New calendar years are salient moments to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. Be curious, but kind in your reflections, and see how God was working even in the midst of challenges and difficulties. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
As I reflect on 2020, my mind replays images of 2016 watching the slow, progressive path of Hurricane Matthew as it meandered up from its naming east of the Lesser Antilles on Sept. 28, through the Caribbean, to its land impact along the south coast on Oct. 8. Someone accurately joked that waiting on a hurricane is like being stalked by a tortoise.
The unsettling nature of the events of 2020 are eerily reminiscent of my experience with Hurricane Matthew. Hurricane COVID-19 was named early in the year near Wuhan, China. It devastated the people in its conception but was not satisfied to remain a localized disturbance. It boarded planes and ships and trains, and crossed every mountain and ocean as it spread, well, like a virus does throughout the world.
Soon it was no longer a regional outbreak, but an historic global pandemic that decimated individual lives, families, cities and entire countries. We watched as the tortoise methodically and intentionally stalked our thoughts, our bodies, our fears, and our assurances.
Hurricanes are destructive. But we can see beauty in the aftermath. This past year has been unsettling and trying and wearisome. God’s invisible hand is at work even in the chaos of the storm. We have a new clarity, seeing God at work in our lives and our broader culture and community. Things have been exposed which lend to opportunity for healing and growth and restoration.
The Lord goes on to say, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore [you]…” (Jeremiah 29:12–14). You can go to Him with your fears and anxieties and hurts and anger and desires and dreams. He is very near and always available to those who seek Him with their whole hearts.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, I witnessed God at work in my life and in the lives of my friends and neighbors. I’m not sure when, but I am confident that one day we will see how God used the storms of 2020 for His glory and our good. This confidence in God’s goodness lends itself to a peace that allows us to flourish without anxiety and fear. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but as my mom used to tell me when I was a child, “Billy, God is already in tomorrow.”
Knowing that the God who brings beauty out of storms is in charge brings me a peace that passes all understanding and guards my heart. My prayer is that you find that same peace in Him.
Rev. Bill McCutchen is lead pastor of Hilton Head Presbyterian Church. firstname.lastname@example.org or hiltonheadpca.com