This is the first week of 2021. Praise God! 2020 was rough. Many of you have lost jobs, friendships, or even loved ones this last year. Many feel like they lost their joy or even their minds riding the emotional rollercoaster that was 2020. But rather than saying “good riddance” to last year, I want to try and ask God, "How do we close last year well, and start this year well?" How do we wash our hearts from all that happened in 2020 and best position ourselves to start fresh in 2021? Our story opens eight days after the birth of Jesus. His parents, Mary and Joseph, are taking him to be dedicated at the temple, as was their custom. Luke 2:36–37 TPT: A prophetess named Anna was also in the temple court that day. She was from the Jewish tribe of Asher and the daughter of Phanuel. Anna was an aged widow who had been married only seven years before her husband passed away. After he died, she chose to worship God in the temple continually. For the past eighty-four years, she had been serving God with night-and-day prayer and fasting. Women typically married young (often between the ages of thirteen to fifteen) in Bible times, which means Anna was probably around twenty-two when her husband passed away. Eighty-four years have passed now, making her well over one hundred years old. The death of a husband is devastating for any woman at any age. But for Anna, living during this time period meant her husband's death meant the end of her life, as well. Since society did not view women as equals, women's lives revolved around their husbands and their children. To become a widow without children was not only heartbreaking but was to lose all hope of a future. Nowadays, the loss of a spouse at least allows the suggestion that life could be rebuilt. However, back then, families would arrange their daughters for marriage at a young age. The family would then pay a dowry for the wedding. With the loss of her husband, a woman would no longer have anyone to arrange her marriage to someone else, and her first wedding would have spent the only dowry available for her. Even a young woman so far past the suitable marrying age with no dowry would be highly unlikely to find a man willing to choose her in marriage. Her future was over. It was a profound tragedy. 1. Go to God with your tragedies Very often, tragedy causes us to either break into God or break away from Him. I don't know if we will ever understand what took place in 2020 on this side of heaven. I do know the United States as a society has been living on a hinge point where we must break into God. What was Anna's response when she lost everything? How did she begin to reset and rebuild her life? She turned to worshipping God day and night for the next 84 years. Luke 2:37 TPT: After he died, she chose to worship God in the temple continually... Worshiping Jesus is a choice, not just a nice Christmas song or theme. When we worship God, a Divine reset begins in our souls. Worship shifts the focus from our pain and circumstances to His glory and goodness. As we make this shift, we become more and more like the One we worship. As we continue to worship even in our pain, we start to heal because God is the Great Healer. Worship is medicine for our soul. It may not give me the answers as to why terrible things happen, but it will remind me of the solution to everything — Jesus as Lord. Anna ran to the temple to be with God when tragedy struck. If you want to move into 2021 with a fresh outlook, run to God with your pain, and stay there until you feel yourself begin to heal. 2. Pray Luke 2:37 TPT: For the past eighty-four years, she had been serving God with night-and-day prayer and fasting. If, during a war, one side can cut the communication lines of their opponent, there is a good chance that side will win the fight. Prayer is communication with God — and God with us. The devil would use a tragedy to sever our communication with God; if Satan can stop us from praying, he can win our lives and the lives of others. Prayer is essential for healing. It empties the garbage from our souls and fills it with the truth of God. Think about the past year. Is there anything you have yet to talk to God about? Have you spoken to God about the impacts of COVID-19 on your life? Have you spoken to Him about your finances, the economy crash, or the loss of a job? Have you spoken with Him about how the riots and the death of George Floyd made you feel? Have you spoken with Him about the Beirut explosion or the record-breaking fires that swept across Australia, California, and Washington? What stung you this year? Have you talked with God about it? When her husband died, Anna immediately ran to the temple to pray. This is the answer. Before the year ends, stop and be alone with God. Ask him if there is anything you still need to give Him. In prayer, release it to Him. Pour your heart out before Him. Enjoying this Post? Let's Get Connected! 3. Fast Luke 2:37 TPT: She had been serving God with night-and-day prayer and fasting. Fasting is one of the most remarkable ways to clear out your heart and reset it before the Lord. Fasting is like a detox for our spirits and emotions. It strips away distractions we don't need, and it reveals truths we do need. It creates a dependency on God rather than this world ... right down to the strength our bodies need to live. When we fast, we volunteer to become weak before God. We deprive ourselves of comfort for a time, placing ourselves into a position to receive from the Comforter. Every believer should regularly fast to help reset their souls. We can fast from anything: food, movies, social media, even your phone! (Nowadays, a phone fast is more challenging than a food fast!) Consider fasting from whatever seems to get in the way of going first to God. I encourage you to stop and ask God what you need to fast from and let Him reveal it to you. Then ask Him for how long: a day? A week? A month?. Trust whatever He seems to be telling you, and go for it. Sure, you will feel hunger pains, at first. You will feel comfort-deprived for a while. Shortly, though, things will shift, and you will feel a cleaning and decluttering effect on your soul. Clarity and healing will begin. You might even experience a breakthrough, a sight of God you’ve never had before. And it will be amazing. 4. Celebrate Luke 2:38: Anna walked up to them and burst forth with a great chorus of praise to God for the child. Anna learned to worship God in the hardships, and now she can praise God in the triumph! Years of adoration, prayer, and fasting seeking the presence of God has sensitized her spirit. Now Jesus walks up to her, and she immediately knows who He is! She recognizes Him and bursts forth in celebration! As you let go of the pain of 2020 through worship, prayer, and fasting, make sure to find something to celebrate as you enter the new year. Honestly, the act of celebration is more for you than for the thing you are celebrating. It opens up joy in your heart again. If you celebrate something before it seems worth celebrating — as a discipline, like prayer and fasting — you will feel it deeply later. But if you wait to feel like celebrating before you actually do it, you’ll never do it. When you choose to celebrate what God is doing in your life (or even someone else's life), it deposits hope, faith, and joy in your heart. Celebration pulls the focus off past tragedies and recalibrates it to see past triumphs. When I celebrate you and God, I gain hope for myself. 5. Help others Luke 2:38 TPT: And from that day forward she told everyone in Jerusalem who was waiting for their redemption that the anticipated Messiah had come! During this time, a man who married a widowed woman was called the woman’s "kinsman-redeemer.” He would receive no dowry; his only reward would be the redemption of this woman and her family line. As a widow, Anna had been waiting for her redeemer for eighty-four years. See the significance when she meets Jesus and tells everyone that the Redeemer has been born? Anna, the woman who most needed redemption, becomes the voice of redemption to all those around her. This summarizes the Gospel. Redemption is not just getting healed from your tragedy; it is that now you are so healed that you partner with God to bring healing to others going through their tragedies. Let us let go. Let’s unload the baggage we were carrying in 2020. Let’s turn to worship, prayer, fasting, and celebration for all God is going to do. Like Anna, let us proclaim with joy to everyone, "Our Redeemer is here!"