The thing to combat the rampant 2020 pessimism is reflecting on the goodness of the Lord.
About one year ago, I heard people and saw social media fill with a litany of “Thankfully 2019 is nearly over! That was the worst!” People were confident in a 2020 of their dreams, something that would be better than the difficulties of their current year. While I can applaud the sense of hopefulness, it also rang with clear bitterness toward what had been offered them in the present. As a teacher, I see it year after year as students (and, admittedly, teachers) often anticipate the end of a semester or a school year.
Something better must be coming, we say. The present difficulties must yield to glorious triumphs.
So 2019 died and 2020 was born.
While it is definitively a different sort of year, I have heard many speak with gloom about this year, about the complete and utter awfulness of it all. Some have been more dramatically impacted than others, for sure. Yet, overall, the disdain for the year seems overkill.
Yes, I know about the pandemic. Yes, I remember the election. Yes, yes, all of the difficulties we endured were real.
And yet there is much to find hope in and rejoice over.
At a retreat this last weekend, I was surrounded by people who were praising the goodness of God. And I thought, Some people would think we are crazy saying that God is good right now. But it is true: He is objectively good. If we cannot praise Him unless we are surrounded by perfection, we will never praise Him. If our idea that God is good is based on our current circumstances, then we don’t know Him at all. It is a thin and superficial faith we have if it ebbs and flows in direct proportion to how fortunate we feel.
If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.Daniel 3: 17-18
The liturgy at Mass proclaims the goodness of the Lord and His continual providence for His people. And yet, prominently displayed is a cross, bearing the crucified body of Our Lord. At the very center of our faith we see a God who loves us beyond measure. A love which compels Him to conquer sin through the wood of the cross. In His goodness, He does not retreat from the suffering we experience but rather enters into it. This should in turn cause us to remember the goodness of the Lord while we experience our own suffering.
They walked in the flames, singing to God and blessing the Lord.Daniel 3: 24
In Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are willing to suffer for the truth and to live in accord with the laws of the Lord. Even as the furnace is heated, they remain steadfast. When they are thrown into the fire, they respond with blessing the Lord.
More than simply a story of how God can work miracles, this should remind us of the way that we should live when it feels like we have been thrown into the flames. We are to remain steadfast, to continue to praise the Lord, and the recall the goodness of God even when it seems everything around us clamors the opposite.
Nobody on earth knows what this next year will bring. Considering the variety of things that happen in a given year, it is generally a blessing to not know what lies ahead.
Yet we can be assured of at least one thing: the Lord will be good next year, too.
Regardless what else may change, His Goodness will be unwavering. May we seek to remain rooted in that goodness, grounded in a truth that sustains the universe.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures for ever. Bless Him, all who worship the Lord, the God of gods, sing praise to Him and give thanks to Him, for His mercy endures for ever.Daniel 3:68