Word of the Year

You know how various organizations and even different dictionaries will release their “word of the year”? Perhaps it’s the trendiest word or the most prominently used word or the one that seems to just sum everything up for that year.

Merriam Webster declared their word of the year to be pandemic. Shocker, I know. Dictionary.com also named it their word of the year, even though the word people voted for the most on their website as unprecedented. Again, not terribly surprising. Other suggestions were pandemonium, apocalyptic, and dumpster fire (which is technically two words, but why not?)

Turns out this year was so unprecedented because of the pandemic, that Oxford Dictionary couldn’t settle on one word, but issued a multi-page report with many words and observations.

My favorite is the Dutch word of the year: anderhalvemetersamenleving which is a new word meaning “1.5 meter society.”  Turns out that’s the distance (about 5 feet) they’re being told to distance from each other in the Netherlands.

So, what’s your word for this year?

I know, I know, lots of jokes could be inserted here. But what word sums up best what you think of this past year and its unexpected storms? Of course, that’ll be for you to determine but here’s the thought that’s been running through my head recently—and I’m not sure what to do with it:  just because the calendar year says we’re finished with 2020 doesn’t mean we’re out of this storm yet.

I know, I know, Happy New Year from Reverend McGrumpypants.

Wait. There’s a point to this that can help us (I think).

I’m right there with you on declaring this year as “over.” Maybe that’s the word that came to mind:  Over. Finished. Done. As in, “put a fork in it, this year is done.” And of course, that’s true, but I want us to make sure we don’t assume a turn of the page means it all goes away. The challenges and losses that came rushing in, much less the struggles and pains that have little to do with the coronavirus are still waiting for us this January.

Yes, we are seeing glimmers of good news that some of this will begin to turnaround in the coming months. For this we keep praying. But in most cases—like those issues of division and strife that a virus did not cause, but only exposed—the healing we long for will take longer than we want. But perhaps not as long as we fear.

Let’s say that again: the healing you long for may take longer than you want, but not as long as you fear.

That means we need to face the coming days and months with our eyes wide open to what lies ahead. This is not the time to be shocked by setbacks or timelines that aren’t what we’d like them to be. Nor is it the time to be thrown by the desperate need this world still has for God.

In other words, let’s expect some days this year that will feel an awful lot like they belong in 2020. The healing, in some instances, will take longer than we want. But this doesn’t mean we give in or give up. Why? Because God is still up to something.

You’ve seen Him at work this past year, haven’t you? And even now, you see Him moving into the chaos or the hurt. There are these unexpected moments of joy, peace, relief or even gratitude that break through like a shaft of light slicing through the clouds.

Most of us noticed such things in 2020. It’s part of what got us through the darker days. Perhaps we learned to trust God a bit differently, to look for His hand moving through the circumstances, to sense His presence in the middle of whatever we faced that day. It could be we just learned to pray differently.

And with that, something deep in us changed.

Is this not what Paul described in Romans 5 when he wrote about how suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. . . ?

So, as I face this next year knowing that some days will feel like last year, I’m vowing to take with me some of the lessons from last year. Things I’ve learned about God, about me, about God and me. I am trusting that He is still at work. That He’s not finished with me or this world He loves.

On my worst, most cynical and very grumpy days, I’ll be tempted to give into the fear that “THIS (feel free to fill in the blank here from your own worst day) will never change.” But I’m praying for resolve. Now, not just then but now.

I’m asking God to help me make sure whatever I learned this past year not be wasted or forgotten so quickly.

I’m going to make sure I’m leaning into His word.

I’m surrounding myself with a community of faith that will speak truth and encouragement to me.

I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to move in closer than close.

These things I pray and long for will not always happen on my timetable, but that doesn’t mean God is no longer healing and restoring. Even if the answer takes longer than I want, I’m praying for God to help me cling to the fact that He’s still up to something. This is where that progression Paul describes starts showing up in the deeper, private places of my heart—endurance . . . character . . . and what? Hope.

Looking back, there may be a handful of words you use to describe the year of 2020, but what word are you clinging to as we head into a new year?

Hope. Yes, I’m heading into this new year with hope. Not because the calendar says a page has turned. Not because I’m blind to what lies ahead. But because I’m absolutely convinced that our great God is worth trusting. I’m praying for miracles. I’m expecting the unexpected (if that makes sense). I’m pleading for the great name of Jesus to be known in ways we never could’ve imagined before.

Hope: let’s call it the early frontrunner for 2021 Word of the Year.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5

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Showing 9 comments
  • Nan Haynes

    Thank you for all you do and being the servant of God

  • Ed Gallagher

    Thank you Greg- we have seen the 3 layers of how we to react during the pandemic.
    Fear Phase -Learning Phase-Growth Phase
    I admit I have parked I each phase.
    Through all this I agree Hope is the word that takes you to another level of faith in Jesus .
    Joan and I are launching a NGO called HopeMarkers . Please pray for our launch and we will bring Markers of Hope for the least of these .

    Thank you for Never Settle and leadership at WC.

  • Charles R. Lewis

    The word HOPE is what first came to mind, and we hang on to it daily. The large sign has been our front window for some time, and we have noticed some of our neighbors have followed suit with us and have posted HOPE WINS in their windows as well.
    Let’s hang on to this and watch what
    God is going to do in 2021
    Charles and Mary Lewis
    We can’t wait until we can see all those we love back worshiping together.

  • Karyn Moergen

    It made me have hope

  • David Simons

    I can’t think of a better way to end 2020 than by the inspiring words you just penned. Thank you, Greg!

  • Allison Oelger

    My word for 2020 was “unexpected.” This isn’t necessarily negative as it was unexpected to have so much time with my family (countless dinners, cooking experiences, John Krasinski’s prom, daily walks, deep discussions). My word for 2021 is “renew.” My prayer is that God will renew a steadfast spirit in me and that my mind will be renewed as I read His word. I pray for renewal in relationships. I pray for renewal in my hope and perspective as I face the challenges that 2021 has in store.

  • Karol Kraai

    We have this hope as an anchor for our souls…and hope does not disappoint ⚓️
    My word is TRUST (secure confidence). I am securely confident in my God and He does not disappoint. ⚓️

  • Karol Kraai

    My word is TRUST (secure confidence). I am securely confident in my God and He does not disappoint. ⚓️

  • Lori Salomo

    My word for 2020 was gratitude. 2021’s word is renew. Looking forward to what God has in store to “give fresh life or strength to” as He brings this word “renew” into reality.

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