Enter the Haven

Smiling in the Storm

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I was recently involved in an online meeting where needs and prayer concerns were shared.  Looking back on our discussion, I can still feel the heaviness of it.  Some of us were concerned about sick or out-of-work family members.  Some were burdened for children who are working in healthcare and dealing with the current crisis at its ugliest and most alarming.  Some simply wanted to know where to find toilet paper in this mixed-up, upside-down time.  We shared our burdens and together acknowledged the seriousness of the storm in which we find ourselves.  I wish, though, that we had also reminded each other of the hope we have in Christ.

Like Peter when he walked on the water toward Jesus, we had become distracted by the wind and wave and perhaps let our gaze waver from the beauty and assurance of His face.

Looking back, I wish we had been able to zoom out a bit and see the big picture.  If we had, I know we would have seen all of this as a blip on the enormous screen of eternity.  We would have seen how our loving Father is using all of it to accomplish His purposes.  No, I’m not saying that He sent this suffering.  I will not purport to know the mind of Almighty God.  All I’m saying is that He is a Master at redeeming brokenness, at using what the enemy means for evil to accomplish His good plans.  But God doesn’t give us the ability to see from His perspective.  He asks instead that we trust Him, that we rest in Him, and that we rejoice in Him moment by moment.  How?  Well, I think the battle will be largely won if we can keep a few important truths in view.

First, as believers in Christ, we need not fear this illness or anything else that may come to us.  We need not even fear death.  We must take the current situation seriously and be conscientious, but not because we fear for ourselves.  If we truly belong to Christ, the world is not our home anyway, and truly the best is yet to come.  We can say with Paul, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) As children of God whose citizenship is in heaven, we need fear nothing on this earth.  Rather, the care with which we conduct ourselves must be on behalf of those who do not yet know Christ.  We have a responsibility to love our neighbors by not spreading illness to them—especially to those who do not yet have the hope of heaven.  Beyond that, though, we must realize the urgency to share the Gospel at every opportunity, to share the hope that is within us.  People will not want to hear anything we have to say if all they see when they look into our eyes is the same paralyzing fear that they themselves are experiencing.

Fear is paralyzing, and it puts us right where the enemy wants us.  It can immobilize us and make us ineffective and no longer a threat to his plans.  Faith, on the other hand, terrifies him and makes us warriors.  I have experienced both so many times, and so many times my Father has patiently, lovingly, moved me from the path of fear to the path of faith.  I learned when my husband had open-heart surgery that simply saying, “No, I’m won’t be afraid.  God’s in control, and I’m trusting Him,” was not quite enough, because those brave sentiments simply masked and suppressed a terrified heart.  My Father knew how scared I really was.  It wasn’t until I admitted my fear to myself and to Him that He could replace it with His peace and comfort.  Fear will come. Acknowledge it, but don’t hold onto it.  Tell Your Father about your fear.  You can talk to Him about every concern of your heart. In fact, He wants you to. He can handle anything you’re facing, and He’s already made provision for the things you will face tomorrow.  Let Him take the fear and anxiety.  Hold onto Him and trust that He will never stop holding onto you.

Obviously, personal contact is limited right now, but it is still happening.  Our every interaction as we buy our groceries, pump our gas, or walk our dogs can be bathed in the Gospel and in the love and hope that are ours because of it.  If we look into the eyes above the masks of people in the check-out lines, behind the cash registers, delivering our packages, and sitting on their front porches, we are likely to see much fear and pain.  We have the remedy, and now more than ever before, we cannot afford to let pride or self-consciousness or preoccupation or our own fears prevent us from being instruments of salvation in God’s hands.  That’s easier said than done, I know.  I find it quite challenging to get out of my own head and take a moment to share a smile and a word of love and hope, even in those small interactions.  But I truly believe that as we surrender to the Holy Spirit, He will not only arrange and point out those opportunities, but He will provide the courage and the words we need to take advantage of them.  (I confess to you, though, that this is the most difficult step of obedience for me.  I am quiet and introverted by nature, and I never seem to have the right words when I want to say them, but He promises to provide them if I’ll simply open my mouth.)

Beyond these incidental interactions, we can be intentional about taking advantage of opportunities to share the hope we have in Christ.  Most of us have the ability to send email to friends or family members (taking care not to slip down the Facebook hole of blame, panic, and despair).  What about regularly texting or calling someone who may be lonely or afraid?  Simple daily concern may prepare the soil of someone’s heart to receive the message of God’s love.  For those like me who are roaring introverts, we can send cards.  Whatever God lays on your heart to do, DO IT without hesitation, argument, or overthinking.  The results are in God’s hands, but it is our responsibility to be available and to obey.

Finally, we must not neglect our most powerful tool against the enemy of our souls and the souls of the lost—PRAYER.  We must pray for our neighbors.  It doesn’t matter whether or not we know them.  God does, and He loves them.  We must pray for friends and family who do not yet have the hope of heaven.  We must pray for our missionaries.  Our nation is certainly not the only place where people are sick, dying, and afraid.  God has placed His workers all over the world, in places where hearts are hungry for the Gospel.  Pray that those hearts will believe and that those men and women will be able to serve safely and without fear.  I do not know how many people have prayed for me and my family through the storms we’ve experienced through the years, but I know there have been many because we have profoundly experienced the answers to those prayers as God has carried us through difficulty and met our needs in ways that only He could.  I have seen cold hearts soften and turn to the Savior gradually, almost imperceptibly, until they were rushing into His arms.  No prayer of a follower of Christ is wasted or unheard.

Friends, “the earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein,” (Psalm 24:1). Nothing catches Him by surprise.  We are safe in His hands.  Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble; but take heart!  He has overcome the world (John 16:33)!

This world is not all there is.  It’s merely the prelude to a vast eternity.  We can walk in love and rejoice—yes, even in the midst of this calamity—as citizens of Heaven.   Hold tight to the hand of the One who loves you the most.  You can trust Him.

I teach my preschoolers at church a fun little song that we adults should perhaps sing to ourselves as we navigate this unfamiliar current:

With Jesus in my boat,

I can smile in the storm,

Smile in the storm,

Smile in the storm!

With Jesus in my boat, I can smile in the storm

As I’m sailing home!

(“With Jesus in My Boat I Can”

   by Herman Voss)

When He calms the storm...
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The reason we can smile isn’t because we are in denial or ignorant about the storm.  We smile because we are safe in the care and company of the One who commands the wind and the wave.  And when the terrified throng sees the peace in our faces, we must tell them why it’s there and invite them into the boat where the Master waits for them with open arms.

Like Queen Esther, we are here “for such a time as this.”

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To my readers who don’t know what “the hope of heaven” is, let me share it with you.  God is holy and without sin (I Samuel 2:2).  As human beings, we have all sinned (rebelled against God and His ways) (Romans 3:23). We are born with the desire to sin.  That sin separates us from God, both on earth and for eternity (life after death).  The penalty for sin must be paid.  It is eternal death (Romans 6:23).

 There is no way that we can make ourselves right with God, but God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son Jesuswho is perfect and without sinto this earth to walk among us and to be nailed to a cross and die.  In so doing, He paid the penalty for our wrongdoings so we would not have to be separated from God. (John 3:16) We cannot earn this gift.  It is freely given. But just like any other gift, it must be accepted.  We accept the gift of God’s salvation by faith, by confessing (admitting) our sins to God and asking for His forgiveness, which He promises to freely give, and by trusting in Him to take them away (I John 1:9 and Romans 6:23).  From that point on, we belong to Him.  He becomes the Lord of our lives, and joy and peace and love are available to us through Jesus.  He loves you more than you can imagine.  He wants so much for you to be with Him, both now and in Heaven. 

 If you have questions or have made the decision to trust Christ to make you new, please feel free to email me or to comment below, or find a Bible-believing church or a friend or family member whom you know is a follower of Christ.  Get a Bible and read it, asking God to speak to you through it. 

 “No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:39).

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