and trust His character no matter what tomorrow brings?
The Israelites may have not been up against the coronavirus, but they perhaps faced even more fear and uncertainty than we are right now. They were terrified at the Red Sea when Pharaoh's armies were approaching. They were scared they would not have food or water. They were afraid of the giants that roamed the Promised Land. And when they rebelled in their fear and made an idol to worship, plagues were brought down, which could be considered mini pandemics in themselves.
2020 has been one of the most turbulent years not only because of the pandemic but because of all the political and racial tension that has swept the nation. Likewise, in the Old Testament, we see examples of political unrest with Korah’s rebellion as the Israelites challenged Moses’ and Aarons’ God-ordained leadership. Aaron and Marian contested an election when they both challenged Moses as the leader, and unlike now, where recounts and lawsuits settle the challenges, they had to bring the staff before God to reaffirm who He chose.
All of these occasions gave them opportunities to either trust God or turn away from Him out of fear and rebellion. Throughout those trials and tribulations, it was not the Israelites feeling sad, hungry or worn out that angered the Lord. God was angriest with them when they retaliated and tried to displace Him as their leader, even after He delivered them from tyranny and promised that He would remain faithful to the end.
Looking at those stories from the lens of 2020, as Christians, we may be quick to cast judgment on the Israelites for their short term memory loss. How could they so easily distrust God after the myriad miracles He worked for them? But just as many of us have wrung our hands in despair, turned to substance abuse for distraction or become more caught up in fighting people on politics than praying on our knees in spiritual warfare, we are susceptible to the same sin of forgetting God’s goodness and finding something else to idolize.
As 2021 approaches, it is easy to think back on life before the pandemic and wish we could throw this year away and time travel back into what we view as better times. For many of us, myself included, viewing the years through a worldly lens, life did feel better before the pandemic. Yet, our faith is in Him and His promises, not on “better” times of past years. He tells us that if we humble ourselves and turn to Him, He will heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:15). We can choose to cling to His promises and goodness as our hope and firm foundation.
Trusting God, especially as we navigate a strange holiday season without our usual gatherings and traditions, can be easier said than done. So I encourage you to make the following practices a priority to have the right spiritual mindset as we brace for a new year:
- Thank God every day for the provisions He has provided for you.
- Praise Him for what He has done for our country and throughout the world during this time and also throughout history.
- Set an appointment with yourself and take time multiple times each day to praise Him.
- Be intentional with what you breathe in and out; are you complaining more often than praising? Are the people you are spending time with bringing you closer to the Lord?
- Go for a walk every day, and talk with God. Let Him know how you feel, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you during this time.
Our pride, in thinking we have control, is the biggest stumbling block we have before us. How much better is it to release control and not have to carry the weight of the future on our shoulders anymore?
While we cannot reverse 2020, we can respond in a way that pleases Him. Unlike the Israelites who tried to take over when things didn't go as planned, we can give up control and trust that He will never leave us or forsake us and heal our land. By doing so, we will begin to see God’s goodness and His unwavering faithfulness, which is worthy of all our praise.
Peter Demos is the author of “Afraid to Trust,” restaurateur, president and CEO of Demos’ Brands and Demos Family Kitchen and leadership source expert.