2020: How Disappointing!
by Janel Johnson - December 28, 2020
We’d like to forget all the disappointments of 2020. But what have we learned, and what can we do going forward?
We would probably agree that 2020 will go down as a year we’d like to forget. No one has escaped the effects of the pandemic.
From March 13 to the present, our Church has faced challenges like never before. Services were canceled. Hanging with friends was out.
News worsened in the months that followed when the Church administration announced that our U.S. preteen and teen camps would be canceled for the summer. Canceled! How could this be happening? The interminable summer passed, and then even keeping the Feast of Tabernacles presented challenges, especially internationally.
At no time could we look to our communities for help. Restaurants were closed, so we couldn’t go out. School was virtual. Extracurricular activities were canceled. Clubs, proms, graduations—everything got canceled. There was absolutely nowhere to turn for escape. We were immobilized. Shot with the COVID-19 stun gun.
Why was God letting all of this happen? Church members were praying, but instead of things getting better, winter camp was officially canceled and our beloved Winter Family Weekend too. No sports. No pizza. No dances. No nothin’.
That’s about as much bad news as a teenager can take in a year. Life feels over! How can all of this be happening?
With all of these disappointments, how do you even go forward into 2021?
Take small steps
Pause. Think. You’ve been through 10 months of this. Determine now to move forward and engage. One. Step. At. A. Time.
Resist the drama of the “if onlys” and of “fixing” the whole thing.
Don’t let yourself react emotionally
While emotions are wonderful, God-given attributes that make each of us a different package, each package requires handling with care. Reactionary emotional responses can contort your face, make your footsteps heavy, lead you to speak hurtful and uncaring words, and “make you” toss your phone or kick the cat out of exasperation.
Determine to stop these outbursts of wrath (Colossians 3:8) before they happen. Sure, venting may make you feel better momentarily, but it leaves everyone around you in a wake of wounds. If it’s too late and you’ve already added tension with your emotional knee-jerk reactions, apologize! Learn from it and begin exercising the art of self-control so it happens less frequently. If not now, when?
Take a deep breath or two . . . or more
Breathe deeply, like you’re blowing a feather across a table. This helps to calm your nervous system and unclutters the thought pileup in your brain so you can begin to deal with them one by one. Remember? Small steps.
Talk with a trusted adult
You are not alone in this! We adults are going through this with you, and we agree with you that it’s hard. While we’ve been through our fair share of life’s disappointments, this pandemic is new to us too. It’s true that we all react differently to challenges.
Talk frequently with your parents and grandparents. Talk honestly and openly with them about how to get past your overwhelmed, stressed and anxious feelings. Imitate these life warriors and learn how to effect positive responses in your own life.
Seek out those from among your congregation who you perceive have handled life’s challenges well. For example, how about the challenges presented to Orange Beach Festival coordinator Phil Sandilands? Maybe you were there for the Feast. What if he had never before faced a life adversity? Could he have led that many people that confidently through that literal storm if he hadn’t successfully practiced how to face disappointments along the way? Why not send Mr. Sandilands an email or Facebook message and ask him how he did it?
Make yourself part of the solution, not part of the problem
When you’re asked to do something that does not violate God’s law, do it. Use the above suggestions about reacting emotionally as your personal checklist.
Look up the words resilience and flexibility and determine how to incorporate personal changes instead of allowing yourself to shower in self-pity. If not you, who?
Take a walk
It is proven that walking improves one’s mood. Walk the family dog through the neighborhood.
If you don’t have a “Fido,” walk anyway. Use the time to practice deep breathing and deep thinking. (Resist the urge to touch your phone on your walks unless it’s to capture an award-winning photograph.)
Read a book
Yes, a book. Not to be confused with “doom scrolling”—that baited trap that lures you with doom and gloom, article after article after article. Train yourself to read a story that develops characters who grow even in the midst of life’s disappointments and hardships.
Try Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, or Refugee by Alan Gratz. Both authors write specifically to a young adult audience in the historical fiction genre.
Stretch yourself and read a biography or autobiography. Try Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl for perspective on hardship. Determine to learn from this type of reading.
Keep in mind that we know (only in part) what is yet to come. The time before Christ’s imminent return is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and will be unlike anything we’ve ever been through. Set a course to discern between “the sky is falling” and serious hardship. Prepare yourself.
Learn something new
Now, of all times, is likely the most unencumbered time of your life! Take the time to develop an interest in a hobby like cooking, painting, sketching, calligraphy or sculpture or to practice and become proficient on a musical instrument.
Become an interesting person by being interested.
Write things down. Resist the urge to splurge via social media. Instead, share your private thoughts with yourself. In reading them the next day, you may see them more clearly and opt to toss them in the trash. It’s a growth process, and you’re growing. So decide to grow godly.
If necessary, remind yourself to find something to be grateful for each day. Write it down. Grow your list of things for which you are thankful each day.
Share your list with and among your family and your friends. Let gratitude become contagious.
Listen to a COGWA teen podcast
Spend 10- to 15-minute increments of your time listening to wisdom, instruction and inspiration prepared, recorded and served up just for you. This past 10-month stretch has featured numerous episodes of the COGWA Teens podcast. (In fact, there have been 108 “Something to Think About” episodes and an additional 18 episodes of “Girl Talk” since the launch in 2018.)
Topics included shortcuts to wisdom (March 13), the danger of flattery (April 11), anger management (April 18; July 10), how to respond to what’s happening around you (May 2), the power of your words (June 8), advice from a billionaire (July 3), dealing with adversity (Aug. 9), teens of courage (Aug. 21), how to be a conversationalist (Sept. 18), do the right thing anyway (Oct. 16), how to make haste slowly (Nov. 13), and are good intentions good enough? (Dec. 18).
Be sure to include Ken Giese’s “Time Well Spent” from Oct. 23 and follow his suggestion to watch The Social Dilemma with your parents. Resist that insistent comeback: “Not me! I’ve got this social media thing under control.” God’s still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) may be whispering, “No, you don’t.”
Determine to develop your masculinity or femininity
Gentlemen: Read Isaac Khalil’s Life, Hope & Truth blog post on biblical masculinity and determine to set your feet on a path to “take responsibility”; “develop strength, bravery and courage”; “develop personal integrity”; “develop skills”; and “practice true repentance.”
Open your Bible to the first chapter of Proverbs and ask God to help you understand them. Learn what it means to be kind (Proverbs 19:22). What a confident, godly man you will become!
Ladies: Listen to Pam Myers’ excellent “Girl Talk” series that discuss modesty, the meaning of femininity, the work ethic and education, proper speech, good manners, how to honor older people, the art of listening, what it means to become a lady and the always popular topic of guy/girl relationships.
This treasure trove of episodes for teen girls begins on Nov. 15, 2019, and ends Aug. 9, 2020. Devote serious time to these goals and you will glow with godliness.
Through it all, talk to God
Acknowledge that His perspective is different from yours (Isaiah 55:8). Remember that Solomon asked for understanding, wisdom and discernment while, according to Jewish tradition, he was probably yet in his teens. This may be indicated by 1 Kings 3:7, 9.
Admit that you probably don’t have the answers that you thought you had (Proverbs 3:5-6; 21:2, 11). Admit to God that you are serious about learning how to deal with disappointment, and humbly ask Him to help you understand Proverbs 20:11.
Life is complex. Determine now not to add to its complexity with the emotionally reactive, inherent drama we know is our human nature’s default drive.
How will we ever get through the coming year?
Rise up and take it one step at a time.
Be of good courage (Joshua 1:9).
Forward is the only way to go.