By Eric Basye
A New Year. I love the rhythm a new year provides – a fresh start filled with anticipation for what could potentially unfold in the months to come. For the past number of years, it has become my cadence to spend a day in December reflecting upon the year coming to a close and prayerfully consider what the Lord has in store for the next. As part of this process, I print off my journal and read through it in its entirety. This is always a fascinating exercise to see how the Lord has answered prayers (or not) and more clearly see the themes of burden and joy experienced throughout the months. While away for the day at a friends’ cabin in December, I was particularly intrigued by reading a post from March 22nd, the beginning of the pandemic. Who would have guessed how 2020 turned out?
March 22, 2020
Odd days the last two weeks with the Corona Virus, otherwise known as COVID-19. As of the latest statistics, there are 323,365 cases worldwide, 13,745 deaths, with a total of 30,291 cases in the US alone (one week ago, we had just over 3,000 cases!). That is a remarkable increase, and there are some speculations that the number of cases is actually 11 times higher as many go unreported! In Italy, yesterday, there were 793 deaths… in one day! They have had nearly 5,000 deaths in Italy alone thus far these past few weeks.
As a result of this, there are worldwide implications. Countries are shutting down, entire states are now in lockdown (such as California), workplaces have begun to work remotely if possible (even CLDI as of this past Thursday), and businesses have been shut down, such as movie theaters, playhouses, restaurants, coffee shops, and malls. This will create an unprecedented impact not only in our city and state but country and world. Even here in Billings, schools shut down this past week. The original plan was for two weeks, but I can’t imagine students will be able to return to school this year! How crazy is that? The teachers are now posting assignments daily via the web. I can’t even imagine how difficult this must be for single-parent families, especially those in our community. How are these kids going to get an education? And what about our neighbors, many of whom work in the service industry? Father, please be gracious and use this devastation to turn people to You. That is my hope and prayer in the midst of it all.
Our New “Normal”
I distinctly remember writing that post with absolute shock at what was unfolding before us. Let’s be honest, I’m still in shock! The latest numbers I observed were 77 million COVID cases and 1.7 million deaths! Loved ones have been lost, fear and isolation have ruled the year, businesses have shut down, the opportunity to work has been stripped away, Zoom fatigue has become a thing, “social distancing” is a known term, the education of our youth has been severely impaired, and divide has cut through the heart of every nation. There is no other way to describe 2020 than utterly heartbreaking, heavy, and drab. Will the fog lift? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? The journal entry continues, and while what I wrote was pertinent in March, it is perhaps even more relevant today:
The other day I was going through my memory verses, one of them being Matthew 9:36-38, which says, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.‘” Does this not describe the condition of our world? People are distressed and dispirited, like sheep without a shepherd. Lord, they need You.
As the Church, I pray that we rise to the occasion to maintain the HOPE we have found in You. I pray that we join You in prayer and labor to send out more and more workers into the harvest, and Lord, I pray for Your harvest of souls! Draw unto yourself all the lost sheep of this world that they too find hope, life, joy, and peace in YOU. Lord God, if it takes a worldwide pandemic to bring people to this place, by all means, whatever it takes, let Thy Kingdom come… let Thy Kingdom come, O Lord.
Grace in the Midst of Suffering
I recently shared with my staff that 2020 was not at all what I anticipated. In fact, it reminds me of the early years of my marriage. Shelly was a medical resident (working 100-120 hours/week), I was busy running a nonprofit, and we were first-time parents. Those were undoubtedly some of the most challenging years of our marriage, but, as difficult as it was, it was also incredibly refining and character-forming. We had no choice but to rely on the Lord and trust in His grace day by day.
While I would not want to relive those years, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. My guess is that this is how we will look back on 2020. Was it difficult? For sure. Life-changing? Without a doubt. But will we also see the grace, hope, and provision He provided along the way? Flourishing in the midst of suffering, who would have thought? Yes, this is the way of the Kingdom. He is our immovable rock, the solid foundation upon which we stand. When all else falls away, the Lord endures forever.
Our Unshakable Hope
Upon the dawn of a New Year, we invite you to join us as we lean into the marred and broken, convinced that life in the fullest can be found through the person of Jesus. Whether we struggle or not, our hope is unshakable, making us a resilient people to valiantly, passionately, and zealously enter the messy to shower a hurting and broken world with the gospel of hope! 2021, here we come; Lord Jesus, do what only You can do!