by Katie Julius

Whew! We made it to 2021! Doesn’t feel much different, though, does it?

I remember as a child when it was a few days before a milestone birthday. Everyone who had seen me was making a big deal about becoming a teenager. There was much anticipation about what life would be like once I turned 13. My mom cautioned me that while the calendar now said I was a teen, I would likely actually feel no different than I had the day before.

Many of us have been expectantly awaiting the end of 2020. What a horrible year! The next one has to be better! If we can just make it through the end of December. What I’m sure many of you have found during the first few days of this new year is that it really doesn’t feel any different. Nothing much has changed other than the calendar page on the wall (if you’re “old school” like that). Covid is still rampant. Mandates, orders, and restrictions to attempt to curb the virus are still in full effect (with no real end in sight yet). The field of politics is still a mess. And God is still on His throne.

The quite chaotic year that never seemed to end is all a blur when you look back. It was full of hardships, conflict, and discouragement (even despair for some). Between Covid, politics, racial tensions, riots, protests, maskers vs. non-maskers, unemployment, and more, 2020 was undeniably difficult for everyone – and even more so for others. Maybe your family escaped 2020 mostly unscathed–everyone you know is healthy, you kept your jobs, school shutdowns didn’t really impact you because you were already homeschooling. Maybe 2020 was one of the hardest times of your life–you lost someone you knew, battled health issues, were furloughed or laid off wondering how you were going to feed your family and pay your bills.

Whatever 2020 looked like for you, do you always want to remember that it was horrible? Sure, all of us had challenges thrown our way, but I’m sure most of us can also point to some uplifting or positive moments.

A fellow homeschool mom had a very difficult time when her husband was laid off due to the shutdowns, as he was the sole provider for their family. She shared on Facebook how humbling it had been to go from the life they had to sitting in a line at the local food bank to feed her family. She shared this not seeking anything from others, but to draw attention to the fact that many families like hers–our neighbors and friends–may be in the same situation, struggling and suffering alone and in silence.

Within a few days, she had an outpouring of love from some of the most unexpected places. Childhood friends, former students, relatives, and church family (some of whom have their own financial struggles) rallied around this family to provide for them this holiday season. Someone showed up at their door with boxes of food, Christmas gifts, gift cards, and more. It was beautiful to read her words of heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for how those who loved and cared for their family in such a tangible way. God had used one of the most difficult circumstances to not only bless this family, but also to call His people to action. God used this situation for His own good and for His glory.

Maybe you don’t have it “as bad” as the family I shared about, but 2020 WAS hard. Maybe your struggles are with family relationships now that you’re spending more time together in a confined space. Your spouse is working from home or your kids (and you) don’t have the same social outlets you’re used to having. Maybe you struggled with adjusting to homeschooling for the first time, feeling lost and scared. You were insecure about whether or not you were going to “mess up.” Life might be crummy right now. But if there’s anything to take from this year, it’s that God uses the circumstances that we might see as “the worst” for His purposes.

Over the holiday break, my daughter worked on her Women of Faith badge for American Heritage Girls. The badge focuses on various women from the Bible and how God used each of them for His purposes and as part of His story. As I was reading through each of the women’s stories in preparation to lead her through the badge, I came to the realization that there were some pretty awful things that happened in the Bible–adultery, prostitution, murder, and deception, just to name a few! One group of women who particularly caught my attention were those who are mentioned in the lineage of Christ. With the exception of Ruth, the other three aren’t exactly what we would consider godly role models (Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba). However, God specifically mentions each of them when detailing the genealogy of the Savior of the world. God used each of them to prepare the way for Jesus, His Son. Even as I write this, I’m still blown away by it.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, no matter how challenging this year, 2020, has been for you, God can and will use it for His good if you let Him.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28