You’d read the title of this article and probably thought: ‘2020, year of goodness? No. Absolutely not.’
I can understand. Covid-19. Mass deaths. Mass hysteria. Protests. Businesses closing down. Questionable governments. Increased domestic abuse and family problems. Restricted gatherings (oh, the worst!). Endless Zoom meetings. And worse it gets.
Those can’t be good, right? No, they aren’t good.
This year was difficult, painful, and downright crappy in many ways. But I believe this was still a year of God’s goodness, not simply despite the overt chaos that has permeated it, but because of it. We need only to open our spiritual eyes to see beyond the physical, and get in touch with His heart.
And here is why I believe 2020 has still been a year of goodness.
Reason #1: More Time for Rest, Family, Ourselves, and Other Stuff
For most of us, it was home alone no longer.
The lockdowns and restrictions in 2020 placed us under a sort of ‘house arrest’. The extroverts were reeling from lack of human interaction, while the introverts were reveling in more frequent extended me-time. One thing everyone had in common, though, was that there was more time for rest, family, ourselves, and other stuff.
I found myself engaging in activities and projects I had long shelved due mostly to busyness. Now that I didn’t have parties and gatherings to attend, I had the time. I slept in more, talked with my wife more (fought more as well, but hey, all for growth), and spent more time doing what I loved.
I don’t remember a year before this where I had the luxury of time at home like 2020.
This was a very good thing.
Reason #2: ‘Church’ Has Been Redefined
Here’s a poem I wrote that encapsulates what pre-COVID church means to a man I named ‘Heng Boon Teck’.
I call it, ‘This is how we do the church’.
This is how we do the church
Go to church.
Greet my friends.
Wave at those
I don’t know so well.
Sing some songs.
Oh, Oceans, nice - hands go up.
Allow one tear
To go down.
Wish I felt this
Listen to announcements.
Listen to a sermon.
Good message, inspired.
Time to cry
And feel cared for.
After a week
Of a hardened heart.
Break the bread
Drink the wine
Just like I do
(Except it’s whiskey
And without the bread).
Back to real life.
Back to sad wife.
Till next time.
Can’t wait for next week
To do the church.
This is how we do the church, do the church, do the church.
I wish this went on
Of course this was probably an over-simplification, even for Boon Teck. But in case you were actually wondering, no, this is not church. And I don’t think God intended for this to be all there is to church. But perhaps for too long, that perception may have been held by many. Church has always been a certain way.
Then, ‘BOOM!’ The pandemic landed. Hard. On that ‘RESET’ button.
What do you do without physical gatherings? How do you stay spiritually strong and growing without meeting up with your Christian communities? Will you still open the Bible when you’re alone in your bedroom, service live-streaming on your laptop? What does ‘church’ now mean? Does it have to revert to the old, familiar state?
Thankfully, we have a point of reference - the Bible. Perhaps it would do us good to re-read Acts 2, and consider what ‘church’ means in light of the Early Church; to release ourselves from our preconceived moulds of what it should look like; to embrace and live out the truth that we, the Body of Christ, identify ourselves as the Church - not occupants of a building, members of an institution, associates to a name, or sheep under a human leader.
What is the new definition of ‘church’? The answer is still open-ended. Much of the Church at large is still finding its feet. We don’t know the eventuality, but we do know that God is re-defining this buzzword; and that is a very good thing, for Boon Teck and the rest of us.
Reason #3: A Good God is Still Sovereign
Goodness is beyond Merriam-Webster and Oxford. Goodness is beyond Christmas presents and being nice to your annoying neighbour. Goodness is beyond honouring your boss with whom you disagree and inexplicably wears mismatching ties every Tuesday and Thursday to your Zoom meetings. Goodness is even beyond God giving you things you need, want, and like.
No; goodness is far bigger and far more profound. Read your Bible and you’ll find that goodness is expressed by the God who personifies this concept in many very different ways.
God is Goodness itself. Goodness - the idea, the concept, the manifestation - originated with Him. Everything He is and does is good - no matter what it looks like or what our opinion is. He is good.
In His sending of the plagues upon Egypt, He was good. In His hardening of Pharaoh's and Judas’ hearts, He was good. In His allowing of pain and suffering to the innocent in this world, He is good. Nothing He has done (or not done) can refute that - it is simply a basic truth from which any and all trains of thought must stem.
The goodness of God manifests in His work to ensure the benefit of His children at the end of the day. It has nothing to do with the alleviation of our pain, meeting our needs, or pouring out blessings; even though He loves doing those things. God is good because He sees all of time end-to-end and determines that there are certain (unpleasant or undesirable) things that must take place in order for us - His children, His Body, His Bride - to benefit.
Ultimately, 2020 is and will continue to be a year of goodness, because a good God remains sovereign over it.