Living Water

I took a picture of this same scene in March, when the plants were lush and green. I knew they wouldn’t stay that way for long.  It’s really dry here, and the summer gets too hot for much to stay green without some tender care.

Just a few short months later, I snapped the scene pictured above. It goes to show that not even the most native of plants can withstand the heat and dryness here. Not in a lush, green sort of way, at least.

Heading into this summer, I knew not to underestimate this climate. I was determined to give even more water to the plants in my front yard than I had before, and to do so more often. So far, it has been paying off. I haven’t lost any plants this summer (unlike last summer, unfortunately).

As I have faithfully watered my plants throughout these last few months, the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps I am not drinking enough water myself.

There are so many benefits to drinking water. Too many to list. But there are a few that are especially pertinent to this moment in time. They are as follows:

  1. Drinking enough water in hot weather keeps one from getting dehydrated.
  2. Drinking enough fluids in general helps in the recovery of illness.

Considering that we are still experiencing the heat of summer during a pandemic, how much more important it is to drink enough water!

I speak of this in a literal sense, but I urge us even more so to consistently drink of the living water.

In John 4, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman about this very topic. Weary from travel, He asks her for a drink of water from a well. In response, she questions why He would ask her for a drink since the Jews and Samaritans didn’t have anything to do with each other.

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:10

He responds to her similarly a few verses later as they continue to converse.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

Although the Samaritan woman is never explicitly told what Jesus meant by this living water, its explanation is given a few chapters later.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 7:37-39

As believers, we have been given this living water because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. The question, then, is are we drinking from it daily? Are our lives regularly empowered by the Holy Spirit?

The weather may be cooling down within the next few months, and we may not have as great a need for water physically. However, the spiritual, political, emotional, and mental climate is not. The truth is, we are all going through a fire of sorts in this moment of history. We can all feel the heat. And the “news forecast” only promises hotter weather in the future. So what will we do to withstand it?

If we want to be like the tree described in Psalm 1, then perhaps we need to take a similar approach to the one taken with my plants this summer. We need to water our souls even more and a lot more often.

Let’s do so by asking God to truly fill us with His Spirit each day, and let’s abide in Christ and His Word even more than we ever have before. Perhaps, in doing so, we will be able to even refresh others in the heat, dryness, and barrenness of this season. Let’s be that spring of water that will draw others to the living water.

*For more information on how to live a Spirit-filled life, visit https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/the-spirit-filled-life.html

Breathe

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-pixabay-39669.jpg
Photo taken from Pixabay

If I had to choose a word to describe this year so far, it would be breath. It has undoubtedly been the greatest determining factor as to how we have experienced these last eight months worldwide.

Because the coronavirus is thought to be spread by inhaling the respiratory particles of an infected person,1 it was the cause of a quarantine across our nation and around the globe earlier this year. It has also encouraged and even mandated social distancing and face masks in certain states.

It has caused restaurants, schools, sporting events, stores, and churches to close their doors for a time (and for some of them to stay shut). Furthermore, once an individual is infected by the coronavirus, breath becomes an even greater concern since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness2 that, for some people, leads to hospitalization and possible death.

If all this were not enough to convince a person of the underlying theme of breath this year, we must not forget how pronounced this idea was in late May and early June as individuals started to inundate social media with three simple words— “I can’t breathe.”

This statement echoed George Floyd’s own words before he died a horrific and unjust death, but it speaks so aptly to this year in general. I can’t breathe. The truth is, this year has probably left us all feeling like we can’t breathe at some point or another, regardless of our reasons. How can we catch our breath, after all, when so much tragedy has occurred in such a short amount of time?

Years ago, I was given a One-Year Study Bible as a gift, and as I started to read it, I was intrigued by the emerging theme of breath throughout its pages.

One of the ideas that struck me most was how often individuals were brought to life when God placed breath within them, the most glorious example being how mankind came to be.

When God created Adam, He formed his body out of dust. Adam did not come to life, however, until God breathed the breath of life into him (Gen 2:7).

We see a similar example in Ezekiel 37 when God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones. As he does, God causes tendons, flesh, and skin to cover them so that they become bodies once again. Nonetheless, it is not until Ezekiel prophesies to the breath by the Lord’s command that these bodies are given life and stand to their feet as a vast army (Ezekiel 37:10).

Similarly, the two witnesses in Revelation are brought back to life three and a half days after they are killed when God places the breath of life into their dead bodies (Revelation 11:11).

What fascinates me about these passages is the fact that God was so intentional to place the breath of life into each of them. He is also intentional to do so with us today. Our lives did not happen by accident. They have been God’s doing. We are truly in His hands.

Another idea that stood out to me throughout Scriptures was how often a person’s life was described as a breath. Consider the following passages:

“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”Psalm 39:5

LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.Psalm 144:3-4

As I read these passages (and others) years ago, it changed the way I thought about my own life. I started to view it as a breath that God had breathed into me, and its length would be only as long as a slow exhale at most. As a result of these insights, I had some questions to ponder. What would I exhale? Would I breathe out the air God had breathed into me? Or would I merely exhale my own hot air?

I don’t think of these questions very often, but I should. I have the opportunity to determine what air I will breathe every day. I get to choose what I will inhale and what I will exhale consequently, so I need to be deliberate about what I am breathing in.

Recently, as I was rereading the passages mentioned above, I stumbled upon a well-known passage from 2 Timothy. It states the following:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”2 Timothy 3:16

This passage only confirms to me that, if I am going to exhale the “breath of God” regularly, I need to do so by inhaling His God-breathed Scripture daily. The more I allow His Word to permeate my heart and mind, the more my own short “exhale of life” will reflect Him in my words and actions.

In a year in which we are asked to restrict the breadth of our physical breath and thus slow the spread of the coronavirus, let’s deeply exhale our life in a way in which the Gospel and God’s Word will be spread to others. Let’s use our breath to speak words of life into others through truth, encouragement, and lasting hope in God. This world needs the breath of life in a way that it has never known before, so let’s be a reflection of the Breath-Giver in whatever way we can and see what He does as a result.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#Spread

2 https://www.healthline.com/health/coronavirus-vs-sars

On This Side of the Fence

I took a picture of my son looking into a soccer field through metal bars about a week ago, and my heart aches every time I look at it. It sums up so much of what I have been feeling recently. I’m sure many of you can relate. We’re on one side of the fence, looking toward the future and hoping it will someday involve green grass and blue skies again. But we’re still on this side of the fence. We’re still in the barrenness of this season, wondering how and when we’ll get to the other side. Perhaps we even wonder if we ever will.

I have been part of an online book study with a couple of friends for several months, and it has been so timely for this season of life. Ironically, we started it before the first coronavirus outbreak in China (yes, that’s how long ago we started it). God knew full well how much we’d need to be reading this book in the months to follow, and I can see how He was graciously preparing us in advance through it. It’s a book by Priscilla Shirer called One in a Million. In it, she talks about what it looks like to traverse the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.

One of the chapters talks about how God provides oases for us in our wilderness journey to refresh us along the way. As a result of reading this chapter, I have been praying nearly every day that God will refresh me in this season of life. I’m weary, and I get discouraged, disheartened, and sometimes feel like I can no longer endure. But I see different ways in which God has been answering that prayer. I see Him bringing small moments of delight throughout my days in the simplest ways.

Still, I’m a sojourner in this wilderness experience where, despite how many glasses of water I am given, I’m left feeling parched soon after I have drunk them. I’m constantly longing for more.

Recently, I have been pondering the thought that maybe God only provides enough refreshment to sustain us on the wilderness journey because we would otherwise get too comfortable and want to settle down in a place that God has not intended for us. Perhaps we are too often tempted to accept less than what God would give us for the sake of comfort and safety.

Does this idea ring true to anyone other than me? My greatest moments of growth have come at times where I have felt the least comfortable. It has been in these moments that I have been pushed to take bold steps toward the future God has for me—steps that I would have been too afraid to take had I been comfortable enough to stay where I was.

Priscilla Shirer speaks of a similar concept in her book. God wanted to lead the Israelites into Canaan, but the perceived risk it would take to get there in conjunction with their wavering faith in God caused them to remain outside of their Promised Land. Instead, they would wander in the wilderness for a total of forty years. Apparently, life on the outskirts of the Promised Land was comfortable enough—comfortable enough to determine that entering Canaan was too risky in comparison.

When I think of how comfort can keep a person from following God’s leading, it gives me a different perspective about this wilderness journey I’m on. God has sustained me thus far. I don’t want to get to the outskirts of where God is leading me and then settle there because I’m comfortable enough where I am and the risk of entering into God’s “promised land” for me is too risky. I don’t want to have come all this way to fall short of His intended destination for me.

I love traveling and have had the opportunity to do so by car, train, bus, and plane. There is something thrilling to me about traveling somewhere, regardless of the means of travel. This was our favorite thing to do as a family before the coronavirus made its way to the United States. We enjoyed discovering new places and revisiting old ones as well.

Part of the fun of traveling for me has always been the expectation of arriving to my destination. The truth is, the actual travel part of the trip is always uncomfortable to a certain degree. This is especially true the longer the trip. I get hot, my face gets unnaturally oily, and I nearly always feel stiff by the end of the trip. And it’s only more complicated now that we have a toddler in tow. However, the destination makes the temporary discomfort worth it. It’s a price well paid to discover a beautiful city and to make memories with my family (and our extended family when our trip involves visiting them).

Something I have noticed in my years of travel is that, the longer the trip lasts, the greater my discomfort. However, the longer the trip lasts, the better the destination.

Perhaps this is how I need to view the present day. This journey feels long and has been very uncomfortable. But I want to believe it will be worth it. I want to have faith that the destination at the end of this pandemic wilderness will be even better than I could imagine.

In the meantime, I’ll take whatever form of refreshment God gives me along the way, and I’ll ask Him to give me a grateful heart for these moments of discomfort, because I see Him leading me forward through them to who and where He wants me to be, and I don’t want to settle for less than what He has intended for me. I want the Promised Land and all the beauty that comes with it.

The World is Our Oyster

I bought this at the beach years ago. Pearls are one of my favorite jewels. I love how they are formed and what we can learn through them.

Let me state the obvious; life won’t always be this way. The reign of the coronavirus will one day come to an end, and we will resume our regular activities and go back to life as usual.

Although I imagine that this transition back to everyday life will be gradual, I picture it as an epic ending to a movie. A symbolic one at that.

In it, COVID-19 will meet its demise in a final battle, and the smoke will clear and the dust and debris will begin to settle. Then, one by one, families will slowly start to come out of their homes.

As they assess the aftermath of the war, they will pick up the broken pieces that can be put back together again. Then they will tenderly sweep up the remaining fragments that are too shattered to be pieced back together. They will sweep them up not to throw them out, but rather to bury them in a sacred place where they can be mourned, honored, and remembered for what they once were.

The losses will be evident. Some of them already are. But grieving will be made fully possible when this saga comes to an end, and it will be accompanied by the hope of restoration for what has been broken but can be made new.

When the moment comes for each of us to build up what has been torn down and to bury what is forever gone, I hope we will remember that not all was lost during this time. I hope we will see what we have gained.

Can you see what you have gained so far as a result of living during this time? What is God doing in and through you in this current moment?

Recently, I read about how pearls are formed. Their initial formation begins when an oyster cannot expel an irritant, such as a parasite that has latched onto it. When this happens, the oyster secretes a fluid known as nacre with which it coats the parasite. After layer upon layer of covering the parasite in this material, the pearl is formed.1

I’ve heard it said before that the world is our oyster. If this is true—if the world is our oyster, then the coronavirus is our parasite. It has latched onto this earth tightly and will stay here for however long it will, as unwelcome as it is. But we don’t have to let it pollute our minds or get the best of us. We can, in fact, get the best out of this time through God’s working in us, because

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

This doesn’t mean we won’t have our hard days or struggles throughout the duration of this moment in history. However, the overarching theme of our lives can be one of faith because we know the goodness of our God, and we know our story’s ending involves an eternity beyond our wildest imaginations. This is where our hope lies.

In the meantime, God has given us our own “nacre” to combat the polluted thoughts of this parasite in this present time. He has given us His truth and the promises and hope we find in His Word. He has also given us fellow believers who can encourage us and be encouraged by us. And through all these things, we continue to be reminded that God is in control, and He continues to show us that there is still beauty to be seen in this world, because

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…

Psalm 24:1a

When we are anxious, afraid, or upset due to all things COVID-19, let’s choose to wrap up these thoughts in the nacre we have been given—not just once, but in layer upon layer.

We can’t change the fact that the coronavirus has come, nor can we undo any damage it has done. But if we continue to allow God to do a good work in us in the midst of the frustration, heartache, and discomfort, we might just see that we emerge out of this season with a whole lot of treasure. As of now, a shiny pearl is in the making. Let’s see the work through.

1 pearls.com

Pulling Weeds

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

I pulled weeds a little over a month ago. If Liam had not been playing in that section of the yard, I wouldn’t have noticed them; they were so small.

I pinched them between my thumb and index finger, and with a slight tug they came up, root and all. It was the easiest experience I’ve ever had pulling weeds.

The weeds from last year were nowhere near this easy. Although they weren’t very big, they proved to me by that first prickly tug that looks can be deceiving. I was not to be outdone by some nasty old weeds, however, so I grabbed some gardening gloves and a hand shovel and squared off with the ugly plants.

After several minutes of carefully digging at the bottom of each one, I pulled them out and threw them into the trash. I showed those weeds who was boss! I couldn’t quite revel in my victory, however, because it was only a partial win. The roots ran too deep to be completely uprooted. In the back of my mind, I knew these weeds would seek revenge for what I had done to them that day. For now, they would nurse themselves back to strength, all the while planning their next move (cue the sinister music).

My latest weed-pulling session got me to thinking about how easy it is for weeds to pop up in our own lives. They can be a bad habit or tendency, a small indulgence that we justify, or a daydream or thought pattern that isn’t beneficial to us or pleasing to the Lord. Or perhaps it’s a relationship. Or pride. There are too many to mention, and they vary as much as the physical weeds that sprout up in front of us. But they share one thing in common—the intention to choke out any life around them.

Their intention is to choke out life.

One of the problems with a weed is that its appearance can be deceiving, as I discovered last year. It might look small and innocent, but down below, its roots are growing deep and destroying anything in its path.

Nonetheless, since it looks so innocent and easy to handle, we can easily convince ourselves that it’s no big deal. We’ll take care of it later on, when it’s more convenient. But that moment of “convenience” almost never comes. The truth is, most times we like our weeds. There is something about them that offers us a false sense of comfort, familiarity, or pleasure. So we justify why that habit, tendency, indulgence, etc. is in our lives and why it’s not such a bad thing. And we try to quiet the voice telling us otherwise.

But let’s not deceive ourselves.

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

Galatians 6:7 ESV

The destructive life patterns we sow today will reap for us more than we bargain for in all the wrong ways no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise. Let us not be quick to ignore that, and let us not be slow to act.

If we aren’t keeping weeds around because we’re fond of them, then perhaps it’s because we feel overwhelmed by them—too overwhelmed to try to pluck them out.

This was literally the case for my husband several years ago. Before we met, JJ owned a quaint, ranch-style brick home. Everything about it was lovely except for the dirt back yard. He didn’t mind, though. He worked long hours and didn’t have time to enjoy being outdoors.

One day after monsoon season, he peered into his backyard and saw some weeds. He planned to get around to the prickly plants when he had more time, but by then, they had grown well past his head and were too much to handle.

Fortunately for him, a friend of his was strapped for cash and gladly took care of the weeds when JJ offered to pay him for it. His dirt yard was restored to its former beauty (because dirt yards start to look beautiful after they have been cleared of weeds). All was well at the ranch-style home.

I’m guessing that we all have a few weeds to pull at this point in time. They may even seem over our heads. And the monsoon that has caused them to sprout up and grow continues to rage on with no known ending in sight. But we can’t wait for the storm to stop before we pull the weeds. If we do, they will only dig their roots more deeply. We have to be willing to get a little wet and muddy in order to restore our own backyards. Fortunately, we need not do it alone. God has given us a Helper, the Spirit of truth (John 15:26), who is willing and able to help us uproot our weeds. Let’s choose to dig them up and plant good seed with Him instead.

As we continue to weather this storm for however long it endures, we can be sure that more weeds will continue to sprout up, perhaps suspiciously similar to the ones we have already pulled. It can be tedious—this task of pulling weeds. It can also feel disheartening at times when the weeds we pulled are the same ones that keep popping up again. But let us not grow weary of doing this good work. Let’s continue to rid ourselves of weeds and continue to sow seeds that will produce a good harvest. And then, when this monsoon season finally comes to an end, we might just peer into our own backyards, and instead of finding nasty weeds, we will see a colorful array of plants blooming forth in full beauty. Let’s stick with it. Let’s continue to pull weeds.

It’s Okay to Be Sad

It’s okay to be sad. This should go without saying, but I don’t think it does.

It’s okay to be sad.

The year before COVID-19 crept into the United States and continued to devour the globe, my son got sick. He spent a two-night stay in the hospital but fortunately responded well to treatment and started to recover.

A trip to a specialist a few weeks later revealed that not all was well, however. The sickness did not leave him unscathed. As a result, he would have to take his daily prescription indefinitely and would have regular visits with the specialist from then on unless or until his body healed.

Around this time, my own personal research led me to discover that the medicine he was taking could cause brain or liver damage if he were to catch the flu. The happy life we once knew suddenly crumbled like sand beneath our feet as waves of fear and worry swept over us.

Our daily routine and patterns changed abruptly as we tried to figure out how to best protect our son’s health. We stopped going to church for a while (we listened online). Then we started taking turns watching our son so that the other could go to church each Sunday.

I had to drop out of a group for moms with young children because I couldn’t risk putting my son in the nursery there and exposing him to germs, and I could no longer consider being a leader for that group the following semester. I also had to withdraw from a women’s Bible study that was about to begin and told the worship leader at church that I could no longer pursue being part of the choir. My son and I missed the opportunity to see my husband’s family later that year as well and to attend his sister’s wedding reception since we knew a plane trip would inevitably expose him to too many germs.

It was a hard year, not unlike this one in some ways. We became well acquainted with sickness, isolation, and the sorrow that comes with the two. I realized a few things that made the following months a little more bearable, however. I hope they can be of help to you as we experience sickness, isolation, and sorrow together in the weeks to come.

  1. It’s okay to be sad.

In all fairness, I realized this before my son got sick. What I realized, however, was that it was okay for me to tell other people that.

A lot of times, we tend to want to fix a person’s problem by giving them advice in their moments of sadness. We may tell them they should be glad they don’t have it as bad as so-and-so or that they should just be thankful for what they have.

I dealt with this a little bit as I confided in others about how I was feeling, and it hurt. These phrases only serve to invalidate one’s feelings.

What I needed people to understand was that I was mourning loss. I was mourning the loss of my son’s health, the loss of going to church as a family, the loss of our somewhat carefree life, etc. And it was okay for me to be sad.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about something that Jesus said to His disciples on the mount. He said,

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4 ESV

It’s hard to comprehend that Jesus could offer us comfort when we caused Him to suffer and die on a cross for our sins. But He does. He offered it to me often last year and offers it to me still.

As more people enter into this experience of sorrow, sickness, and isolation this year and we join each other in mourning the losses of this pandemic, I want to remind myself to be like Jesus. I want to offer comfort to others, even if my hardships might seem bigger than theirs or I may have to offer it to people who have hurt me. Jesus didn’t compare His hardship or withhold comfort to others, so neither should I. May I learn more and more from His example.

2. Choose wisely in whom you confide.

I was very fortunate last year because most people that knew about my family’s situation were compassionate toward us. I found, however, that it was especially helpful to talk to my mom and younger sister when I was feeling down. They empathized with me and didn’t try to minimize my concerns or my losses. They wept with me and felt my pain, but they didn’t allow me wallow in it. They reminded me that God was in control and that He loved my son more than I did. And He wasn’t withholding goodness from us even though we were walking through a dark time.

In a situation like this where we face a pandemic worldwide, it might be easy to think that we can confide in anyone about how we are feeling, but we would be wrong. Some people’s burdens will feel so heavy to them in the months to follow that they will have no strength to carry anyone else’s burdens. Others won’t be able to empathize because they won’t understand why people are sad about certain things. And others just simply won’t know how to empathize because they never have.

As the weeks continue and we remain under our current restrictions, let’s pray that God would help us to know in whom we can confide (through virtual options, of course) and that He would help us to be safe people in whom to confide. And let’s confide in Him most of all. After all,

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Psalms 147:3

He knows how to take care of our pain and bring relief to our souls. He is a trustworthy God who delights to bring healing to His children.

3. Let God heal the underlying root to your emotions.

There is a list of possible symptoms that a person could experience with the Coronavirus that is circulating in different media outlets. Why? Because anyone with those symptoms needs to self-isolate so that they do not spread the illness to others. Perhaps the hardest part of putting an end to this pandemic is the fact that an individual can be infected without even realizing it, thus spreading the illness to others.

Although none of us like to experience symptoms of illness, they are a very important part of the human experience. They help us to realize that we have an underlying health issue and cause us to temporarily change our normal way of life so that we can get well.

Our feelings are a lot like symptoms. They show us the health of our hearts. If we are sad, frustrated, anxious, etc., those emotions show us that we hold a certain belief or mindset that is making us feel that way. Those thoughts and beliefs are the underlying issue.

What I have found in my own experience is that I can easily recognize my symptoms, but it is often hard for me to recognize the underlying issue. I either want to wallow in my emotions without thinking about their root cause or stuff them to the back of my mind rather than deal with them. A lot of times they just seem too painful to want to dwell on. The road to healing, however, is to dress the wound. A heart doesn’t heal if its source of pain is not mended.

As I cycled in and out of sorrow (and anger) last year, God helped me to recognize several underlying issues that were making me feel the way that I did.

I can’t say that I resolved the underlying issues perfectly as each one came up, but I did see God addressing my emotions and revealing these underlying issues to me each time I turned to Him. And He kept reminding me that He was in control and that He was not anxious or afraid.

Letting go and trusting God was a hard lesson for me to learn. It still is. It showed me how much I want to control things. But I believe it has been the very lesson I have needed because of all the opportunities I have missed out on in trying to control my life. God would choose abundant life for me, but much of that means letting go. He continues to work in my emotions as I continue to recognize how little control I have lately, even less than I ever realized before. And I’m glad. Perhaps a little terrified, but glad. I wanted an adventure, and I’m getting more than what I ever bargained for. We always do with God.

I believe that many of us will find that we cycle in and out of sorrow and other emotions for however long this pandemic lasts. It’s to be expected. God will continue to work in our feelings and thoughts if we continue to ask Him to. He is the greatest counselor and physician. He delights in making us whole.

Even so, it’s okay to be sad. Everything we are mourning today is ultimately due to the effects of sin in the world. Sickness and death entered the world through sin, and we mourn what sickness and death are doing in every area of the world today. As we mourn sin’s effects and seek God’s comfort, I pray we would be able to come to a place as believers where we would ask God to search us and know our hearts and see if there is any grievous way in us (Psalms 139:23-24). He is able to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us (Psalms 51:10). Let’s ask Him to. Let’s start afresh with Him today.

For Such a Time as This

My son painted this a few months ago. The smudges on the top, left hand corner remind me of two birds escaping a city as it collapses. Given the world we are living in now in days, it seems appropriate.

Several years ago, I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Georgia for Christmas. It was a memorable time, from the steak dinner on Christmas day to the overnight stay at their family’s cabin and visiting several coffee shops throughout the week. Perhaps what stood out most from my time there, however, was the movies we watched in the evenings in the comfort of their own home. Each night, we watched a different movie based on the time era of the Nazi regime.

After several evenings of watching these movies, I noticed an underlying theme. It was fear.

It caused a neighbor to report suspicion of Jews hiding in a neighboring office building when the neighbor, in fact, had no reason for suspicion. It caused a mother to starve to death in a concentration camp when she had bread hoarded underneath her mattress for her daughters that she feared were not getting enough to eat. It caused a coup attempt to fail that would have undermined Hitler’s advances and potentially accomplished the defeat of the Nazis. And it brought about countless amounts of suffering and death for those that could have otherwise been saved during that time.

For the remainder of my visit, I ruminated over my thoughts regarding fear as portrayed in those movies. The truth is, fear is a feeling that I am far too familiar with. It has dictated my decisions in so many ways. But as I started to recognize the far-reaching effects that fear could have, I resolved in my heart to no longer allow fear to dictate my decisions. Fear would never be a good reason for any choice.

Fast-forward a little over six years later, and here we are, experiencing a new wave of fear as a nation and around the globe. The threat in our day of age has brought illness to hundreds of thousands, but perhaps an even greater problem is the effect it is causing on otherwise healthy people—the poison of fear, which is bringing about an even greater destruction.

I have seen and read many articles and posts throughout the last few weeks about the topic. Small businesses are failing, the economy is crashing, grocery stores can’t keep up with the demand of their customers, medical staff are in danger of not having the proper safety equipment due to higher demand of supplies by the general public, etc.

In the midst of a world gone mad as the coronavirus continues its spread, how are we to respond?

For those of us who are believers, we already know the answer. Do not be afraid.

It’s a common command given throughout the Scriptures in moments when the most normal human response would have been to fear. And yet God tells us not to be afraid. Why? Because He is with us.

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 ESV

When I was really little, I remember thinking my dad was one of the strongest and most capable people in the world. When circumstances contradicted my beliefs, it was hard for me to accept that. After all, he was my dad, and being strong and capable was an intrinsic part of being a dad in my young mind.

Though I now know that my dad has limitations and weaknesses, I believe that God would want us to have the beliefs I once had about my father when we think about who He is. He is powerful and sovereign and above all things. And His strength and capability are an intrinsic part of who He is. So when He commands us not to fear because He is with us, we need to keep reminding ourselves of who He is and to rest in the fact that He is by our side. Plain and simple.

For those of you who are struggling with fear, even in the midst of knowing who God is and that He is with you, please know that this post was not written to judge you. All I ask is that you would do this one thing—confess your fears to Jesus. And if you don’t know exactly why you are afraid, ask Him to show you. This virus may be the very thing He uses to heal you of fears you have been secretly holding onto—fears you may not have even known you had. He already knows what worries you are facing, and He would delight in helping you to feel a little freer. Take advantage of this opportunity to find further wholeness in Him.

On the flip side, for those of us who are not dealing with fear, let’s not give in to foolishness. The tendency, in our case, might be to want to “show off” how unafraid we are by overexposing ourselves to crowds and having the attitude of “I’ll do what I want.”

While we have the freedom to do that, for whose benefit would it be?

It would do us well to remember the following verse in times like these:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3 ESV

Let’s choose where we go and what we do with wisdom, knowing that we may come into contact with people that might not survive the coronavirus if they were to become infected because of us.

As we face the days and weeks ahead, I want to encourage us all to ask ourselves what the determining factor is for each decision we make. Is it fear, foolishness, or faith?

Let’s ask God for His wisdom and guidance as we seek to be people of faith. Moreover, let’s ask Him to give us the perspective He would want us to have during this time. We have an unprecedented opportunity in history to be a witness for Jesus like never before and to display the peace that He offers amidst moments like these.

He has allowed us to be alive in this moment of time for such a time as this. Let us rise to the occasion and be people that would sing His praise and bring Him glory, even in the midst of all this.