Our world is currently facing an unprecedented and ever-changing situation with this COVID-19 pandemic. With the extreme instability in global financial markets and millions out of work, countless people are being confronted with the anxieties associated with a global recession and a world health crisis. And all of this is on top of the everyday piles of personal worries people are already facing. The book of Matthew 6:34 says, “Today has enough worries of its own.”
It is very natural for us to pray for good health and prosperity of our loved ones. But today, these are the very pillars that are under the greatest threat of harm. Our heads are spinning. We find ourselves wondering if the necessary safety measures of quarantine, school closures, and social distancing that have been put in place to slow the spread of the virus will have the unintentional effect of exacerbating the mental and emotional health crisis that’s already been rising. Studies have shown that even before this coronavirus came on the scene we were more relationally disconnected, lonely, and depressed than ever before?
Gun violence recently outpaced car-accidents in terms of the number of deaths nationwide, with the largest number of them being a result of suicide, particularly in rural communities. My own small community has experienced more of this kind of pain in recent months than I can personally remember. Our hearts are breaking, and we long to know how to administer healing to the broken-hearted. But doing so now is proving particularly difficult, as neighbors are being called to pull themselves apart for the sake of one another’s health.
I’ve been homeschooling our kids for over 13 years now, and I can honestly testify to the immense blessing it’s been to experience the kind of conversations and relationship building that comes with teaching children at home. But for me, this was something I was able to prepare for and make room for in our lives. For those who are having this kind of lifestyle thrust upon them, it is far more difficult. I worry about the people in our communities and around our nation. So, I am praying more for them. My children are praying more too. We are praying for single parents who have to carry the entire load. We are praying for parents working in essential jobs while schools are closed, like the many households in our own community where both parents work on the front lines of this crisis in the field of health care. We are praying for those who even before the crisis were living paycheck to paycheck and now are simply unable to provide for their families. For the orphans, the widows, the sick, and the prisoners who were already separated from loved ones, we are praying. How is it possible to meet the emotional and mental needs of our children while all our heads are spinning about, and everyone around us is losing theirs? There is just so much unknown; and it is critical for our well-being to know how to proceed safely into this unknown.
The actual definition of anxiety is the fear of the unknown. For most of us, it is precisely the unknown that is stealing our inner peace and sense of joy. In the book of Philippians we are invited into a kind of truth that I believe must be implemented in these chaotic days if we don’t want to end up in ruins. “Be anxious for nothing, but in all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I believe that what is required for inner peace and well-being right now, must come from a greater hope and a deeper truth. We will have to be far more intentional in turning to God to meet our needs and not to the things we are so used to relying on. So many of our formerly reliable constructs are now failing us, such as the systems of employment, education, finance, health, and community.
The Bible teaches that it is the poor who are rich in faith. This faith comes as a result of turning to God continually in the many needs which they face. It is in human neediness that we turn to God. If we will turn our eyes to God as our source and make our requests unto Him for provision, He will provide for us day by day. When anyone comes to God and asks anything of Him in His holy name, He will not turn him away. God is not a respecter of persons. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
When we enter into the light, the hope, and provision of God and then He meets our needs with His sufficiency, particularly after we have asked Him to do so, we come to understand just how real and present God is. We come to learn what our hearts longed to know. We learn that He is real, that He sees us, that He hears us, that he cares, that He is able to save us, and to meet our needs. This is how faith grows. And as our faith grows, we become more dependent on Him. And when we become more dependent on God, we become more peaceful, joyful and empowered to do what is needful. When we become more peaceful and joyful and empowered to persevere, we also become vessels that overflow with hope to others in their need. Our world certainly needs more vessels of hope in these trying times. This is not about pretending the pain is not horrible, that the losses are not tragic, or that the fear is not real. It is about holding on to a secure anchor that is moored in truth so that tomorrow we can rise again from these ashes.
This kind of shift from looking to the tangible world to meet our needs and turning to look to God who is unseen will take a concerted effort on all of our parts. This is the work of faith. It means refocusing our thoughts away from what our eyes can see and taking our fears and needs to God. God is not afraid of our honesty, nor does He turn us away when we are anxious. He actually wants us to give our worries to Him and make our requests of Him. For those who were not already in the habit of turning to God when facing difficulties, it will take more work for you. But for your soul’s own serenity, this is now a must! Our own souls, our children, our parents, our spouses, our nation, and our world need us to do this, and now is the time! We have a real reason to hope. This is not going to be our situation forever! But we need more than what our eyes can see right now to get through this.
But how do we actually and practically do these actions of faith and enter into hope? Where do we begin so it isn’t so abstract? I suggest you get a pen and piece paper (a journal if you have one already with you in lock-down) and make a list of all the things about which you are worrying, all the scary things, the undone things, and all the broken pieces in your life, and then name them in a way that your heart knows it is giving them to God. As you do this in writing and make your specific requests to Him, be sure to ask the Lord to provide, to protect, and to heal. Ask God for wisdom. “Now, faith is the substance of hope and the evidence of things unseen!” (Hebrew 11:1) Writing down your anxieties is a way of handing them over and entrusting them to God by faith. Writing down your requests is evidence of what is not yet seen, and this is also faith. Faith pleases God. As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches that “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Over thirty years ago, my High School English teacher required that all the students in the class memorize the “IF” poem written by Rudyard Kipling. Whenever I found myself facing trials over the years, the words of the “If” poem would come to my mind. The trials that my family has been facing in 2020 have been no exception. I can hear the words of the poem in my heart speaking to me, redirecting me, and inviting me into becoming a more mature and complete soul. Although this isn’t scripture, it is indeed the truth. And if it is truth, then it is of God, because God is the truth!
by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
I dedicate this posting to all who are seeking to learn and grow in these times. We never want to waste our sorrows. I do hope that in all the tragedy, chaos, and loss many of the citizens of our interconnected world will experience secondary blessings as we begin to draw closer to God and to one another because of a new kind of time spent. I am grateful to be witnessing how my husband Scott has and is currently walking faithfully through the difficult circumstances we are facing. He is a living example to our family of manhood, a man dependent upon a God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever – faithful!