Jill Eileen Smith
When I look back at history, I see a lot of change. Some change is good and exciting. Some frightening and shocking. And then there is everything in between.
For anyone under a certain age who has not lived through a war or other major disaster that affected them on a personal level, 2020 stripped away any sense of normalcy they may have felt. I include myself in that group. And no matter what the unprecedented disaster, life changes and it will change us, like it or not.
2020 taught me several things both personally and professionally. I will list them here in no particular order.
· I discovered quickly how much I value freedom. To go and do what I needed or wanted to do without restrictions became something I dearly missed.
· I watched so many conflicting reports of what was happening in our country and the world that I realized I couldn’t trust any of them to give me what was true. I severely cut back the amount of news I took in each day.
· I experienced the effects of leaders who overstepped their legal bounds and caused countless people to suffer far more than they would have. Suicide and mental illnesses rates soared, and people lost their livelihoods. I learned there had to be a better way.
· I saw fear spike among friends, neighbors, and strangers throughout our cities and people grew judgmental and suspicious of anyone who didn’t follow the guidelines. People also condemned those who did. Polarization grew greater than it already was.
· I witnessed normally logical people reduced to anger and even rage over policies and ideas. The rise of the “cancel culture” stripped away much of our freedom of speech. Rational conversations with people from differing points of view became nearly impossible.
· I watched the breakdown of a society who could no longer be in community together and do life the way God intended. Confusion became the order of the day, and still is, as the pandemic has not yet left us.
· Mostly, I missed people. While we did have a few family and friends willing to connect with us in person, that group was very small. Zoom cannot replace in person contact, something God created us to have.
· I had plenty of work to do and had always worked from home, so that shouldn’t have changed anything for me. But I found myself struggling to write my next book. I finally got with a friend to work together online. We would set a timer and write during the time we had. That jumpstarted my slump and I finally finished that book.
· I missed the ability to visit my publisher or hold a book signing because most places were closed or people were working from home.
· I used to take breaks to grab lunch or coffee with friends. I finally got to do that a year after COVID hit.
· Mostly, my year felt overwhelming. I did have three books running in one form or another at the same time, so trying to keep up when your only social outlet was to go to the grocery store snatched some of the joy away. Writers need breaks like anyone else. Thankfully, I can say I did get some of them.
I know these lists seem mostly negative, and in truth 2020 held a lot of negativity for most of the people I spoke to. It was a rough year. No denying that. When people we knew and loved passed away or landed in the hospital, we were limited as to who could go to see them. Weddings were canceled or postponed. Even having a baby became a private event. And a year after the first lockdown, weddings, funerals, church gatherings, restaurants, and so much more in our state are still restricted.
But for my husband and I, 2020 did hold some fun times. We were still able to travel, taking the necessary precautions, which helped our outlook a lot. We spent time with my mom and sister and traveled across the county to finally meet our new granddaughter.
My birthday recently passed while we were staying with our son and that youngest granddaughter. My son asked me what I had learned from 2020. It seems that is a popular question to ask.
In spite of the negative things I witnessed during that year, I don’t think 2020 was nearly as bad as what my mom’s generation went through when she was a young woman. She is almost 98 years old and she’s lived through the end of the Depression, her young husband (my dad) fought in WWII, she had his first baby without my dad home while he was somewhere in the South Pacific still fighting. She lived through the Cold War where everyone feared an attack from Cuba, not to mention the many subsequent wars that followed. I remember the Vietnam War when they had the draft and we sat around worrying that my brother-in-law’s number would come up. I was still a kid then, but I remember the fear.
2020 brought with it its own kind of fear, and some of it probably shouldn’t have been. I don’t know. I can’t judge another person’s fear. What it taught me most is that life is not certain. It never has been and never will be. There are plenty of things to scare us in this life, and honestly, I don’t know how I would survive any of it without Jesus. 2020 taught me just how much I need Him.
My husband and I pray more now. I immerse myself in Scripture and I’m trying to focus on God and His love and power and ask Him for the desire and power to do what pleases Him. What I think is mine during this temporary life here is simply a fragile gift. No one knows how long his or her life will last, so we need to enjoy and appreciate what God gives us while we are still here. Jesus has brought me this far. He can take me through to the end.
We may have future years that are as bad or worse than this past one. God alone knows. The only certainty that we can cling to is that He is in control and He loves us. He wants us to come to Him in our time of trouble and without Him we may think we will get through anything, but if we want joy in the midst of misery, we desperately need Jesus. That may sound crazy, but I encourage anyone who is still struggling with the effects of 2020 to search Him out. He is truth and He is Sovereign. Best of all, He loves us. He can make even this new and turn it into something for our good.
Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the biblical fiction series The Wives of King David, Wives of the Patriarchs, and Daughters of the Promised Land, as well as The Heart of a King and Star of Persia: Esther’s Story. She is also the author of the nonfiction books When Life Doesn’t Match Your Dreams and She Walked Before Us. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan.
Learn more at www.jilleileensmith.com