A Good Year Called 2020

The title to this post is probably the opposite of what you would expect. As the year finally reaches an end there is a lot of talk about how “different” of a year it’s been and how difficult, lonely, crazy . . . . and even terrible . . . . this year has been.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially in light of the verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). As I reflect back on this past year I just find myself asking the question: Can I truly be thankful to God for the year 2020? Can I really close this year in thanksgiving – genuinely praising God for the year 2020?

As I’ve been asking myself these questions there was one singular thought that kept coming to mind, the phrase: “2020 was a GOOD year!” and when I think “good year” the imagery that comes to mind is what a wine connoisseur would say about an excellent vintage wine.

Then the verse came to mind: “I (Jesus) am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1)

Now I’m not much of a wine connoisseur myself, in fact, I really don’t know much about wine or vine dressing at all, but in considering these things I had so many burning questions on my mind that I immediately took to Google to try and find a few answer, primarily the answer to the question of “what MAKES it a ‘good year’ for wine?” – and I have to say, the more I looked into it the more excited I became!

I really wish I had the time to go into detail and share all the different things I’ve discovered in the study, but I don’t really have the time to do it justice, so hopefully I can at least share a few observations that can be ‘seed for thought’ and hopefully an encouragement as well.

What makes it a “good vintage year” for wine?

I would say that there are three things that especially stood out to me in the research I did on the topic:

1) Struggle. This is the word that stood out the most to me. Struggle. It’s not a pleasant reality, but it’s true – the struggling vines produce the better wines.

For a vine to produce grapes that will create a truly excellent wine, struggle is necessary. Without struggle, the vine will become too “comfortable” with stretching out its branches in every direction and will put all its energy into putting out new leaves that it doesn’t really bother to produce much fruit. And what little fruit it does produce would be very tart and make for a very acidic, thin, and very poor wine.

Struggle is the key to a good vintage year, and a good vinedresser knows this. By restricting the supply of water (and even allowing it to experience periods of drought), making nutrients scarce, hard pruning and limiting how far it can spread out, a good vinedresser will see that the vine gets JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT of struggle (not too much, not too little – and a variety of struggles, too!). Struggle helps the vine to focus less on spreading out and pursuing its own personal “comfort” and encourages it to focus instead on putting down stronger roots and actually producing quality fruit.

James 1:2-4 — “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must also finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

A trial should be considered ‘pure joy’? This is a difficult concept to grasp. But just like there is a bigger picture for the vines to produce an excellent wine, God sees a bigger picture for each and every one of us as well!

2) Personalized struggle. I thought it was very interesting to learn that a good vinedresser knows each of his individual vines really well! For each individual vine he knows exactly how much stress it needs to endure, and the kinds of stress it needs at which time. Much like a shepherd who KNOWS his sheep, the vinedresser is attentive to the individual needs of each of his vines and gives each one it’s own delicate and customized care.

And that means you! God isn’t just throwing random trials your way or trying to make life difficult for you. Instead, He is very strategically personalizing what trials He sends your way so that they are just exactly what you need at the exact moments you need them – and only God knows why you need to go through what trials he sends your way, because only God knows what amazing fruit He is wanting to produce as a result!

3) Time. A good vintage wine takes time to really become excellent! You don’t get to the end of the year, harvest the grapes, and immediately indulge. There’s a reason why good vintage wines often sit in dark, dusty cellars for years and years . . . time! You can’t rush the aging process. It takes time before you will really know the quality of the wine and be able to enjoy the fruit of that year.

And so it is with us as well. It may be several years down the road before you’ll be able to look back and really see how the trials of this year were exactly what you needed in your life. It may not even be until Heaven that we see the purpose behind it. But we have a good vinedresser that we can trust. It may be years before we see what He is doing – but we can have hope in knowing that whatever it is, it will not only be good for us, but will ultimately be what is best.

Yes, it really HAS been a good year! And I hope we will have the faith to grow in our ability to see the good that was produced in our lives, and our world, this past year — and to be truly grateful, even for the struggles.

Happy New Year!!