What kind of year did you have?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22-23

I wonder how you’re doing. I feel relieved and thankful that 2020 has gone and hopeful that 2021 is here with vaccines being given and the hope of life returning to some sort of normal... eventually!

I’ve seen 2020 described by all sorts of words – perhaps, it’s just been a disruption or an unpleasantness… your job or place in your family or your community is secure and the virus has happened to other people. It’s maybe been an opportunity where your business has flourished, multiplied even. Maybe it’s been exhausting – the longer hours that you’ve put in or the hours, days, weeks or even months of loneliness have taken their toll. Perhaps, it’s been a disaster – you’ve fought to keep hold of your livelihood and that of others but you’ve just not been able to hold on long enough. Perhaps, you’ve been on the front-line facing the awful and worst impact of the virus face to face, and felt helpless to do anything, seeing lives fade in front of your very eyes. Perhaps, you’ve lost a loved one.

This has been a difficult year for most of us at one level or another but, for some, it has been torrid and our deepest sympathies go to you. Even if you’ve not seen the worst effects of the virus, you may have struggled mentally and that can be just as devastating.

I’ve had all sorts of questions running through my head - a question that I’ve constantly asked myself this last year is “how do I/we get through this?”. I keep reminding myself that previous generations and many in other parts of the world have suffered more – think of living through a war – and, yet, they seem to have got through it. Has that simply been a wartime spirit or something else?

You’ll have heard phrases like “the darkest hour is always the one before dawn” and “your darkest hour is only 60 minutes long” which point to the fact that our difficulties are temporary and will end. Another one I’ve heard is “Sometimes, all you can do is get your head down, weather the storm and pray” and sayings like “Keep on keeping on” encourage us to depend on God and keep going. And, of course, there’s “There by the grace of God go I” which, perhaps, points to God’s purpose and plans.

I don’t have THE answer but I’ve been contemplating the fruit of the spirit and concluded that if you have these characteristics -

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

then you would be well equipped to deal with most challenges and difficulties. These aren’t things that we can easily work up ourselves… I guess that’s why they’re the fruit of the spirit, a product of something else happening beyond our ability. I don’t know about you but I find that liberating, reassuring, encouraging. Our role is simply to stick close to God (I know, easier said than done at times).

One of our most popular cards last year had this verse - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13.

Let’s make this a prayer for one another this year.

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