It’s difficult to write from the center of the fire, this time of quarantine, of loss of connection and loss of life, of international upheaval and turmoil. All of this isn’t a hardship in one tiny corner, but a trial with a global span. This virus sweeps all of us into the whorl of chaos and confusion over what works and what doesn’t, when to mask and when not to mask, who to see and who not to see. Is it less than we projected, or is it more?
As I write, the number of those infected is now at least 1,130,000 in the US and 3,360,000 globally, but we still haven’t figured out how to count the asymptomatic who are still contagious. The number of people who have succumbed remains around 5.6% of the number we’re able to count as infected, terrible losses, but thankfully less than predicted. For that, we are grateful. For our healthcare workers, there are daily prayers for their safety.
When we’re locked down at home, the virus and its physical impact are but one piece of the chaos. Within each life, there are the other complications during a quarantine, for isolation coupled with lack of productivity, the unknown added to the growing pile of bills and unsettled arguments and irritating habits can cause an explosion that changes the trajectory of lives.
On our tranquil suburban street, I heard a woman’s voice outside, harsh and loud. Wondering if she was in need of help, I stepped onto the porch. A few houses down, a young father jumped into his truck, his wife screaming at him that he would never see his children ever again. He roared away, tires screeching while she continued to bombard him with searing words that he never heard. Devastation flooded my heart as I considered the reality for those children and the turmoil of tearing apart a family.
Death toll on our street: one marriage. Multiply that all over the world.
The pressure cooker of this crisis is not only harming our economy and our health, but our marriages and our other relationships, because it’s bringing our selfishness to the surface, and we’re living broken. How in the world do we find hope in the middle of a situation that promises to stretch clear into the next year, impacting every person on the globe? What can we do?
Remember the Lord. Keep this in mind: His plans are for our good.
The reality is that in the midst of these horrors, God intends to work good in the world, to draw us nearer to him, to make us into more compassionate people, to change our lives in personally transformative ways, to reduce our selfishness, changes we never even knew needed to occur.The reality is that God intends to work good in the world, to draw us nearer to him, to make us into more compassionate people, to change our lives in personally transformative ways. Click To Tweet
This experience isn’t meaningless, even if we’re never able to tease out the whys. There are depths to this that we will be plumbing for the rest of our days. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). It’s not a platitude, it’s a reality, an unshakeable truth, a fact.
Good doesn’t mean shiny new cars and fat wallets. The working out of good in the eyes of God is whatever is needed to transform us to be more like Jesus, to make us into more loving, kind, patient, and generous people. What will that good be for each one of us in our own unique way?
Our faith is being tested. As with all faith tests, we are pushed beyond our capabilities, testing, trying, and proving our faith. Will we rely on the One from whom we gain our strength, the One who knows how to refine us?
Every morning I stand in my kitchen examining my small window garden. Here a variety of succulents, lavender, and other green plants grow. I eye each plant one by one, lopping off a decaying part of this plant, spraying another with neem oil, and pruning back part of yet another. I water. I fertilize. I keep that garden flourishing.
My plants are not sentient. They have no comprehension of what I’m doing or why. They don’t question my actions of lopping off a part, or spraying, or watering. I am the vinedresser. I do whatever is needed to help them grow.
And thus and so is the Father of us all.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 ESV).
Maybe we can’t see the joy right now. Maybe the marital fight on the street, the unpaid bills, or the alienation from the wider world has rendered us unable to perceive any good in this whatsoever.
Let’s intentionally look for God in this, purposefully leading our minds toward the right conclusion: If this is happening, somehow, in some way that we cannot yet fathom, God will use this for good in our lives, for he loves us and we love him. Our quest is to find and to tease out that goodness.We look for God, leading our minds toward the right conclusion: If this is happening, somehow, in some way that we cannot yet fathom, God will use this for good in our lives, for he loves us and we love him. Click To Tweet
God only gives one kind of test — a test intended to prove our faith genuine, tried, and true, a test to strengthen us and to provide the positive impact of transformation and growth. The enemy hopes to twist that test toward dark results, but our Savior has defeated him. The Lord works for our good.God only gives one kind of test — a test intended to prove our faith genuine, tried, and true, a test to strengthen us and to provide the positive impact of transformation and growth. Click To Tweet
God’s expectation of us is always good, that we “let steadfastness have its full effect.” He expects that we will grow in strength and obedience, that we will gain wisdom, that we will learn to endure, and that we will indeed become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” the promise fulfilled when Christ returns. These tests and trials will result in our ultimate good.
In our youth, we listened to the stories of believers who went before us. We heard how they learned to persevere, to endure the Great Depression, to bear up under hardship during the pandemic of 1917-1920, to battle through the questions and the lack of comprehension of the whys of decades of trial, and to still remain steadfast in their faith.
They prayed. They were in church every week, for it was needed medicine. When they suffered loss, by the grace of God, they got back up again. Through their experiences, they gained the character that made them the people of solid faith whom we have sought to model for all of our lives, this great cloud of witnesses.
Coming through this COVID-19 experience, opening our Bibles, reading the words, believing them, and putting them into action will produce steadfastness in you and in me, just as it did in them.
We learn to bear up under hardship, to have patience in our endurance, to hope in God above all, to push through, doing what is right. We lean on the Lord to help us not to succumb to selfishness or to fear, showing constancy under suffering, even if we cry and collapse and then turn back to the Lord to pull us out, to pick us up, and to put us back on our feet.
Will we persevere? Will we take whatever hardship that results from this pandemic and all of its fallout and rely on the Lord to enable us to trust him to bring our faith to fruition, to growth, and to fullness?
We need faith that isn’t just words, but is tried and strengthened. Hard times and afflictions are the way we know where we stand. Here we learn how deep or how shallow our faith actually is. Whatever we discover, we turn to Jesus, going further up and further in, closer to the Savior, relying on him. This is perseverance. This is how to bear up under trial.#COVID19 Here we learn how deep or how shallow our faith actually is. Whatever we discover, we turn to Jesus, going further up and further in, closer and closer to the Savior, relying on him. This is perseverance. Click To Tweet
Will we do what is right, what helps those around us, what is honorable? Will we be faithful, loving, and kind? Will we step through a door that we know God has opened for us? Will we walk by faith? Will we seek the Lord for the whys, allowing him to shed light on the hardships we face? Will we grow in our love and in our reliance upon him?
The accuser will attempt to shed hues of black and gray all over our world. However, the Lord will shine the bright light of truth, producing an outcome for our spiritual and eternal good, for our growth, our maturity, and our increasing and ever-stronger faith.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 ESV).
May we, with the help of God and by his grace, remain steadfast under trial.
How are you doing? How can I pray for you?