Is it me or did New Year’s only seem a few weeks ago? Time flies by in the midst of trials and hardship, blessings and prosperity alike.
As we embrace the start of a new year and move into the new millennium’s Roaring Twenties, I’ve reflected on last year with a new lens.
Is there any chance COVID-19 spelled J-O-Y? Or that political unrest spelled J-O-Y? Anyone? Yeah, me neither.
Yet as I look back over my last year—and that’s really all I can judge—I see a touch of the Divine. I see joy.
For years I’d been saying, “I’m not going to travel. I’m going to stay home, rest, and write.”
But a conference here, an invitation there, and I’d be on the road. “Next year, I’ll stay home.” I’d promise myself.
But then the invitations would come and it was a rinse and repeat of the same, “Next year,” mantra.
Then COVID arrived and forced me toward my long-postponed goal. When the country shut down to flatten the curve, my spring conference was cancelled. My August and September conferences soon followed. Which in turn cancelled our vacation plans.
Our church closed for two months and my husband, who’s been a pastor for thirty-four years without a sabbatical, had a bit of a rest. I still miss those Sundays we slept in and had church in our living room.
Our kitchen became our favorite cozy breakfast diner where I mastered eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast like a short order cook.
At one point during the shutdown, my husband declared 5 a.m. his new prayer hour. Eventually, I joined him. Then he added 5 p.m. And yes, I joined him. We call it “Praying on the fives” and now it’s built into our day.
One of my best friends, author Susan May Warren, purchased a winter beach house not far from me and because of COVID, she and her husband were able to spend an extended period of time in Florida working from home.
I know 2020 was a year of tragedy, loss, and sadness. Many of us lost family members and friends. Others lost jobs and businesses. But beneath all the rubble, was there any joy?
I wonder how 2020 would’ve gone without COVID. Without the unrest? Would we have continued with our “normal” lives, not noticing our hurting neighbor?
Would we have gone on with our Mach-10 lifestyle, not pausing to spend time with our families, to pray, to learn new things, to perhaps expand our spiritual and emotional horizons even thought our social and geographical boundaries shrunk?
Tough times force us to examine ourselves, our choices, our values, our goals, and the source of our strength.
I’ve lived through seven hurricanes. Most of them Cat 1 and Cat 2 but still, a lot of wind and rain. After a storm, there’s debris to pick up, window boards to take down. Before we purchased a generator, we’d go over a week without power. September in Florida without A/C is no fun.
But what I learned about myself in those times was how easily I adapted. The trial didn’t kill me or crush me. In fact, I rose up to do a bit of “crushing” myself.
Every time I was overwhelmed in 2020 it was because I listened to all the negative talk. I fretted over things I could not control.
But when I put my trust in God, I felt peace and joy.
Joy is a gift and is often formed in us during the most difficult seasons. It is not a result of a life well lived where everything is going according to plan.
Joy is the infusion of God’s power in the midst of trial and chaos.
This year, 2021, is a chance to refocus, reboot (as we used to say in the old computer days) and refresh ourselves with hope.
Fear is real. We can all feel it. But fear can be a cruel master. One way to fight it is with joy.
Perhaps when all said and done, it will be true. We’ll have learned to spell COVID with three simple letters: J-O-Y.
So put on your dancing-with-joy-shoes and kick the dust of last year off your feet and shout JOY!
Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She is a graduate of Ohio State University and now lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.
Her most recent book, To Love A Prince, released in August 2020. Her next release, To Save A King, releases in May 2021.
Find her at www.rachelhauck.com, www.facebook.com/rachelhauck, www.instagram.com/rachelhauck