I love watching track and field events. I especially love the relay races, the 4×100 and the 4×400. There is always a lot of drama involved. Usually, winning the race is dependent on many factors: the speed of the team, their synergy, the position of each runner, the expertise of each team member in baton exchange and their level of preparedness to repair any mistake by a team member. It is always such fun to watch, especially when I have no favourite team in the match. I can’t recall ever watching a boring relay race.

In lot’s of ways, this year has been like a relay race. The fourth quarter is taking over the baton now and all spectators are standing and cheering! This is the last leg. This is the lap that matters the most. Regardless of whatever blunders may have been made in the first three laps, this is the determinant lap. This is the lap where the person taking the fourth lap puts in their best to either salvage lost time or give a final push to seal an advantage and ensure the gap cannot be closed by the nearest opponent.

This is our last lap of 2020. It is the fourth quarter. The baton exchange in the first quarter was faulty. The baton dropped and the second position had to pick up, losing precious seconds. Then the runner tripped and fell and had to be helped up. Managing to complete the lap, the runner summoned strength to hand over to the third leg. Baton exchange was smooth, and the third leg started off with some force, until the runner started coughing and had to slow down to a fast walk. There was a lull in the stadium and everyone thought the race was lost. But the third runner picked up some speed, after putting on a mask and applying some hand sanitizer. The race continued. The crowd started cheering again.

Third baton exchange is fantastic. Runner number 4 had been waiting, well prepared and eager to run. He knows the last leg is important and he is very ready. He takes the baton and surges forward, putting in all effort and strength. The crowd is cheering excitedly now, everyone standing on their feet, eyes trained on the runners. Will the fourth runner overtake the COVID-19 and win the race? Is he fast enough? Is he holding the baton tightly enough, or are his hands slippery with sweat? Are his eyes focused on the finishing line? Who will win this race?

That is where we are right now. Wondering what will happen in this last quarter of the year. Waiting with hope, yet dreading a second wave of the virus. Will Christmas be Christmas this year? It won’t be the same for many who have lost family members and loved ones, and jobs, and homes and health. Nor for those who are still battling the virus even weeks and months after they contracted the virus. The so-called ‘long termers’.

It should not be the same for merchants, though I suspect they will try. Usually, the hustle and bustle starts early in the fourth quarter. Merchants start stocking up for Christmas. Consumers start saving up and planning what to do, where to go, what to buy, what to gift etc. This year will be different. People will likely be more prudent and wise, especially as uncertainty continues.

In the midst of all this, what are we expected to say as Christians? To the hurting, bereaved, jobless, sick and poor, to ourselves? The word that comes to me is “Hold on”. When the weight of problems get to you, hold on. Hold on, God is still on the throne. He is working out His good plans for our lives. While we may not understand what is happening now or know how we are going to get over or through it, our assurance is this: “Hold on, God is there.” He sees us in the midst of our heartache, difficulty and helplessness. He is not about to abandon us and leave us comfortless. No. That is not His plan. In due season, right when we think it’s all over, God will show up for us. This is because He is faithful and we can trust in Him.

Where are you today? Are you looking forward to the last quarter of the year or do you think you’ve lost too much for it to matter? Do not despair. There is hope. God, who has brought us this far, will see us through the rest of the way. Have faith in God.

“For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant.” Job 14: 7-9 NKJV