Thursday, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus: A Divine Do-Over

A friend recently asked me a question that millions of Americans are wondering -- "What do you feel is the real reason God has allowed our circumstances?" I had actually been asking God that same question earlier in the day and the words "divine do-over" came to mind. Since there is no simple answer to that question this won't be a short post, but since you are stuck at home anyway, hopefully you will take the time to read this and seek God's answer to your questions about all this.

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.

  • 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.

  • "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.
Only God can heal our world of this coronavirus. This is a plague of biblical proportions, in my opinion, and it is going to take more than modern medicine, political posturing, and manipulation of money to bring us out of this.

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.

Copyright © 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Lesson on Coronavirus from the Birds Outside My Window

If anyone had told me we would ever experience the disruption to daily life or the stress of being without certain commodities we have come to take for granted in America, I would never have believed it.  Yet here we are.  COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, has been declared a world pandemic by the WHO.  What started as an outbreak in China has quickly spread around the world and invaded our shores -- an unwelcome enemy threatening not only our physical and mental health, but our economy as well.  Schools, churches, and businesses have shut down as people have been urged to self-quarantine to protect themselves and help slow down the spread of this potentially deadly virus.

The entire country of Italy is on lock down, with Europe currently the epicenter of the virus.  In the U.S., major sports leagues and franchises have canceled sporting events, including the NCAA tournament.  Colleges have extended their spring breaks and advised their students that courses will now be completed online.  Disney, Universal, and other studio theme parks have closed.  Broadway has turned off its lights and canceled performances. Store shelves are bare and small businesses everywhere are feeling the trickle down effect of lost revenue as a result.  The news gets worse by the hour as the number of deaths and confirmed cases of infection continues to grow.

The seriousness of all this caught up with me when I received word that our church would be shutting down for two weeks and that all worship services and activities would be canceled, an unprecedented but prudent and precautionary move designed at keeping our congregation healthy and doing our part to slow down the spread of the virus in our community.   As I prepared the press releases and social media posts I felt nearly overwhelmed by the stress that has become familiar to so many.

Turning off a news cast, I looked outside at the birds eating happily at my feeder and it occurred to me that they know something which many of us have forgotten -- God is in control and we have no need to fear.  Jesus said,  "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10: 29-31, NIV).

For the birds outside my window nothing has changed.  God is still God.  The sun still rises.  No matter the storms they must weather, they still sing the praises of the One who cherishes and cares for them.

If you feel stressed and anxious because of this pandemic, just remember that you, my beloved, are worth more than many sparrows!

Copyright © 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Words of Hope for Hurting Hearts

One of the hardest things to do is to pray and wait on God to act.  When faced with a difficult decision, a challenging circumstance, a despairing heart -- it seems God is never in a hurry to make everything better for us.  That's because we look at things through the faulty lens of our human eyes, forgetting that God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to his power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Today I found myself despairing over things I cannot control and wondering if there is anything God would have me do differently than I am already doing.  As I sit here thinking about it all, I wonder why I spend so much time fretting about these things when I know that God is quite capable of handling it all.  No matter the scenarios that I play in my mind, only one thing ultimately matters to me -- being in God's will, even if at the moment it is a difficult place to be. 

Friends, when will we ever learn that God is good, his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9)?  When will we learn that today has enough trouble of its own so we best not be anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34)?  Will we ever trust that God's plan for us is a good plan, one to prosper and not harm us, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)?

No matter how difficult things may seem, or how long the wait, may we learn to trust in the LORD with all our hearts rather than lean on our own understanding.  And may we trust him to keep his promise that if we acknowledge him in all our ways he will make straight our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I don't know what you may be dealing with right now but I do know that God cares deeply about you and the pain you bear in your body, heart, and soul.  He cares about your grief, as surely as he cares about mine.  This life is not all there is, and if you are his child, you already know that there is coming a day when "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4, ESV). 

When you lay your head on your pillow tonight, thank God for his blessings.  God knows the way that you take and when he has tested you, you will come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

May we sleep in heavenly peace because God himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Copyright © 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Whatever Time I Have Left

"Whatever time I have left"...a heavy thought indeed.  Not because I am dying -- though we are all dying -- but because there is still so much to be done, so much life to be lived and love to be shared.  Time is passing much too quickly -- the month of January is nearly half gone and before you know it, we'll be sitting at the end of 2020 and wondering how it passed so quickly when we were determined to make the most of each day and do everything in our power to slow its progression.

Time is short.  I'm getting older.  So are you.  Opportunities to do good are ours every day, but do we make the most of them?  When I get to the end of my life, this year, this day -- will I regret the things I didn't do, the love I didn't express, and the time I didn't take just to stop and smell the roses?  Or will I lay my head on the pillow satisfied that I did the best I could and lived with a sense of purpose and balance?

There are too many distractions competing for our time -- too many disturbances which burden our hearts, souls, and minds.  Burdens which we are too feeble to carry.  Disease, war, natural disasters, violence, animal and human suffering, moral depravity, political corruption...the list is endless.  Is it any wonder that some days we want to throw in the towel, sink deep into our sofas, and mindlessly binge watch TV?

Wisdom has taught me that I can't fix what's wrong with this world.  Only God can.

Wisdom has also taught me that attitude is everything and that each of us has the power to choose joy -- genuine joy -- in spite of what we see.

Yes, we have the responsibility to do what we can to effect positive change -- to vote, recycle and conserve resources, donate to organizations that fight injustice, contribute to the needs of others, and take care of our physical bodies the best we know how.  But we also have the right to choose joy, the privilege to talk to the God of the universe about our concerns, and the promise of His grace, power, mercy, presence, and peace in the midst of everything we face.

Whatever time I have left, I want to live as one who has hope and to encourage those who are hopeless.  I want to be a blessing and a vessel of God's love to others.

Life is too short to spend whatever time I have left worrying about things God is quite capable of handling.  I know how the story ends, and it's a good ending!
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -- Revelation 21:3-4, ESV

Copyright © 2019- 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Discouraged? But God...

Today is January 4, 2020, and already I am discouraged.  During a lengthy period of insomnia last night I briefly scrolled through my Facebook feed to see what the Lord might have me pray for, since I was up already.  There was no lack of discouraging, disheartening news.  Honestly, it is hard to read a social media feed or turn on the news and NOT feel disheartened by all of it.  2019 was a hard year for so many, and from what I can see with my earthly eyes, 2020 is not shaping up to be an improvement.  But God...
"He knows the way that  I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold" (Job 23:10, ESV).
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek and find me, when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13, ESV).
"By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life" (Psalms 42:8, ESV).
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28, ESV).
"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV). 
As we step into 2020, we need to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and immerse ourselves in His Word, praying each other through whatever may come our way.  Our very lives -- physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially -- depend on it.

We all have a choice -- to either be defeated and discouraged by the evil and tragedy in this world or to be transformed from glory to glory as we walk in total dependence on the great, loving God whose "divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire" (2 Peter 1:3,4, ESV).

Copyright © 2019- 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Turning Pages -- A New Chapter

Many of us are eagerly counting down the remainder of 2019 and hoping for better things in 2020.  There have been many losses, much stress, and sorrow and sickness in the lives of our families and friends.  Perhaps you too have been touched by tragedy, illness, or financial strain this past year.  I know I have.  But if we look hard enough we can find reasons to give thanks, can't we?

My husband lost his mom in June.  Although it was a sad time for our family, it was one of great joy for Janet.  She finally got her wish -- to leave a world she had grown weary of and join her Lord and loved ones in heaven, where she can see and hear and laugh again.

After five years of renting a modular home in what I call "the swamp," we moved into a darling brick home just off Main Street in the heart of Gloucester County. What a blessing and answer to prayer it is to have a home of our own, just in time for the holidays!  Now we truly feel we have settled in Virginia.  I don't see us moving back to Tennessee since we have grown to love it here, but that is ultimately God's decision.

After months of contemplation I decided to pull the old content from my devotional blog and to start fresh in 2020 with a "this and that" kind of blog since life has become sort of random.  The 2010 decade was one of learning and growing and gave me the opportunity to share many of the lessons I learned in the three devotional books I wrote, two of which are no longer in print.  (If interested, Click HERE for more information.)  People have asked me if I plan to write another book; it is my feeling that the season of my writing for publication has passed.  For now, I am content and busy with a job in full-time ministry and teaching a Sunday school class for young adults, and that's more than enough for me!

So here we are -- at the end of a year that passed much too quickly, and at the beginning of a year that I hope will be good for all those I love, and better for those who had such a difficult year in 2019.

Rather than make a New Year's resolution that I probably won't keep anyway, I plan to focus on one word this year and trust God to have His way in my life.  Truthfully, life is more of an adventure that way -- never a dull moment with Him in charge.  My word for 2020?  RESOLVE.

Rejoice in the Lord always. – Phil. 4:4; 1 Thes. 5:16
Exercise faith. – Heb. 11:6; Matt. 17:20
Serve the Lord and others gladly. – Ps. 100:2; Gal. 5:13
Obey God’s Word. – Deut. 29:9; Deut. 11:1; Deut. 30:16
Love others as God loves you. – John 13:34
Victory is yours – claim it!  -- 1 Cor. 15:57
Expect good things from God. – Jas. 1:17; Matt. 7:11

Happy New Year!

Copyright © 2019- 2020 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.