Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I was determined to have hamburgers on the grill this weekend. However, it was looking like that may not happen. This was my fourth grocery to check this morning. I headed straight for the meat section. My shoulders dropped, the shelves were cleared out. Or so I thought. In the bottom of the cooler were seven packages of hamburger. Above them a sign read: “Only two packs per customer.” I checked them over, choosing the best of what was offered and tucked them under my arm. As I made my way down the aisles I noticed how many of the shelves were empty. Quantity restriction signs hung loosely over empty shelves.
It is an emotion that I find hard to explain as I look at bare shelves and people in surgical masks. Nothing but fearful eyes darting about. Even children sitting in carts with masks seem unnaturally subdued. No smiles, just the undercurrent of fear and uncertainty.
Life, in a very short few weeks, has been turned upside down. Though our lives have been altered there is One that will never change. One that will always have what you need, when you need it. No waiting, no restrictions or emptiness. Jesus is listening, comforting, strengthening and loving us all.
Unfortunately, that is easy to forget when your eyes are filled with these images. Though we cannot see Jesus with our earthly eyes, we know in our hearts that he is here. He is with you and me. You must not allow these images to discourage you from the truth. No matter what you may see, read or hear, God is ultimately still in control.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
My dog is obsessed with the chipmunks living under the deck. He whines and barks at them through the window as they run and play, stopping to munch on a nut or vegetation right in front of the glass door. Just two or three feet and a glass pane separate him from his nemesis. Once I let him out for his relief breaks he runs from burrow to burrow, sometimes forgetting why he was let out. Then he comes inside and realizes he needs to go out. All day he paces, whines and cries and nothing I do distracts him from those chipmunks. He is obsessed and cannot focus on anything else.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that we too can become obsessed with things. In fact, like those chipmunks in the window, we are also distracted. Everywhere you turn there are commercials, radio advertising, billboards, emails, news reports and the topic of every conversation you take part in. The Covid-19 situation is on the forefront of every communication. Stirring up fear, worry and questions. We spend a lot of time pacing and trying to figure out what will happen next.
I have begun limiting my exposure to Covid-19 reports, articles and news. Some would say this is not prudent. However, I disagree. I am not sticking my head in the sand, instead I am controlling what I expose myself to. It is true we need to know what is going on in our communities, governments and the world, but there is a limit. Instead of subsisting on a continual buffet of Covid reports, information and speculation, we should limit how much time we spend reading and submerging ourselves in the ongoing situation. I know that is not easy, you cannot listen to the radio or watch TV without every commercial being about the Covid 19 virus, but you have the power to choose what and how much you digest. Do not allow yourself to be distracted to the point of neglecting yourself. This constant exposure can intensify fear, loneliness, depression and aggression. Enjoy time with family, make time for study and prayer, enjoy a good meal or take a walk. You have the power to limit your exposure and protect yourself.
I put curtains up on the door and Bryan is much calmer. He still knows the chipmunks are there and checks out the burrows every time we go out, but he is not obsessed anymore because the constant stimuli has been curtailed.
“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12
For the past two weeks I have been trying to write a Seed. However, only the words, “it is time to separate the wheat from the chaff” has rolled through my mind. So I began to look for a correlating story as my example, however none came to me. I read about the process of separating wheat from chaff. (Threshing is done by beating the grain using a flail on a threshing floor or using donkeys or oxen walking in circles on the grain on a hard surface.)
This phrase first rolled through my gray matter the night before my city was hit by four tornadoes. How unfair, I remember thinking that our community was dealing with the Covid 19 virus and now a destructive tornado.. So many people I know were out of work, others worried about the health of loved ones and themselves and then to have our community shredded by an EF3 tornado. Where is the fairness in that? As I meditated on these thoughts and shared my questions with Jesus, that phrase continued to roll through. It was then that I realized the correlating story wasn’t something from my life but our lives. We are living in unusual times. Dangerous and uncertain times.
“Now the wheat will be separated from the chaff.” Whispers.
Faith is nothing without testing. It is easy to stand and say I believe, God is in control and Jesus is my savior when life is good. It is easy to declare my faith and trust in God when I am not on state lockdown or huddled in a closet in the darkness. We are living in unusual times. Dangerous and uncertain times. It is now that the wheat will be separated from the chaff.
Is your declaration of trusting and serving the Savior just words? Or is your faith one that will withstand what we still have to face? These events have not changed our duties as Christians. We are to witness, lift up those in despair, help the needy and retain our faith and joy, no matter what may come. Now more than ever in your life, those around you need to witness a faith that withstands the threshing floor.
Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
I had stopped at the Dollar Tree to get a couple of things for a project that I am about to begin. While I was looking for the glue sticks, I heard a lady cough. That cough was then followed by an eruption of coughing. The cough was deep and raspy, it erupted from her chest and echoed throughout the small store. I didn’t pay much attention, at first, but then the hacking continued. I stepped out of the aisle and cast a caution eye across the shop. The store was quiet except for the coughing. The employees had stopped ringing, the customers had stopped shopping and the manager stood in the front. Her indecision written all over her face. It was mixed with a genuine look of fear. Everyone had stopped what they were doing and all their attention was focused on the middle aged lady in aisle three.
I will admit that for the first time during this Covid-19 situation, I was experiencing genuine fear. With every cough, my mind raced and questioned. Should I leave my shopping and exit the store? Could she be infected and has she just infected us all? The hurricane of questions gained speed in my brain, tearing through my sense of peace. I wasn’t the only one caught in the swirl of uncertainty. My fellow patrons stood motionless, their faces betraying their thoughts. The chill of fear emanated from us all.
God commands us to not fear. In fact, “do not fear” is in the Bible 80 times. Seems to me that if it is repeated this often, then God wants to bring home the point. Whenever we allow fear to control us, we are decreasing hope and limiting our victory. We cannot let hope fall to fear. We have to hold on to our hope in Christ with both hands. Without it, there is no victory.
I know that this is a confusing time, unprecedented in our lifetimes, however, no matter what you hear, no matter what you see, remember, God is ultimately in charge. You have nothing to fear. His Word tells us so.
Do not fear, but rather encourage your faith. Encourage those in your life. Do not let fear win over.