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I can honestly say I’ve never prayed harder, dug scripturally deeper or attempted a bolder stand on faith than I did in the contrariness of this past year. In 2020, righteousness was uphill work all the way. Joy required constant vigilance; a determined effort to keep mind and spirit in the positive zone. It was a year when all normal activities suffered curtailing in one form or another; a vivid, modern depiction of the ancient Sabbatical imposed upon the land once every seven years (Leviticus 25:1-7). It was a year of restraint.

Just so we’re clear, restraint actually means:

Deprivation or restriction of personal liberty or freedom of movement.

A measure or condition that keeps something under control or within limits.

Unemotional, dispassionate, or moderate behavior; self-control.

That describes it pretty well, don’t you think? At first, imposed governmental lock-downs went smoothly because unknown pandemic was enough to slam on the brakes. As we slowly crept out of our caves again, self-imposed restrictions were the next hurdle. How much were you willing to risk? Who in your bubble did you have to take into consideration? How much personal liberty would you forfeit for the collective good? These margins became the fodder for much soul-searching and reflective conversation. After fluctuating throughout the year, stringent restrictions on Christmas festivities became the real acid test. Emotions from outrage to begrudging compliance, to sadness, and finally, quiet acceptance were in evidence.

The take-away from this experience has been gross exposure of the deepest, most sublimated attitudes of our hearts. Individually and collectively, primordial fears and latent traumas boiled to the surface. The most perverse, contrary, unmalleable, self-willed, down-right wicked parts of our character stood up and shook their fists at the heavens. Rebellion against authority was set under glaring magnification. Iniquitous, inglorious carnal colors could not be concealed. The things we truly believe, cherish and esteem became unmistakably amplified.

Psalm 32 suddenly became an interesting contemporary word.

For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

You are my hiding place; You shalt preserve me from trouble; You shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide you with mine eye.

Be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Psalm 32:6-9

Despite the tribulation, authentic faith, tried and true, had a shining moment. Those who believed had to let go of industrious works and full scheduals to actually sit at His feet. We were vulnerable. We started listening. We got purged. We got purified. We got dry-docked. We actually had to seek the Holy Spirit daily. This wilderness required heart-felt, not pro-forma worship. The truth is, the Church was long overdue for a major overhaul, and we got it.

The prophetic word for 2020 was Vision. In retrospect, a more accurate word might be “Hindsight is 2020” . In other words, looking back on the year will provide more revelation than we experienced going through it! I recently stumbled across a verse that redeemed the entire blind wandering of 2020.

Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

That phrase “the year of drought”, is actually, in Hebrew, “the year of restraint” and it carries its own specific promise! If you have stayed close to the Lord, 2020 cannot possibly be a waste…you will not be barren, idle, unfruitful or bereft (2 Peter 1:3-8). Our roots went deeper into patience, forbearance, self-discipline, obedience and moderation. The Lord will yet redeem the time! Open your eyes to your fruitful reward. Press in.

As the clock turns over, we’re desperate for the sound of happiness, prosperity, new opportunities or hopes fulfilled. We want change, and we want it now, but “patience must have her perfect work”, so wait for even the pandemic to be fulfilled. Even though it’s now 2021, the wise know the season is not quite over. However restraint may have curtailed your movements, it did not stop your progress.

You have beset me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Psalm 139:5-6

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