There is no denying that life as we know it has been shaken to the core in recent days. It is bad enough that we have to deal with death, illness, financial lack, unemployment, violence, natural disasters, and social injustice in the normal course of living in a fallen world. But throw in a global health crisis that no one can get a handle on and suddenly we find ourselves in a bad situation that gets worse by the minute, and we are HELPLESS. What IS God's purpose in all of this--in letting us suffer an ordeal and battle an enemy we are powerless to defeat on our own? I believe that God is giving each of us a divine do-over, a chance to assess our lives in ways we never imagined and to realign them with His good and perfect will and purpose for our lives.
What does that do-over look like for you? For me, my home confinement is giving me a chance to:
- Reflect on the recession of 2007-2008. At that time our family was up to our eyeballs in debt. My husband lost two jobs in banking in an 18-month period and we suffered a financial setback that resulted in filing for unemployment compensation, depending on food stamps, and seeking state-funded medical insurance for our kids just to survive. We had to ask our church for money to pay utilities and my in-laws for mortgage assistance to avoid foreclosure. With two school-age children, it was an especially challenging and stressful time for our family. While reflecting on the last recession might not sound like something one would do by choice, it has actually allowed me to recall God's goodness and provision in a very hard season of my life and to reinforce my faith in His ability to do it again.
- Assess how well (or poorly) we manage our resources of time and money. We recovered from the last recession and hope to survive this one, but we are assessing where we need to tighten up our budget so that we can weather the storm and help others along the way. I am also taking a hard look at the way I use my time and am trying to be more fruitful with my hours at home, while enjoying simple pleasures like bird watching, working in the yard, and walking more often.
- Reconnect with family and friends. My family and friends are located all over the country. Some are on social media and others are not. Having the additional time at home has allowed me to connect not only with them on social media, through handwritten correspondence, and by phone, but also to spend more time with my immediate family members who are at home with me.
- "If my people, who are called by my name..." refers to God's children, those who know Him and have been called by Him. Sometimes we take "if my people" to mean all people living in our country, but that's not what this verse says. Yes, we are all created in God's image, but we have not all embraced the personal relationship with God that was made possible through Christ's death and resurrection. Not all of us walk with God or consider Him our Father, or ourselves His children. Many don't live in the protection of that divine relationship.
- "will humble themselves"...Clearly we in America, whether Christian or not, have done a poor job of humbling ourselves before a holy God. Do you think God might be using all we are experiencing to humble us? Think of all the sports franchises, businesses, and events that have shut down or been canceled. Schools have closed and parents are suddenly thrust into the role of teaching their children, realizing that they are not as qualified as they need to be. We have learned that we are powerless to combat and defeat this virus -- an invisible enemy -- and desperately need the help and resources of others in order to just survive. I can't think of anyone who has not been humbled or suffered some sort of loss as a result of this calamity. Do you think God might be allowing us to finally see just how much we NEED Him? I hope so!
- "and pray, and seek my face..." As I write this I am listening to CNN. Like many, I feel compelled to turn to the news for my information. But what if we turned to God and His Word instead? What if we spent more time worshipping Him than worrying about this pandemic? We seek a cure for our physical bodies and our dwindling economy, but are we seeking what our spirits need -- that personal, intimate relationship with God and the truths of His Word?
- "and turn from their wicked ways..." We are all sinners. We are all guilty of judging others. We are quick to find fault in politicians and blame greed and politics for the push to send Americans back to work before we give social distancing a chance to slow down the spread of the virus. We are guilty of hoarding what others need because we fear there may be none left for us. Until we repent of our sins -- whatever they may be -- God will not hear our prayers.
- "then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin, and heal their land..." God will hear our prayers when we turn from our wicked ways (repent from our sins). We can pray and seek His face, but if we don't also turn from our wicked ways He will not forgive us and heal our land.
Like many, I am looking to God's Word for answers. So many scriptures have come to mind during this crisis but one in particular stands out to me. In 2 Chronicles chapter 7, the LORD says these words to Solomon after he had completed the Temple: "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place" (vs. 13-15).
Verse 14 is one which Christians in America have held onto in every conflict and crisis we have known. But never has this verse spoken to me more clearly than in the midst of our current crisis.
God is giving us all a divine do-over -- the chance to fully understand that we are nothing without Him and that nothing in this life is as important as a relationship with Him. This is our chance to reorder our priorities, to consider others better than ourselves, and to serve as His hands and feet in a world that is hurting and lost. It's not about us. It never has been.
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