They say thanksgiving and complaining both form channels in your brain. Literal channels that are habit forming. From watching how this global epidemic is playing out, it looks like fear and faith are habit forming, as well.
I’d say there’s a lot (and sadly, too many are Christians) who are so panicked by the “sudden” lack of control that they are responding by buying up every micro-square of toilet paper and totally forgetting about their neighbor. People, this whole world was already outside of our control, many of us just didn’t realize it until now.
I find myself, during this time of global panic, remembering with gratitude all of the times when the Lord graciously pried my stubborn fingers from my life and taught me the art of surrender and trust. There was the time Smiles had a seizure that turned into a diagnosis that turned into a whole slew of moments when I had to turn up the hand and say “Whatever you have for us , Lord, even if it makes me a widow with three small children”. There was the time I thought Simon might have glaucoma at 10-years old, and had to face-plant in a hospital room to get my heart right. There was the time I saw my 7-year old son being carried, limp, by my neighbor who had ran into him with his car. And there was the time when the electric company told my husband they had no clue how he was still alive after his brush with death-by-electrocution the night before. I could probably come up with a million other stories of near-death encounters, and surrender stories that have taught and reminded me that God is sovereign, that I am not, and that I ought not cling so tightly to this life that there’s no room in my heart for the next. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39).
I think the question we ought to be asking ourselves during this time is: What am I doing with the opportunity I am being afforded? Am I feeding fear or faith? Those of us that have peace didn’t suddenly manifest it during this time. It was a gift transferred and infused into our souls, taking years and storms to develop, and is now being exposed by our circumstances.
The trust that produces peace was learned in hard circumstances, where things in our lives were spiraling out of control and we had to relinquish them to a trustworthy God. The first step to learning trust is to have Someone who is trustworthy to trust in. Jesus is the only One who is faithful, unwavering and completely in control in these out-of-control-seeming times. Turn to Him in surrendering prayer. Trust that He is sovereign and good, purposeful and wise. And then trust the process. You may have to pray it a million times in your journey towards truly believing it, and I’m certain we will never be as faith-filled as we ought to be, until we find our lodging in heaven. But someday, if you feed faith, rather than fear, in these tumultuous times, you will look back and realize God used ever single step of obedience to lead you to deep, abiding trust. All the times you chose to surrender your own sense of control and hope in His’, He was developing a character in you that will prove triumphant in times such as these.
The second thing I would say about trust is to read the Bible! Church, read your Bible! It is the greatest treasure we own. The most fortunate gift we’ve ever been given. And it teaches us about Who this great God is who is worthy of our trust and surrender. There is almost nothing that breaks my heart more than dusty Bibles because Christians are too “busy” to read them (the only thing that even competes for my heartbreak are those I love who don’t believe Jesus is the most lovely of all!). Well, folks, you’re kind-of quarantined. If you never thought you had time before, now’s your opportunity! Let the Bible filter your circumstances, rather than Facebook or the news. There’s no way to have truthful , lasting hope in anyone but the One who rules the universe, and there’s no way we can have the surety of that hope unless we know Who He is… We discover who He is by reading what He says about Himself.
All the minor-seeming decisions we make, even the ones that only pertain to our thought-life (maybe even especially those) are developing a character. I used to always say, “If you give someone a badge and a gun, you put a magnifying glass on their heart.” Now I might say, “Spread global panic and you see what resides under the surface of a person.”
Just as many have spent years making fun of Preppers and now have a decade worth of toilet paper under lock and key, there are plenty more who have spent a lifetime making fun of Christians, and now are watching who among us feels safe and who feels fragile. It’s the Christians who have peace, folks. Namely, the Christians who have been reading their Bibles.
Just as the grocery stores still have their doors cracked, for you to go gather staples before things get any worse, the Kingdom of heaven is still open to you, for a little while longer until they drop you in a casket or the Lord of Glory comes riding on the clouds. Do not procrastinate. You do not know the day or the hour.
To the Church, it may be only a short while longer (whether we see it in our lifetime or not) that you have the means to treasure up what the Word says. Do not neglect this time. The Word of God is far more valuable than toilet paper, rice and beans! If you store it in the heart and mind, it will feed you long after your shelves and freezers are bare.
In times like these, we are desperately in need of the type of character that trusts Him, because it is only the trusting, surrendered ones who can have joy when life is being pried out of their hands, and if the joy of the Lord is our strength, then our trust that leads to joy also leads to strength. If you don’t believe me, just look around at the Christians who have this character of well-developed trust in their trustworthy God, and you will see a strength that you cannot find anywhere else in this whole, shook-up world! It’s because we have “a kingdom which cannot be shaken.” (Hebrews 12:28)