I recently asked our EPM staff and board members what God has been teaching them in this challenging season. I think you’ll be greatly encouraged by what they had to share, and especially by the Scripture they included. (Today’s blog is part one, with the second to follow.) —Stephanie Anderson
Note from Randy: I thought Steph’s idea was great and I loved reading parts one and two of this blog. Terrific insights from our EPM staff and board. I invite you to share what God is teaching you and what Scripture has been most meaningful to you by leaving a comment on my Facebook page!
I think this season has challenged me to really believe that Jesus is King over all the crazy things happening around the world. I knew it before, but now I feel I’ve experienced what it’s like to trust that. This season has opened my eyes to see how much I need Jesus and His grace in my own life. This world is uncertain, and people are chaotic and broken. But Jesus isn’t, and He is the only solution to all the fear and pain. His truth is greater than any social media post or news article. He isn’t surprised by any of the things that are happening, nor is any of it out of His hand. These couple of verses have really stuck out to me and challenged me during this season: “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Psalm 119:35-37, ESV).
Early on when the Coronavirus first appeared in the U.S. and Oregon went into quarantine, I was reading Romans 12, and even typed it up and put it on our refrigerator for our family to read on a daily basis. I did not understand everything that was happening in our world, and the news made it all seem really scary. I had my personal feelings about it and heard a lot of opinions about it all. Over and over again, the Lord just kept reminding me of Romans 12:10—“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
It became a mantra in my head as I listened to the news, scrolled through Facebook, and watched the world going on around me. I have no idea what is happening in the lives of the people I come across; if they’re wearing a mask because their parents are fighting for their lives, or if they’re not wearing a mask because of personal feelings or issues. My job is not to judge the people around me but to honor others above myself.
Sandy is our next-door neighbor and a woman we dearly love. In 2011 she had a heart transplant and therefore needs to keep herself healthy. She’s become like a grandma to my kids and another mom for me, and I began telling my kids, “Part of the reason we’re going to take this seriously and quarantine ourselves is for Sandy. You know she can’t resist hugs!” Our family loves her and wants to honor Sandy above ourselves. If it means saying “no” to certain freedoms for a time so that we can keep germs away from Sandy, then it’s what we’re willing to do.
Trusting the Lord in the face of uncertainty, questions, distrust (of the media), and fear is another area the Lord has grown me these past five months. I do not have any answers, do not trust all the information we’ve been given, and have struggled with fear in many ways. I have read and memorized so many verses to help keep my mind and heart looking in the right direction.
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:19).
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing” (Psalm 34:4-5, 8-9). I prayed over this one back in March when (the world, it seemed) was out of toilet paper!
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).
Perspective. In early January, a friend shared this verse with my Bible study group: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43:19 NLT). She felt God prompting her to claim this verse as her attitude toward the new year, watching expectantly for God's direction, and encouraged us to do the same. At that time in early January, COVID-19 was already making people sick on the other side of the world, we just didn't know it yet here in the U.S. Which of us would have chosen a pandemic to be a “something new” from the Lord?! But if we look expectantly for what God might be doing through it (instead of complaining about frustrations), we can see there is good! Families are spending more time together, we have simplified our schedules, we’re taking more walks, we’ve reached out more to those in need, and we’ve learned to communicate more creatively. “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow...” (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NLT).
Stillness and discernment. I am outgoing and thrive when I can collaborate and interact with others. I like to plan things, help people, do things for others, organize things. I like being busy like Martha. But Jesus told her, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it” (Luke 10:42 NLT). In the early weeks of COVID stay at home orders, I really struggled with the quiet of being home alone so much. Then I settled in and found that my new “bonus time” allowed for a lot more quiet time, outdoor walks, Bible study, and a few fun home projects that I’d been wanting to do. At the time I thought it would just be a short season of a few weeks (ha!) and was still looking to the end and return to “normal” life. Then a friend encouraged me to rethink normal and consider making intentional decisions of what to add back into my schedule when the time came. I now feel content saying no to some things to intentionally guard my time in wise ways so I can say yes to the things He wants me to do. “Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them...” (Hosea 14:9 NLT).
Technology. I have been even more thankful for it during this COVID season. Messages, texts, Facetime, and Zoom (to name just a few) have kept all of us connected these last five months when we couldn’t be together in person. Back in the simple times of Jesus’ day, you had to be with someone to communicate, or write a letter that was hand-carried to them, taking days or weeks. Definitely not instant! Recently I spent four days at the hospital with my mother-in-law. Due to COVID restrictions, only one person could be with her, so I felt the weight of needing to communicate clearly with the rest of the family about her care, and decisions that needed to be made. “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:6 NLT). I was SO thankful for technology. We have many creative communication tools available to us today because God has gifted creative minds to invent them. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10 ESV).
He is teaching me about grace: how to receive it, and how to give it to others.
I can still see it in my mind as if it were yesterday, although it’s been quite a few “yesterdays” ago now, back in March. My friend looked at me and said, “People just need more grace right now. Everyone is overwhelmed. Everyone is trying to figure this all out.” His words hit me like a ton of bricks and jarred me back to reality. I’m a high school teacher, and yes, the good work we were doing to transition from in-person to online learning was important, very important, yet people are always more important than systems and processes. As I left with his words ringing in my ears and settling in my heart, I made a choice to give grace to people, students and staff alike, as we all walked this road together.
To be able to sit with a person on the other side of a computer screen and just listen, to explain again and again why the next step in the problem works, to say after answering a question, “and how else can I help you?”, to a myriad of other ways, God is teaching me about grace, His grace. For there is much joy in giving grace and seeing it do its work, as it melts the friction of the moment and tenders the hardness of the heart. No, I have not done it perfectly, and yes, I have needed much grace from our King and from others too on this journey. At the same time, He is at work by His grace, in and through my-ever-in-need-of-grace-heart, and it is such a good thing.
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:2-3 NASB).
As a math guy, I love how He says multiply and not merely addition, as things can increase a lot more when you multiple versus just adding; and it comes by His power-through knowing Him. Oh, to know Him more.
All Glory to God in the highest, and grace and peace be multiplied to you.