December 29, 2020
I can still vividly remember my wife and I dreaming of how 2020 will turn out. We were in a coffee shop reading, dreaming, praying, writing down our faith goals, and inviting God to fill our year with His presence. After praying, we had a great sense of expectation with how this year will turn out.
And boy did this year turn out for all of us!
Now we are nearing the end of the year, almost nine months of braving our way through this pandemic and its social, economic, and political impact on our nation and the world.
It made me look back and reflect on how the year has been. Here are some of the major realizations I have from this year, and I hope that in the same way that God used these to teach, strengthen, and empower me, He will do the same to you.
1. The storms of life may hit us, but they don’t have to devastate us.
This one is no longer a surprise for us. Storms come in all forms—from strong rains to deep pains; from volcano eruptions to pandemic disruptions; from simple mistakes to major heartbreaks. Some were hit harder than others, but none were exempt. All of us were hit.
Is it really possible to be hit but not be destroyed by the storms of life?
Pondering on this made me remember the parable of Jesus found in Matthew 7:24–27.
There were two houses that were hit by the same storm, but one was devastated and the other stood strong. The difference was where they were built on. One was built on sand, shifting and easily washed away. While the other was built on the rock—strong, solid, and enduring under any hostile condition.
This made me evaluate my life: Where is my life built on? Is it founded on something that easily shifts and changes? On things or people that come and go? Or is my life built on God and His word—so strong, solid, and unchanging that not even the strongest storm can destroy?
When the storms come in our lives, may this be our prayer: “Lord, when storms hit, remind me that the safest place to be is in Your presence. You are my refuge, and I trust in You for You are He whose mere word stills storms.”
2. Regardless of any season, relationships are always worth fighting for.
I came across this unusual tree that was already able to adapt to the storms that hit it: the Tabonuco Tree. This tree intertwined its roots with other Tabonuco trees around it to form a sturdier root system and share its nutrients with each other. In the same way, this is how our lives ought to look like: growing stronger in life together with others.
I am thankful for the community that I am a part of. I think of my wife who would always encourage me and remind me of who I am in Christ. I think of my spiritual leaders who would commend and correct me when necessary. I think of my church friends who are with me through and through.
Remember: Relationships are not perfect and sometimes messy, but they are worth fighting for.
If you’re reading this and you’re finding it hard to think of names, it’s not yet too late. There are people who are willing to know you and walk with you, however ugly or messy things go. You can start by sending us a message here.
3. Light shines the brightest in the darkness.
A few years back, a friend of mine told me, “Use a flashlight in a sunny area and people would start staring at you. Why? Because extra light is unnecessary in a well-lit area. But use it in a dark place and you’ll see the vast difference. Light shines the most in darkness.”
With what’s happening now, I can’t help but agree. In the seeming deluge of darkness enveloping us—bad news left and right, economic recession, anxieties, families falling apart—there is a longing for the light to shine and drive away the darkness.
Now, more than ever, is the greatest need for the gospel of Jesus Christ—the gospel that brings light into darkness and life to death—to be proclaimed and demonstrated.
Always remember that God has put inside of you a great light that has the capacity to trump the darkness around you.
4. Prayer is our first response, not our last resort.
This year reminded me how utterly limited, vulnerable, and not in control I am. And more often than not, our immediate response to these situations is not prayer. Prayer usually comes last, but it shouldn’t!
I’ve had moments of listening to the news and then feeling paralyzed and incapable. Yet it is in these moments that God reminded me of the greater reality that I may be limited, but He’s not. And He reminded me that in prayer, I have access to His unlimited power, wisdom, and heavenly resources.
More than having my prayers getting answered, my time is well spent in knowing Him, appealing to His character, and crying out to His love, goodness, mercy and grace.
5. Life’s disruptions can actually be God’s invitations.
Just this October, we planned to celebrate our son Judah’s first birthday together with our immediate family and closest friends. We already bought the colored plates, party hats, and balloon garlands, but lo and behold, a few days before his birthday, my wife, Liane. went down with a bad fever.
On top of our cancelled plans, our family had to spend Judah’s first birthday in quarantine—with us singing happy birthday and sharing a meal over Zoom because she had to be isolated from me and Judah for a few days.
It was very disappointing, but from a bigger perspective, could it be that this year’s disruptions are actually God’s invitations? Would you agree that when we’re too busy, listening to God doesn’t come easy?
May we become more discerning of His ways even if it looks like a disruption.
6. I will always have a reason to be grateful.
We may not always feel grateful but it doesn’t change the fact that we still have something to be grateful for. What we’ve been through makes it difficult for us to look for reasons to be grateful, which is why we need to persevere.
The attitude to show gratitude in any given situation is hard work but it is also good work. That is, searching for a reason to be grateful does more good to our hearts than not doing it at all.
What are the things that you are grateful for in the past year?
7. I will always have a reason to be hopeful.
If hope was an actual commodity, there would be a high demand for it. The question would be: Where would people get their supply from? Our sense of hope took a hit from all that we’ve been through and it showed us where the source of our hope is.
For some people, what they saw comforted them, while the others became less hopeful.
In whatever circumstance, my relationship with the Giver and Sustainer of life—my Heavenly Father—is the most important. His definition and opinion of me trumps even the gale of circumstances surrounding me.
This year is about to end but God’s love and power hold all things together—and such is my hope for next year until forevermore.