I cannot remember a time I have been so focused on a date since the months leading up to my wedding. One tiny square on a calendar keeps my attention locked: January 1, 2021. If we can just get through 2020, I think. 2020 is the worst. If we can just change the year … but I’m starting to realize that changing a calendar, starting a new planner, writing a new number is not going to change much. It’s magical thinking, and I’ve got to admit, I am drawing a lot of comfort from it.

There’s a scene in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt when Kimmy and her fellow Mole Women are turning a crank in a bunker. They have been told that they must constantly turn it for unexplained reasons with the implication that bad things will happen if they stop. Kimmy breaks it up into ten second segments. “I can do anything for ten seconds,” she tells herself. I think of that when I’m washing masks or refilling hand soap or entertaining my children or reading the news. I can do anything for eight more weeks.

2020 has become shorthand for everything that’s wrong in the universe. Coronavirus? So 2020. Murder hornets? Of course, it’s 2020. Sahara Desert dust cloud covering the sun in Texas. 2020, amirite? Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Robert Prine, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, and Jerry Jeff Walker died. And now it looks like there will be prolonged election strife. Why can’t 2020 leave us alone?

We see meme after meme or twitter thread after twitter thread of how awful 2020 has been. Someone has created Christmas ornaments, which I will probably buy, of dumpsters on fire with the number 2020 written on the side. I discovered entire groups on Reddit devoted to people impatient for 2021. It is as though the date makes all the difference and we are all waiting, with bated breath, for the next year to begin and everything to be made new and right.

Personally, 2020 has not be a winner for me. I started the year with surgery, followed it with a breast cancer scare, homeschooled my children, grieved the deaths of family members, and more. At one point this summer, probably after I broke my toe when I fell off a small rock in a river, because 2020, I told my husband, “I would like to be put into a medically induced coma for a few months and wake up in January.” A nice six month nap would have been just what I needed.

Now, I recognize there are multiple flaws in my reasoning. First, medically induced comas are not recommended for cases of existential dread. Second, there’s a very big chance that absolutely nothing changes from December 31, 2020, to January 1, 2021. Has anything ever changed that much on New Year’s Eve? Third, to say 2020 is to blame for all the bad discounts any good that may have come this year. God is not governed by a calendar, and grace is not absent during 2020. Yes, it may feel like the deck is stacked against all of humanity, but God is with us and for us, regardless of the year.

I have started to move my hope past a date on a calendar. Partly because I do not want to have unrealistic expectations for a Friday morning in January. But also because our hope has never really been in a calendar. That square in my planner cannot hold all of our expectations. Thanks be to God that he can hold all my expectations, all my hopes, all the pain of this year, and still give me faith to believe he is good. God has not changed just because 2020 is terrible. Years may be good and years may be bad, but we are told in Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

I do still look forward to January with hope that things will be better. And I do still think 2020 has been a total dumpster fire. But even if somehow 2020 is not the worst year ever, if 2021 happens to be worse, and I shudder even writing that — God is with us. The Gospel is true in 2020 and will still be true in 2021 and beyond.