So much has changed in the last couple of weeks to upset our sense of “normal.” Two weeks ago Kim and I were enjoying a long anticipated Spring Break trip to see our daughter Emily in Gottingen Germany. I started getting messages asking if we were okay and on our way back to Texas. As I checked news on my phone, I discovered that President Trump was closing the country to flights from Europe. Thankfully, the travel ban did not include US citizens. Needless to say, last Wednesday began a cascade of information and decisions that none of us anticipated needing to make.
Now many or most of us find ourselves working from home under “shelter in place” navigating a myriad of uncertainties associated with Coronavirus. We have never experienced anything quite like this pandemic. Covid19 has brought unprecedented global change in ways we could not foresee. None of us can set a clear timeline for when we will resume something approaching “normal.” This is our current reality.
Thankfully, God is with us and for us, even in this… or especially in times like this. We did not choose this trial, but we can choose how we will respond. I am reminded of the words of Jim Stockdale, an American General captured during the Vietnam War. He was held prisoner for seven years undergoing torture, isolation and mental and physical brutality. He is known for something called the “Stockdale Paradox” which says that great leadership embraces both the real and the ideal. In other words, it deals with reality, but does not lose hope.
I am also reminded of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1NIV)
Did you catch that…Paul is writing from prison in circumstances not of his choosing and beyond his control, but he did not lose heart. He goes on to write:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. ” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NIV)
He is realistic about the difficulties. He admits that he doesn’t have all the answers and gives a realistic assessment of his situation. He embraces REALISM, yet he does not give into despair or depression.
He affirms that God’s power is at work in his situation. Can you? One of the many byproducts of our current situation is that families are reconnecting. I see more of my neighbors walking together, eating meals at home. Doing life more closely as a family. Priorities are being re-examined. With the loss of some of the things that distract us, many of us are listening to God with “ears that hear” (as Jesus was fond of saying in the Gospels). God has our attention. It is my prayer that he will increasingly have more of our hearts. Most of us are seeing the importance of community with greater clarity these days. We miss our friends, church community and normal social interactions. This is a good reminder that God has made us for connection with Him and each other.
Paul ends this great passage with the following words:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
WE DO NOT LOSE HEART. We see our current challenges with realism, but also realize that they are temporary. Paul chooses to FIX his eyes on Christ, and not the circumstances beyond his control. In other words, he doesn’t lose hope.
I challenge you to respond as Paul. Cast your cares on God. Admit the difficulty of the circumstances but also look up. God is with you and for you and will give you his strength. Isaiah 41:10 has become one of my favorite verses in recent days.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
So deal with today’s challenges realistically without losing Hope. God is with us, and we are going to get through this! Hope to be together again sooner versus later!
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church