One of the ways I connect with the Lord is through nature. Looking at the sky,
listening to the birds calling out to one another just brings peace to my heart. It’s a reminder that the One who designed each species of bird and gave the clouds their assignments is still in charge. Most days, those times are just an easy connection.
But this particular morning, I went out in the coolness of a cloudy day with the
intent of purposeful engagement with the Father. My brain, my emotions were hijacked and I needed a completely different change of atmosphere, environment, and activity. So why was today different? Fear. I just have to own that this was not my most courageous moment, clearly.
As I headed away from the house, I heard the Lord say. “Be still and know I am
God.” That is one of my favorite verses and this is how the Passion Translation states Psalm 46:10: “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.” I sensed that Papa was grabbing me by my shoulders, not in an angry or hurtful way but in a loving yet powerful way. He was asking me to stop focusing on the threats I was seeing generated out of the worldwide panic. He wanted me to stop and surrender so that I could receive more from him.
Jesus reminded me of his own words, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) So, what does that mean? Does it mean we will never encounter sickness, loss, pain, or uncertainty? Nope. I think Jesus was setting the expectation: “In this world you will have trouble.” He was instructing us to expect that trouble will come because we live here, in this world. But this whole exchange with Papa got me wondering if sometimes there is an unrealistic expectation percolating in the back of my mind that perhaps bad things will not happen or will not be as severe for me or those I love. Then when worldwide troubles escalate (a pandemic, in this case) I was caught flat footed. This situation felt higher stakes for me and I let those “what-ifs” gain the upper hand.
Jesus, of course, does not leave the instruction with that unpleasant
expectation. No, no. He says first, “I have told you these things SO that in me you may have peace” and second, “take courage, I have overcome the world.” The New King James version says to be of good cheer. Jesus prepared us for the troubles of the world so that despite the circumstances we would have peace, his peace. In the security his peace, we are empowered to take courage. In fact, this is Jesus’ instruction to us: when troubles come, take courage. He is not saying, we will never feel afraid. He is saying that when fear comes do not take the bait! “Surrender your anxiety....stop striving.” Instead, TAKE COURAGE!
This is the first step to being courageous: Surrender your anxiety and stop
striving. Not necessarily easy but it is doable by faithfully believing that we can do all things through Christ because he strengthens us. And his joy makes us strong! (Not our striving) Replace the fear-based thoughts and feelings with truth. God was not caught flat-footed and he has overcome everything in this world. Everything.
Second step, take the practical precautions to be safe. Wash your hands, stay home if you are sick. And limit exposure to news, social media in order to protect your heart and mind. Sure, be informed but not consumed about what’s going on.
Third, reach out to one another. We can send emails, make phone calls, maybe even video chats. We may not be all together but we are all in this together and connection is vital. Give yourself permission to be full of good cheer, to walk in joy, and to encourage one another.