2020 was quite a year. Hard and harrowing in many ways. A pandemic. An economic collapse. A summer of killings and protests. A contentious Presidential election. And to start the New Year, a mob assault on the Capitol and legislators. Tumultuous times.
One day I was feeling—all at once—angry and tired and frustrated and sad and discouraged. Then, I sensed ‘that voice.’ Not audible; but keen. I have learned to listen to that voice. “Are you studying history as much as you’re watching TV and FaceBook?” the voice asked. Um, no. I paused to mull. By ‘history’ the voice inferred Biblical as well as American. I turned off the TV and started digging into history. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “What has been, will be again. What has been done, will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”
The Scriptures are chock full of stories of siege, conquest, tyranny, unrest, uprisings, rebellion. American history is no different. Our nation’s very birth, both virtuous and flawed, was defined by these things. Very tumultuous times. Our ancestors have endured times of hardship. The Civil War—and the terrible times leading up to it—seethed with violence, vulgarity, injustice, yellow journalism, outcry, combat. Finally, led by the Christ-centered abolitionists and a president leaning heavily on God, the Union was preserved. Not a perfect Union, but one that was/is resilient, faithful and hopeful.
Reconstruction and Jim Crow. The Panic of 1893. World War I. The 1918 Flu Pandemic. The Great Depression. The Dust Bowl. World War II. The Korean War. The Civil Rights Movement. The Cold War. JFK’s assassination. The Watts Riots. And then there was 1968. Regarded by many as the worst year in American history, with the Vietnam War raging, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and the Chicago Convention Riots. Followed by Watergate. The Iran Hostage Crisis. Black Friday. The Iraq War. 9/11. The Great Recession. And then 2020.
The Ecclesiastes verse—’Nothing new under the sun’—started making sense. But instead of hearing it as a sad surrender to nihilism, I started to see the hope. Hard times, like sin and evil, will always be with us. But hard times don’t have to define us, depress us, crush us. Because,as history tells us, the Lord is in our midst. Guiding. Inspiring. Comforting. Healing. Do we believe history? Or head back to the TV/social-media and our strident differences.