Faith That Conquers: 2020 Was One for the History Books

by Kelly Mescher Collins | December 22, 2020

Kelly Mescher Collins

Before ringing in the new year at midnight on Dec. 31 and ushering in 2021, I expect to see a lot of TV personalities and social media posts proclaiming, “Good riddance 2020!” and #WorstYearEver.

When the ball drops and the clock strikes 12, we may have well entered the most anticipated year ever – mainly because it’s not 2020 anymore.

But the reality is that even though we’ll have left 2020 in the dust, much will remain the same. We’ll still be wearing masks, social distancing, and mostly working and learning from home – at least for the first few months of 2021.

We’ll still want to protect vulnerable friends and family by limiting our exposure, for fear we may unknowingly pass along COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations will likely not change anytime soon. And it will take some time for vaccinations to be distributed – though it definitely gives us great hope.

And despite all its ugly glory, there’s a silver lining to 2020. It changed you.

It made you stronger. It increased your patience (whether you liked it and know it or not.) I hope it gave you more compassion. And it gave you ample opportunities to reflect.

A devotional passage jumped out at me on Facebook shortly after deciding on this column’s subject matter. Running across it seemed providential. It’s title? Perfect through sufferings.

“Steel is the product of iron plus fire. Soil is rock plus heat and the crushing of glaciers. Linen is flax plus the water that cleans it, the comb that separates it, the flail that pounds it, and the shuttle that weaves it. In the same way, the development of human character requires a plus attached to it, for great character is made not through luxurious living but through suffering. And the world does not forget people of great character…”

“Suffering is a wonderful fertilizer for character,” the passage continues. “The great objective of this life is character, for it is the only thing we can carry with us into eternity. And gaining as much of the highest character as possible is the purpose of our trials.”

Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote this about memorable prisoners in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last human freedom – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Suffering is an “ineradicable” part of life, Frankl says.  

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all of the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life,” Frankl wrote. 

I’m not pretending 2020 wasn’t hard. It was. It was trying, sorrowful, isolating and more. We all had our trials – and I’m no exception.

But in this year of troubles, I turn time and again to my favorite Scripture passage, hoping each time that I surrender ever more.

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in prayer, petition, and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”