CNN reported a team of historians and scientists have identified 536 A.D. as the worst year to be alive. There was an enormous volcanic eruption in Iceland, spewing a huge cloud of ash over the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures dropped, resulting in crop failure and famine. Starvation ensued.
This disaster was quickly followed by an outbreak bubonic plague in Eastern Europe. Combined with crop failures, economies crashed and millions died.
If you were alive in 536 A.D., however, you may not have known it was the worst year to be alive. You might have survived or have been lucky enough to live nearer the equator where the impact of the eruption was not as great. The worst year for you might have been 537, when your child died, or 530, when you contracted tuberculous.
I read a commentary piece by Pat Buchanan, comparing 2018 to 1968. I wasn’t alive in 536 A.D., but I was alive in 1968 (note: I was just a child). That was the year Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. There were riots in major American cities protesting the war in Vietnam, racial inequality, and poverty. I remember newscasts showing burning cars and buildings. The Democratic National Convention turned into to riot. Richard Nixon was elected President by a minority of voters.
But 1968 wasn’t such a bad year for me. We moved off the ranch after my mother married my step-father. His house had a pool. If you want instant friends when you are the new kid in the neighborhood, have a house with a pool. I did well in my new school. My sister graduated from the University of Florida and got her first teaching job. My brother came home from military school and got his driver’s license. Nineteen-sixty-eight worked out pretty well for our family.
For someone you know, this probably is the worst year ever. They’ve lost someone they love. They must face the consequences of their poor choices. Their marriage is breaking up. They lost their job. They owe back taxes. We all have those terrible, no good, awful years.
For someone you know, this probably is the best year ever. They fell in love. They had a baby they prayed for. The doctor said their cancer is gone. They passed Geometry. They met Jesus and were saved.
There is an old story I’ve heard in many forms: A old man in a village had a horse come up to his house from nowhere. No one knew who he belonged to, so the old man claimed him. His neighbors told him how lucky he was. He said, “Is this good or is this bad? Who knows?” The old man’s son tried to break the horse. He was thrown and broke his leg. His neighbors told him how unlucky he was. The old man said, “Is this good or is this bad? Who knows?” Then the country went to war. All the sons in the village were drafted, except for the son of the old man. He was exempt because of his broken leg. The old man’s neighbors told him how lucky he was. The old man said, “Is this good or is this bad? Who knows?”
The old man had wisdom: none of us truly understand our lives or our times. We make educated and uneducated guesses, but we do not know outcomes. Only God knows the outcome of anything that happens to us.
Since God is the only one who knows outcomes, doesn’t it make sense to do life with Him? Doesn’t it make sense to ask for His guidance when making decisions since He’s the only one who knows what is going to happen? Doesn’t it make sense to talk to Him regularly about life?
In the unknown, in the years when it feels like the worst year ever, I hold onto Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” This verse reminds me that if I love God, if I give Him control of my life, He is able to take whatever happens to me and bring something good from it. That’s the miracle we need every year, every day.
Is this a good year or a bad year? Who knows? But whether it is good or bad, my God is making something good.