You could describe 2020 in lots of ways; disastrous, tragic, or calamitous, maybe shocking, surprising or unexpected. It’s certainly been unusual, never mind historic and of course, that word that is thrown about all too often, unprecedented.
If I was summing up the past year, I might say that 2020 has been a year of discomfort. Why might I say that?
All of the things that might give one comfort - certainty (or at least the illusion of it), support of family and friends, routine, space to be an extrovert or an introvert (rather than enforced isolation or company), active involvement in a church family - have been radically altered.
‘WAIT!’ I hear you say. Haven’t we ditched the morning commute? Haven’t we been exchanging our shirts and ties for ‘working from home’ alternatives like tracksuits and pyjamas? (some retailers announcing a 700% increase in sales of loungewear - including from me!) Haven’t we been able to avoid awkward small talk, or parties you don’t want to be at, or family gatherings with distant relations? In many ways, some of you may say, this has been a year of great comfort. For many, the legitimate response to the ‘Stay at Home’ guidance was to spend more time on their sofas! It’s been a ‘comfortable’ time!
Of course, I’m not talking about physical comfort. And it’s just as well. After all, for every family who have been able to work from home and stay safe, there’s another who have had no choice but to head out to work, or for whom the threat of financial ruin has made this a most dreadful year. No, I’m not talking about physical discomfort. Rather, I’m referring to another kind. Maybe an emotional kind of discomfort, perhaps even a spiritual kind of discomfort!
I recently read Jesus' words to his disciples in Matthew 14 and it knocked me for six. The disciples are in distress because of the storm and they see Jesus walking towards them on the water. Matthew tells us that Jesus was quick to comfort them (v27, MSG). Wow! How amazing that Jesus was quick to comfort them.
Last week my 6-year-old son got upset - a brief summary of which would include telling you that I may have been the cause of his tears! I pulled him in tight and gave him all the comfort I could muster. That’s what any good parent would do. There’s no delay. I didn’t finish the dishes before I hugged him tight and dried his tears. Thankfully, God is a much better Father than I am, and since Jesus is the visible image of an invisible God and in Him we glimpse the heart of the Father - we can count on the fact that God is a God who is quick to comfort - that’s good news!
Whatever your year has gone like, if you’re anything like me, then you feel a deep need for the comfort of Jesus.
Might this help us as we step over the starting line of another new year? Notice what happens next in v27: ‘Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid’
It seems like the kind of comfort Jesus brings might just lead us into courage. Not the fluffy, positive thinking kind of courage, nor the macho, hard man, indestructible kind of courage. Real courage. It’s real because Jesus gives it - Courage, it’s me. I love this! We can have courage because of the nearness of Jesus.
This last year has been a rollercoaster. Next year has every indication that it might be just as much of a ride, even with some obvious vaccine-related reasons to tend towards hopefulness.
However, you might describe your 2020, we can agree that it’s changed everything. According to some fashion folk, this work-from-home year has permanently changed our sense of dress - we’re more physically comfortable and some might say there’s no going back. I’m more interested in letting Jesus take care of whatever Spiritual Discomfort the year ahead holds. If it’s true that we can have courage because of the nearness of Jesus, then I think that’s where I want to be found in 2021; near to Jesus... even if I have to go back to wearing proper clothes!
Chris Thompson lives in Waringstown and works for Youth for Christ Northern Ireland. He is married with two kids and has recently added to his family in the form of a cat. The cat is good company for working from home, but, it turns out, not always welcome in work video calls! Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.