Why I Wouldn’t Trade 2020 for the World

By Annemarie McLean Published on January 20, 2021

Unpopular opinion alert: I wouldn’t trade 2020 for the world. However confusing, concerning, and oftentimes uncomfortable we think last year was, 2020 was still the transformative year I didn’t know I needed. Starting in March and marching straight through December, 2020 forced me to confront myself. I rediscovered what I truly believed, and how those beliefs would inform my responses to the rapidly changing world around me.

It has been said, “Experience is a cruel teacher. It gives a test before presenting the lesson” (Anonymous). 2020 was that test — for all of us — and one I had hoped to have been prepared for. I took it alongside the rest of the world, getting some things wrong and some things right. With every experience, I learned. I adapted and matured. I changed and was changed in deep and profound ways by going through the year’s challenges and not around them. These are now forever imprinted on my soul by the white-hot branding iron of experience.

I now see 2020 through the lens of God’s wisdom. He was gracious and faithful and kind to give me a test run for whatever the future holds. And as I face that future, I am a different person, because of what 2020 taught me. Here’s what I learned:

I Can Hear God for Myself.

Shortly after the WHO declared the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a global pandemic, the Lord spoke to my heart. It was a word to, and for, just me. His word imparted courage and ministered peace into a space of chaos, confusion and scarce information. By faith, I knew the Lord was telling me to stand on it. Within days, I felt like I was under attack by a information blitzkrieg being unleashed on the whole world in the weeks that followed. I had to decide if I would elevate the information of the world above what I believed to be the voice of God in my life.

In John 10, Jesus said the Good Shepherd goes before his sheep and “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow … for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:4, 5, ESV). Jesus’ voice leads us into places of protection for our souls. This is what God’s word to me during the onset of COVID-19 did: it anchored me and reaffirmed to me that Jesus was in control of my life — not COVID-19.

Going forward, I will doubt far less about whether or not I can hear God for myself. Surviving 2020’s current-events earthquake and philosophical firestorms, I now know beyond doubt that I will find God in “the sound of a low whisper” (I Kings 19:12, ESV).

I’m in Control of What — and if — I Fear. It is Not Dictated to Me.

Like everyone, I know what fear feels like. But there was something different I learned about fear that I hadn’t experienced prior to 2020. Last year felt like one big, worldwide attempt to induce fear, thereby controlling populations and seizing the narrative. Simply put, if I’m controlled by fear then they can control me. I say “they” and to be honest, I don’t even personally know who “they” are. I just know that they wanted me to be afraid that COVID-19 might kill someone I loved. They wanted me to be afraid that I wasn’t racially sensitive enough. They wanted me to be afraid that I couldn’t provide for myself. They wanted me to be afraid that our political divides were too great for healing.

It was at this point that I dealt with intermittent bouts of questioning my sanity. Was I missing something? People all around me — and large swaths of them — were afraid and even paralyzed by these very same thoughts. I began a “rejection of fear” campaign in my own heart, strengthened by the promises of God. As one who has the Mind of Christ, I am in control of what spirit controls my spirit. And it will not be the spirit of fear (Romans 8:15, II Timothy 1:7, ESV).

Joy is a Potent Weapon Against the Enemy.

I learned this lesson sometime late in 2020 the day after I actually believed the enemy hated seeing me joyful. In fact, it was as if I had an epiphany that, just like John 10:10 says, this thief was on a mission to steal my joy, kill my hope, and destroy my faith.

Earlier in the year, feeling the weight of a world that had turned upside down, there were times when I was coming across negative, agitated, and frustrated over all the things that were outside of my control (which is 99% of “all the things”). I don’t know why I thought that being overly opinionated about those issues would somehow translate into ideological converts. On the contrary, I was probably just pushing people away.

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I decided to change my approach and began communicating what was good in my world. That positive perspective birthed a newfound joy coming out of a grateful heart. This joy was found by tuning out the world and tuning in to God’s presence. It was there I was revived in the knowledge of His favor and faithfulness over my life and became hungry again for Him.

Thank you, 2020, for teaching me a joy that defeats the enemy and reminding me that joy is found wherever God is (Psalm 16:11, ESV).  

Remaining Silent at Times is Not a Sign of Cowardice. It’s a Sign of Wisdom.

Proverbs 17:28, ESV says, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.” I knew this verse before 2020. I quoted this verse before 2020. But somehow, I couldn’t implement this verse until late last year. Especially on social media.

The Lord convicted me of two sins: succumbing to peer pressure and the sin of self-importance. Peer pressure because there were very distinct times in 2020 where I felt shamed by others that I wasn’t saying enough, so I said something half-hearted in appeasement. Self-importance because I wanted others to think that my “unique” perspective was a valuable addition to the collective conversation. In actuality, I was likely just contributing to the noise.

Going forward, I will discern whether my voice is coming from a place of obedience to God or validation for myself. I will not be drawn into useless arguments or be pressured into throwing support behind causes I don’t know enough about. I will more heavily trust the wisdom of Proverbs 17:28, so that when I do speak up, it will be in Spirit-led truth, love and power.

Always Check the Source.

From alt-right conspiracies that never seem to materialize to the blatant manipulation of information on the left, 2020 has presented us with 10,000 reasons to live confused. In this environment, I relearned a life lesson I was taught in Journalism 101: Check the source. Is it trustworthy? Who is vouching for this information? Can it be validated? Do they have the authority to speak on this topic? Is the information skewed to fit the author’s narrative or is it being reported objectively?

Fellow believers, it is not God’s will for us to be “tossed.” In Ephesians 4:13-14 (ESV), Paul admonishes the church to mature, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

It’s true: we’ve all been exposed to “human cunning” and “craftiness in deceitful schemes” this past year. And it’s been no cake walk to decipher truth from lie. Right now, we need wisdom as much as we need water. As we continue to ask God for it, He will give generously and not withhold it from us (James 1:5). That’s where I trust Him with 2020. Not only am I the wiser for it, but I am more prepared because of it. And that’s why I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


Annemarie McLean is a four-girl mom, freelance writer, and co-founder of Brave & Beautiful, a ministry focused on challenging young women to live purpose-driven lives full of courage and character, while developing Christ-centered inner beauty. Annemarie holds a journalism degree from Oral Roberts University, with graduate work in organizational leadership at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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