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  • Writer's pictureNicky Stade

Hindsight is 2020

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Ruth 1:20

Social media has a way of making life look like a bed of roses. Everyone is smiling and showing off their best, which makes it harder when you’re going through a season of struggle. I’m sorry if scrolling through my posts has given you the impression that I have never had a bad day in my life. Truly, I am sorry for any part I’ve played in keeping up the facade.

The truth is, there have been more days than I can count where I’ve woken up and stared blankly at the wall wishing I could just go back to sleep. There have been days where I’ve listened to angry music alone in the car and just felt sorry for myself. There have been days when I’ve cried in the shower and then put on a happy face to go meet people later that morning. When asked how I’ve been, I’m quick to say “the last couple of years have been hard for my family but we’re doing okay.” If I am really honest about it, it’s been one hard season after the next, and each time, it gets more and more difficult to hope that something better is coming…

Then came 2020 and it almost broke me. I can smile and laugh on the outside, but very few have seen the private struggles that only the events of 2020 could peel away. Things I didn’t even know were in me were bubbling up to the surface and it became harder and harder to keep that smile on in public. Bitterness began to leak out in both my words and my silence.

This past week I’ve spent some time reflecting on the book of Ruth. In my younger days I would read myself into Ruth’s story, but this year I’ve related a little more with Naomi. As a pastor, I don’t want to admit it, but sometimes I get mad at God. It’s true…please don’t judge me too harshly. In this story, Naomi had lost so much, and try as she might she just couldn’t hold on to hope any more. As she returned to her hometown following tragedy and hardship, she no longer wanted to be known as Naomi (which means “pleasant”). Instead, she wanted to wallow in her bitterness and make it a part of her identity (Mara means “bitter”).

Here’s the thing about being mad at God…sometimes you don’t realize that’s the real issue. It feels like God is just far away and doesn’t really care, but the truth is, he’s not the one who drifted away—it was us. It was me.

This time last year, I was full of hope because surely anything could be better than 2019—or 2018, or 2017, or 2016… So many devotions and messages were being preached about 2020 Vision and having clarity, and I couldn’t wait! But as 2020 rolled on, things just got worse. It was too easy to fall into bitterness and anger, and soon it overtook me. But here’s the thing—even though Naomi had given herself over to bitterness and blame, God remained faithful to her and to her family.

You know what else they say? Hindsight is 2020. Looking back over this year, I realized that God has been with me all along. He has shown his grace and his mercy to me in many ways, but I just couldn’t see it. This year has been a very, very difficult year to be sure, but it has also brought me closer to my husband and my kids—it has shown me my priorities and how to focus on the things that are truly important to me. It has closed some chapters, but it has also opened new opportunities and new friendships. It has—surprisingly enough—allowed me to step into not just one but TWO lifelong dreams: I’m finally going to college and we’re buying our first lovely little home.

Naomi had lost everything and resigned herself to the fact that her life would be miserable. But God was still working on her behalf—not because she did the right things or posted the right Bible verses on Instagram, but simply because He loved her. God loves me even when I’m angry. He blesses me even when I don’t see it at first. He never gave up on me. I’m no one special—God loves you, too. What blessings has he done for you behind the scenes this year?

Today I am 41 years old and I no longer want to identify myself as Mara (“bitter”). Instead you may just call me Nicky, which means “victory”.

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