In our last blog we shared part one of the responses from our EPM staff and board members to the question Stephanie Anderson asked, “What is God teaching you in this season?” Today’s blog is part two. I think you’ll be greatly encouraged by what they had to share, and especially by the Scripture they included.
Again, 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!
COVID-19 gets a lot of bad press, for good reason. Fortunately, we Jesus-followers are, by His very nature, people of the Good News. His death, burial, and best of all, resurrection is the only sequence of events that truly define us and give us every reason for hope and deep happiness. He is so kind! “The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, GNT). “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10, ESV). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT). These are verses I turn to over and over as I navigate this dream-like world where everything “out there” seems so confusing and, if I’m completely honest, a little scary.
God has used this time to quiet me. He has stripped away the incessant travel, He's stripped away my “security” and in the process has stripped away the idols I didn’t know I’d set up in His place. Money...I didn’t realize I trusted my bank balance and not God for the provision He’s promised. Food...well, I kind of knew there was an issue, but He showed me that I was using it to feed a hunger that is really for Him (and that He is quite good at filling!). There’s more, but you get the picture. Since I was very young, I've been consistent with reading the Bible. Church has been a huge part of my life. Prayer is a big deal. Yet this prolonged period of quiet was necessary for God to really get my attention. I thought I was totally sold out before, but now I see how far I’ve come, and I’m excited to see how far He’ll take me as I continue to listen. Psalm 131:1-2 depicts how I now feel: “Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me” (GNT).
I wrote this in my journal on April 12: This year Easter was celebrated in a way far different than any other. Because we were staying home due to this crazy new virus Kerry and I watched many church services online. They all brought great comfort to us. Max Lucado spoke words that moved my heart. We look at Good Friday as “The Beginning” and “Celebration Sunday” as “The end,” but there’s a forgotten day in the middle: “Silent Saturday.” There’s purpose in the Silent Saturday. It’s time of reflection. Silent Saturday was confusing, filled with fear and loneliness, a very difficult time, much like today. However, a Silent Saturday allows us to watch for and appreciate the miracle to come. Lord, I don’t know what you are doing, but I know what you have done in the past and I accept today as it is, even though it’s not the way I want it to be. I need to say this to myself every day, I think.
Because I was feeling fearful, I looked up verses on the topic of fear. I searched “How many times is ‘fear’ mentioned in the Bible?” I was excited to find a result that said 365 times. That made me smile. It’s the same number as days in a year. My father knows I need reassurance and comfort daily.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever’” (Isaiah 55:8-13).
Two things come to mind: God’s sovereignty and my attitude. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” This gives me assurance that He is sovereign over all, especially those in governmental authority over us. I may not like what is happening, but I can be confident God is in complete control.
Philippians 2:14 convicts me: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like starts in the universe ….” Of course, I have an opinion as does everyone. But there is a fine line between having an opinion and grumbling and complaining.
I’ve actually enjoyed somewhat of a slower pace and time in the Word and with the Lord has become more precious. God is good, all the time!
I’m slow to learn, but God has been teaching me new lessons in kindness and patience and graciousness with those who disagree on various issues in this challenging season in our culture. It’s been stretching at times, especially because these issues feel so personal since they affect us all in many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and for some, financially. For example, I have a close friend who has different opinions than I do about COVID. I’ve had to learn to check my tongue and not feel the need to share my thoughts every time we talk about it. “We can agree to disagree” and still experience close friendship. The verse that has come to mind is: “Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14). A few weeks ago my friend and I even decided to take a week long break from talking about anything related to COVID news, and it was so refreshing! There is life and much good outside of these issues, but they can feel consuming.
I’m working my way through Tim and Kathy Keller’s God's Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs and have found Proverbs more timely than ever. Proverbs 26:17 says, “Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” Does that describe many social media interactions, or what? I’ve also been struck by Proverbs 25:15, which says, “…a gentle tongue can break a bone.” I’ve tried to keep that in mind when I do engage with others on social media, and remember that gentleness isn’t weakness but a reflection of our wise and infinitely strong Savior, and one of the fruits of the Spirit. Tim shares Proverbs 17:27 (“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered”) and writes: “Jesus never gave way to unrestrained or inflamed speech, even when under the greatest affliction or the greatest provocation. Keep in mind, though, Jesus is not merely an example to live up to. As your Savior, He can send you His Holy Spirit, which gives us an inner love for him and changes us into his likeness.”
Finally, I’m learning to trust that God is at work in everything that is happening in our world and using it in each of His children’s lives to bring eternal good. The message of Romans 8:28 has always been precious to me: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I’ve clung to its truth through personal trials and suffering over the years, but for some reason it has felt harder to believe in this COVID season, perhaps because there are so many decisions made by people in positions of authority that affect my life and those I love. But I’ve been convicted lately that those decisions in no way negate the truth of this verse.
Even though it’s painful and hard to see sometimes, I can trust that He is using this season to bring eternal good in my life and in the lives of those I love.