Take the wisdom you’ve gained into the new year

Maybe the difficulties of 2020 left you not only longing for a better year but also reminiscing. Both of these are natural, but are they wise? A voice of wisdom says not necessarily.

Ecclesiastes was written by one of the world’s wisest men. A verse in the ancient book says, “Don’t say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ since it is not wise to ask this.” (Ecc. 7:10)

Why would this wise writer encourage the reader to avoid looking back? One commentator says, “The pleasures or advantages of those days may be more imaginary than real.” The good ol’ days are probably not as good as we remember them. Often, we look back on the good times through rose-colored glasses. We also tend to forget the good that came from challenging times. Tricking ourselves into believing the past was better than it was does not bring the comfort we desire.

Ecclesiastes goes on to say challenging times deliver wisdom as an inheritance. As we head into a new year, the lessons of 2020 should stay with us. They can be helpful as we navigate the tests of 2021.

Priorities will be different for many people as they head into a new year. What we once put off will be accomplished with urgency. We will invest our time, attention, and resources in new ways. For many, there is a new urgency to spend time with those they love and say what matters.

There is one other lesson to be learned at this point from Ecclesiastes. Solomon, the son of King David, wrote Ecclesiastes. He was born heir to a mighty kingdom on a branch of an incomparable family tree. God gave him wisdom and wealth. Yet, he died in utter despair. He didn’t live by the wisdom he had been given.

It’s one thing to possess wisdom, but something else to practice it. We have all endured a challenging year, but only some of us will apply the wisdom we’ve gained.

Our challenges are far from over, but we are being allowed to face the new ones differently. A friend of mine lost his mother to COVID in 2020. He had no idea that when she entered the hospital, he would never have another face-to-face conversation with her. He has lamented how he would treat that last moment so much differently if he had only known. He vowed he would never enter a situation like that and allow the same outcome.

Putting that into practice is the wisdom we all need to take into 2021 and beyond. There will always be challenges ­– seen and unforeseen – but we can use what we’ve learned to help us face them in a better way.

BRANDON PORTER is communications director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and editor of Kentucky Today.