The beginning of a new year is one of my favorite times of the year (although, I’ll admit I have several!). The new year is this clean slate, this sense that we can start anew and fresh. Every January 1st, I feel this hopeful anticipation of what the new year might bring. I usually sit down and create a list of goals and hopes for the coming year, as well as look back at what I have accomplished and experienced in the past year.

I’m sure when we all started this year, we had high hopes for what 2020 would bring. I know looking back on my list of goals for the year, more than half of them weren’t even possible because of the pandemic. It would be so easy to look back over the year and write it off as one big loss and a waste of a year–so many missed opportunities to be with friends and loved ones, so many missed events, so many unrealized hopes and expectations.

But as I look back upon this past year, what stands out to me isn’t the things I missed out on (which like you, was plenty), but rather the good things that I hadn’t expected. Just like the pandemic, these things weren’t even on my radar.

For me, 2020 was a year of seeing God work impossible dreams and make them reality. God brought to life a long-time dream of starting an area-wide women’s conference that could refresh and revive women as they heard from Godly speakers who brought God’s word. This became a reality just a short three weeks before the pandemic hit. We had originally wanted to do the conference in the spring but God, in His infinite wisdom, prompted us to hold it in February.

Another thing I didn’t see coming in 2020 was the miracle of a new house! My husband and I have wanted to buy our own home for a very long time but because of circumstances, we have been unable to for most of our marriage. Our family (and ministries) have grown and we needed a bigger space but we couldn’t see a way to make that happen. Out of the blue, our landlord decided that she wanted to sell the house we were living in and we were thrown into a situation where we had to find somewhere to live. God turned what started as a stressful situation into one of the best blessings we have ever received—making it possible for us to purchase a new home that fits us perfectly.

These are just a couple of the many ways God has brought about good in the midst of a difficult year in my life, but I have heard story after story about the ways God has worked and brought about good things in the lives of others.

This was the year that one of my best friends finally found and married the love of her life after twenty years of waiting. This was the year that our church was able to transform our worship center into a food pantry for those in need during the pandemic and become the hands and feet of Jesus, being good news to those in our community. This is the year that my sister-in-law found out she was pregnant after years of trying and fighting infertility. This is the year that my daughter’s friend decided to give her life to Jesus. This is the year that we connected with family and friends, so much more than in the past because the crisis brought us together and helped us see what was truly important.

This year tried so hard to force us into despair, but God gave us the beauty of His hope instead. When we choose to see what’s possible with God, we realize that the goodness of God has been there all along. He has never left our side and will continue to work for our good, no matter what circumstances we face in this life.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Romans 8:28 (NLT)

This year definitely tested our faith and our perseverance, but if we look back I know we can see God’s fingerprints all over this year and in each of our lives. The trials we faced have proven only to strengthen our faith and to make us stronger in the Lord.

For so many people, this year brought not merely disappointment and changed plans, but crushing heartache and loss. If your wounds are still fresh, it may take you a while to see God’s goodness and that’s okay. Right now, know that God is sitting with you in your grief, holding you near and helping you to stand, even if in your sorrow He seems far away. God’s goodness may look like a friend or family member bringing you a meal or flowers or a text asking how you are doing. As God has done so much of this year, He will continue to work through the people around you to sustain you and bring you comfort and hope. It may not be tomorrow, but there will come a point when you will be able to look back and see His tender hand of mercy carrying you through your darkest moments.

No matter what you have faced in 2020, as you look back at this past year and look ahead to the next, take some time to look for the good–there is always goodness to be found. Try and see how God has been at work bringing about good things because “every good gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 (NIV)

As surely as God was present and active in 2020, He goes before us now into the New Year, working powerfully on our behalf, shaping us each day to be more like Him so we can be a light to the world around us. Keep a lookout…there is goodness to be found.

Happy New Year!