Reflecting on last year with a view toward the new year

Playl's Ponderings


We made it! We lived through another year. 2020 was a year like no other in my memory. Looking forward to 2021, most of us believed it would be much better, and better it was in some ways for some folks, but it was still a very difficult year for many. How was 2021 for you? Were you glad to put the past year in the past and dive into 2022? My feelings are mixed. There were many sad events, but there were many blessings, too.

The inconveniences, interruptions, and “abnormalities” were similar to the previous year. Fear controlled the actions of some, while others were simply cautious and still others ranted about how “the virus” was just a conspiracy. Inflation, problems with supply chains, lack of personnel willing to work, interrupted schedules, and other economic complications added to the frustration and genuine grief of sickness and loss of life.  

A year and a half ago I was saying, “Although I know of people who have died of COVID - such as John Prine and other well-known personalities - I don’t know anyone personally.”

In 2021, that statement was replaced with the somber truth that we have lost several friends and family members to the virus. Others have passed from this life due to other causes. It has been a very sad time. Sammie and I have lost two brothers-in-law - one to COVID and one to other causes. We also were saddened by the death of a dear friend, pastor’s wife, who had been a member of our youth department in our first pastorate. And there have been many others, such as longtime friend Dale Burns who have passed away.

On the other hand, we have been very blessed. Our health has been relatively good. We have been able to stay active, including travel and visits with family, and some opportunities to preach. Everyone in our immediate family was able to be with us for Christmas, even though it was at different times for some. Life is good. God is good.

Throughout the past year, Sammie and I have heard several of our friends express a similar spirit to the feelings I have tried to share in this column...a spirit of blessings from God, even in the midst of the chaos of the past couple years. Many times, we have heard these words: “It’s been rough...but I feel greatly blessed!”

As we look toward the new year, we should make it our goal to look with faith. Faith that God will continue to bless us...even in adversity. Faith that we will be able to fight the good fight...even though we may endure hardships. And faith to express our gratitude for God’s blessings - expression through our words and through our lives. In addition to saying we’ve been blessed, let us work to share our blessings by blessing others. Let us live lives that show that we are trusting God to continue to work in our lives as long as He allows us to live in this world.

We might also remind ourselves - daily - of the Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians, “Friends, I do not believe that I have ‘arrived’ yet, but here is where I stand: forgetting the past and all that is behind me, I reach toward the future and press toward the goal of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and I hope y’all will be like-minded.” (My Southern translation.)

Happy New Year...y’all!

--Steve Playl, columnist, college instructor, former pastor, and hospital chaplain can be email


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