God’s Testimony Through the Church-  May 27, 2020

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

As with many challenging times, this pandemic has brought out the best in some of us. There has been an outpouring of support for our first responders, the doctors, nurses, EMTs, hospital staff, etc. who have been working so hard for the past few months, as have workers of essential businesses like grocery and drug stores. Millions and millions of dollars are being donated to nonprofit organizations to help those who have been impacted by the virus, either directly or indirectly. Volunteers are tirelessly giving of their time at food banks and other programs.

Many churches have especially stepped up to the challenge, using and expanding ministries already in place, or creating new ones almost overnight. Church members are connecting with other members to see how they are handling the isolation and if there’s anything they can do to help. Other believers are meeting online or on the phone to pray for those who have been hit by the coronavirus. Believers are striving to meet the physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual needs of their Christian family members.

It’s a beautiful thing to behold – the Church being the Church! Local congregations are reaching out and helping their members and their communities. Churches are working together with other churches to pool and thus multiply their resources.

This isn’t surprising. The Church has been caring for their “members,” their “church family,” from the beginning (see Acts 2:44-47; 4:34-35). In fact, when the Church is being the Church, we are fulfilling Jesus’ command to love one another.

It’s easy to see how we can love one another when difficult times come…and it’s good to see the Church doing what it needs to do. When it’s smooth sailing, however, we may tend to forget this command or push it onto the back burner. When there isn’t a specific, tangible need to be met, “love one another” can seem rather vague; and when that Is the case, it can be a challenge to really determine if we’re still obeying this command.

Thankfully, Scripture gives us several ways we can show God’s love to members of His family. They are sometimes grouped together in the “one another” verses. I have a list of 40 one another verses (No, I’m not going to list them all – that calls for a whole series!). Here are a few of them, quoted from The Amplified Bible:

“Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.” (Romans 12:10)

“Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.” (Romans 12:16)

“Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.” (Romans 14:13)

“So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual upbuilding (edification and development) of one another.” (Romans 14:19)

“Welcome and receive [to your hearts] one another, then, even as Christ has welcomed and received you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

And that’s just from Romans! We’re also called to show love to another by comforting, encouraging, and stimulating one another; and by not lying, slandering, or grumbling against one another.

Whew! How is this possible? It’s possible because we know how much Jesus loves us. Remembering His love for us enables us to love one another. Jesus perfectly acted out all the “one anothers” when He was here on earth, ultimately by dying on the cross for us. We can be sure He isn’t commanding us to do anything He hasn’t first done for us.

Let’s do it. Let’s strive to live a life that shows the world we are Jesus’ disciples by having and showing love for one another. One way we can begin today is by sharing our joys and concerns with one another and by lifting each other to the Throne of Grace. Let’s love one another when we pray today.

****************************************

God’s Working Presence in Our Doubting Moments-  May 20, 2020

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Peek-a-boo is a simple game that has thrilled babies through the ages. In their little, developing minds, when they cover their eyes and don’t see you, you’re not there. Then they giggle and squeal with delight when they open their eyes and – abracadabra – you’re back again. As entertained as we are playing peek-a-boo with children, our adult minds know better than to believe that because we don’t see someone, he’s not there.

Or do we? How many times have we wondered if God is really there? How many times have we doubted His love when we don’t see Him at work in our lives? How many times have we questioned whether He has forsaken us?

We’re not alone in our questioning – the psalmists often had the same queries:

“Why did You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)

“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” Psalm 13:1)

“O God, You have rejected us, You have broken us; You have been angry; O restore us.” (Psalm 60:1)

Sound familiar? None of us is immune to these thoughts. Even Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 on the cross when He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

When we doubt God’s presence in our lives if we don’t see Him, when we’re playing “spiritual peek-a-boo,” it is because we’re looking through the eyes of flesh rather than the eyes of faith. Remember, faith is the “conviction of things not seen” (italics mine). It doesn’t mean we don’t have faith; we’re just not tapping into it at the time. So if we catch ourselves looking at our situation through our eyes of flesh and questioning if God is there, we need to, as the song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…” because He is –

  • The God who sees: “Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees’…” (Genesis 16:13)
  • The God who hears: “And God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.’” (Genesis 21:17)
  • The God who knows: “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • The God who loves: “The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkingness” (Jeremiah 31:3)

An old hymn came to mind this week that is an appropriate prayer for ourselves and for those we know and love:

“Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
Ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”

So as you pray, take confidence that God sees and hears and knows and loves, and ask Him to open our eyes to see Him at work in our situations!

****************************************

God’s Interventions in Our Tears-  May 13, 2020

“…Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Last week I referred to Psalm 30:5 in my thoughts about joy. The verse is also appropriate for this week’s meditation on tears. Although it’s not always the case, there are several times when the Bible connects joy and tears, sorrow, or pain – Esther 9:22; Nehemiah 8:9-10; John 16:20-21 are a few examples. The fact that Scripture links tears with joy is more evidence that the Bible is true, for it acknowledges both the pain and brokenness of this world and the promise of joy that Jesus brings.

While they probably are not the first item on anyone’s wish list, tears are actually precious gifts from God that offer numerous benefits. Physically, tears clear away debris, like smoke or dust, from our eyes; they lubricate our eyes and help keep them from infection. They can dull pain as they release oxytocin and endorphins. They are a healthy way to self-soothe because they activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps our bodies rest and digest. They can improve our mood. When we sob, we breathe in more air, helping to lower our brain’s temperature, which is more pleasurable to our bodies and thus put us in a better mood. (Marcin, A., April 14, 2017, “9 Ways Crying May Benefit Your Health,” www.healthline.com).

Relationally, tears can be a way to show others that we are hurting when we don’t have the words to say. They can be a distress signal that we need support. Similarly, when we see others crying, we can help them by giving them our compassion.

Spiritually, our tears can be a way to draw closer to God. Although we can be assured that God is always with us (Hebrews 13:5), He is especially near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

This is a time for crying. We are experiencing losses – individually and globally – that call for mourning. If we haven’t been personally touched by the loss of a loved one or loss of a job or loss of a sense of safety, we are still called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). In this pandemic, in this season of pain and loss, we mustn’t be too quick to try to bypass it or minimize it or get over it. We mustn’t be too quick to stop crying.

And while we are crying, we can meditate on these few thoughts from Scripture that exemplify why tears can be considered gifts from God:

 God redeems our tears.  “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a short of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6). Pastor Tim Keller notes that sorrow and suffering can produce joy when we think about how Jesus suffered for us, giving us the joy of our salvation. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him – the joy, in part, of spending eternity with us (Hebrews 12:2)!  Just as God redeemed, or exchanged, our sin for Jesus’ righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), He redeems our tears or suffering for joy.

God remembers our tears. “Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?’ (Psalm 56:8). Collecting tears in ancient Hebrew culture suggests they are something of great value. Just think – our tears are precious to God! He doesn’t waste them, He collects them. I believe tears can be a kind of wordless prayer that God collects (Revelation 8:4).

God relates to our tears. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jesus knows what it feels like to grieve over the loss of someone He loved. He knows the anguish of sorrow. Jesus, as our High Priest, can sympathize with our tears (Hebrews 4:15).

God removes our tears. “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning or crying or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). What a wonderful promise we have from God, how we look forward to that day!

****************************************

God’s Joystick in the Morning-  May 6, 2020

“…Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Last week I shared the good news with my prayer group that the Lord provided me with a new joystick for my wheelchair. A long-time friend’s response was classic – “Did your joystick come in the morning?” Because we’ve been friends for nearly 40 years and because we’re so like-minded, I knew she was thinking about the above verse and started laughing at her clever pun. Another friend caught the pun immediately and joined in. The “Zoom prayer room” became enveloped with a spirit of joy, totally unexpected, but totally welcomed and cherished.

Joy can be as difficult to define as it is elusive to find. Joy can sneak up on us when we least expect it, as it did in our prayer group. C. S. Lewis said, “It is a by-product. Its very existence presupposes that you desire not it but something other and outer.” (Surprised by Joy). Looking at it now, experiencing that joy seemed rather ironic. We had been coming together for prayer through Zoom since the pandemic began, and so our purpose there was somber at times. And the reason for rejoicing was because a part of my wheelchair was replaced. Viruses and wheelchairs aren’t usually joyful topics; but in the midst of the heaviness the joy bubbled up. We weren’t looking for it, we weren’t expecting it. As I thought about it, I understood the “other and outer” Lewis described was the experience of sharing God’s provision with women I deeply love when we were spiritually together in the very presence of God, the Source of joy.

I’ve been meditating on joy all week and while I still don’t have a good definition, I have found some truths from scripture:

1.       Joy comes from being in God’s presence. “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fulness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11) How wonderful of God to allow us to experience joy in His presence!

2.      Joy is powerful.  “Then he [Nehemiah] said to them, ‘Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) How wise of God to direct Nehemiah to encourage the people to rejoice in God and His Word rather than grieve about the past and what they had lost!

3.      Joy is promised. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21) How generous of God, not only to invite us to work for Him, but to promise to reward us with His joy!

4.      Joy is a prayer. “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” (John 17:13) How thoughtful of Jesus to lift up this prayer for us in the last days of His life here on earth – not only joy but full joy!

5.      Joy is proof that God’s Spirit is working in us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) How loving of God to give us His Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in us to make us more like Jesus!

May you all experience God’s joystick in the morning!

****************************************

God’s Directives in a Politicized World-  April 29, 2020

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Hold on to your hats, folks, I’m about to get political. No, I’m not going to magnify or malign the current president or other government leaders. Nor am I going to take a stance as to political party or leaning. Rather, I want to explore what the Bible has to say, because God’s Word has no qualms about broaching the subject of politics and government leaders. Specifically, here are three admonitions from Paul that can hopefully help us to be biblical in our thinking as it relates to the government during this pandemic.

1.       Pray for our government leaders.

I have heard that for every negative statement a child (or adult!) hears, it needs to be counteracted by at least five positive statements. I wonder what would happen if five prayers were lifted for our government leaders every time someone expresses something negative about them! Can you imagine if our leaders were lifted up to the throne of grace that often? Here are five suggestions for praying for them. You can insert the names of our president, vice president, speaker of the house, state governor, mayor, etc., into the verses:

A.      Pray for their salvation:  Lord, You desire that…be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3)

B.      Pray for wisdom:  Lord, we ask for Your wisdom on behalf of…; You promise to give generously and without reproach (James 1:5)

C.      Pray that their motives align with God’s requirements:  Lord, may…remember what you require of your people – to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)

D.     Pray for wise counsel to surround them:  Lord, may…not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers (Psalm 1:1)

E.      Pray for a heart that acknowledges God as King Nebuchadnezzar did: Lord, may…praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His words are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride (Daniel 4:37)

2.       Live “a good and tranquil life in all godliness and dignity.”

Disrespect, gossip and slander have nothing to do with godliness and dignity, for God hates that kind of talk. Likewise, surrounding ourselves with those who are disrespectful can agitate our souls, squelching the tranquility God desires for us. It would be well if we would ask God to set a guard over our mouth, so those kinds of words are not a part of our vocabulary when we are talking about those in authority.

3.      Remember that God is the ultimate authority.

 Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the heart of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” We have no need to fear whoever is in a position of government, because God is the King of Kings!

We can take our cues from Daniel, who showed great respect to the kings of Babylon, even though he was a captive; at the same time, he was not disobedient to God’s commands. So this week, let’s get political the way Daniel did!

****************************************

God’s Creative Ways in our Limited Options-  April 22, 2020

“Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel… and he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, ”Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s….You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem….”’ And they arose early in the morning…and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.’ And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.’ And when they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed.” (2 Chronicles 20:14-17, 20, 22)

Last week we learned the importance of focusing on what we know when we are facing uncertain times; and one of the things we know is that God hears our prayers (Psalm 4:3 and 1 John 5:15). How comforting to know we have the ear of the King of Kings, the Creator of the Universe! And while we can be certain of this truth that God hears and answers our prayers, we aren’t as certain about how He chooses to answer them.

When you think about it, God’s ways of answering prayers are sometimes, well, creative, to say the least, if not downright bizarre. Whether it was through a direct command from God, or a word from a prophet, or the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, God directed His people to do some very odd things. He told Joshua to march around Jericho shouting and blowing trumpets; He ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son; He led David to pick up a sling and a few stones to kill a giant; He had Elijah drown an altar (during a drought, no less) to start a fire. And in the above verses, He directed Jehoshaphat’s counselors to have him send in the choir ahead of the army!

What can we learn from these examples? God will NOT be put into a box! While we can boldly enter the throne room of grace to present our requests before Him, we cannot, dare not, presume to tell Him how to answer our prayers, or to assume we know what He will do.

Because we are His children, we have a right to ask God to heal our world of this deadly coronavirus. But it is His choice as to how He will answer. He is all powerful – He can obliterate every trace of the virus in a second! And who knows, He still might. Or He might give scientists wisdom to develop a vaccine. Or He could send a wind to blow the virus away so that no one else will become infected. Or He could allow it to run its course. This is totally up to Him.

No matter how God chooses to answer our prayers, though, we can be certain that His answer will reflect His character – His holiness, His righteousness, His justice, His mercy, His love. We can also be certain that the answer will be promoting His Kingdom. Since that is the case, we can be assured that our prayers will be answered when we pray in line with His character and His Kingdom. Some verses that are helpful in focusing our prayers that reflect His character and His Kingdom are John 6:40 and John 17; Romans 14:17; Ephesians 5:17-21.

Let us keep on asking, presenting our requests before God. But let us also be careful not to put God in a box – He is WAY too big!

****************************************

God’s Assurance in Uncertain Situations-  April 15, 2020

“O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Jehoshaphat was one of the few good kings of Judah; he “walked in the way of his father Asa, doing right in the sight of the Lord.” But, as we know, that doesn’t guarantee a life free of enemies. Judah was being attacked by a coalition of nations bent on destroying the nation. Jehoshaphat was afraid – naturally. So what did he do? “And Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord; and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” (2 Chron 20:3).

Notice there’s not a period, not even a comma, between the king being afraid and “turned his attention to seek the Lord.” It was his immediate response. He didn’t consult his advisors; he didn’t take a survey of his troops and supplies; he didn’t try to negotiate with his enemies. Those aren’t necessarily bad actions; they might even be wise responses. But the king’s first response was to turn his attention to see the Lord. He had his priorities right!

I’ll get into God’s answer to Jehoshaphat’s prayer and the results next week. But there is an important principle here I don’t want us to miss.

Several people have been describing our current situation as “uncertain times.” Although we’re slowly learning more about coronavirus, there’s still so much we don’t know.

We have all had “uncertain times” in our lives, times when we are afraid and don’t know what to do. In those times, I often tell my clients – and myself! – to “turn my attention” on what I do know. It’s not uncommon for my clients’ initial reaction to be “I don’t know much of anything” – and, yes, sometimes that’s my initial reaction, too. What helps me – and, hopefully, them – is to be reminded of some important truths we do know. Here are a few:

“As for me, I KNOW my Redeemer lives. And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” Job 19:25

“I KNOW that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2

“But KNOW that the Lord has set apart the godly ones for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.” Psalm 4:3

“For I KNOW that the Lord is great and that the Lord is above all gods.” Psalm 135:5

“I KNOW that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor.” Psalm 140:12

For the Lord helps me, therefore I am not disgraced: therefore, I have set my face like flint, and I KNOW I will not be ashamed.” Isaiah 50:7

“And we KNOW that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

“For we KNOW that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1

“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed, for I KNOW whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

“Beloved, now we are children of God’ and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We KNOW that when He appears we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” 1 John 3:2

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

“And if we KNOW that He hears us in whatever we ask, we KNOW that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:15

These are just a few examples of Biblical truths we can know. I suggest that we actually visualize them, perhaps as a banner that waves in the sky above us, or ticker tape scrolling in the front of our minds; or put them to music, making them our own melody, or finding a chorus someone else has written. What is important is that we “turn our attention” to what we can know when, like King Jehoshaphat, we don’t know what to do.

****************************************

God’s Mercies in a Time of Lamenting-  April 8, 2020

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people!” (Lamentations 1:1)

This probably isn’t the first verse that comes to mind when we’re looking for encouragement. The book of Lamentations probably isn’t the most dog-eared, highlighted one in our Bibles. It is definitely not a book for those with weak stomachs and faint hearts. But this was in my reading plan this morning and as soon as I read it, God’s Spirit dropped a few thoughts into my mind I believe He wants us to remember during this pandemic.

Lamentations was most likely written by Jeremiah; each chapter is a beautiful, haunting description of a nation brought to her knees for her refusal to follow after God.  I am not saying our current situation is happening for the same reason, that’s not for me to know, nor is that what the Spirit wants to share today. What is for us to note is what is right smack dab in the middle of Jeremiah’s laments:

“This I call to mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:21-26)

These powerful verses are right in the midst of the laments. And that is what God is encouraging us to do today – to sing of His lovingkindnesses, His compassions and mercies, His great faithfulness – in the midst. God is worthy of our praise right now, in the midst of the pandemic. Today, this moment, He is loving and compassionate and merciful and faithful. Our current situation doesn’t change God’s attributes one iota! We fear or become distressed or distraught when we aren’t focusing on these unchanging attributes, but instead on our temporary situation, or our uncertain future.

Notice Jeremiah declares these attributes are “new every morning.” Another reason we become fearful or depressed is because we’re looking at the future without His mercies. He gives us new mercies every morning, not every week or month or year. When we look at the future that goes beyond today, we’re looking at it without His mercies for that day. Remember Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). Jesus didn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow, just not to be anxious about tomorrow – because we don’t have tomorrow’s mercies today.

Finally, Jeremiah tells us that God wants us to hope in Him, wait for Him, seek Him. Many of us have been forced to slow down. Our work load may be less, and we don’t have to deal with the frustrating traffic on the way to and from work or the crowds at the malls. Or our work load may have increased with conflicting obligations for our time for vocation, parenting, home-schooling, and care-giving. Either way, it can be more difficult to slow down in our minds – in times like these they may be racing around even more than usual. Yet God wants us to do just the opposite. Hoping, waiting, seeking – these all involve a slowing of our minds. Again, one effective way of doing that is to focus on the attributes of God Jeremiah mentions.

Let’s try to follow Jeremiah’s example and sing of God’s lovingkindnesses, compassions and mercies and faithfulness “in the midst!

****************************************

God’s Love in a Besieged City-  April 1, 2020

Blessed be the Lord,
For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city.
As for me, I said in my alarm, “I am cut off from before Your eyes.’
Nevertheless You did hear the voice of my supplications when I cried to You.
O Love the Lord, all you His godly ones!
The Lord preserves the faithful, and fully recompenses the proud doer.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Ps. 31:21-24)

When I was asked to share some devotional thoughts during this period of pandemic, isolation, and sequestering, these verses came to mind right away.  How appropriate for such a time as this!

We definitely are being besieged. Our enemy is different from the writer of this Psalm, though. He was able to see his enemy, able to count the horses and riders, the archers assailing his city with fiery arrows, the soldiers with swords and shields attacking him, his family, his neighbors.

Our enemies aren’t as easy to see.  We’re being besieged by invisible enemies – a virus that can only be seen through powerful microscopes, and a myriad of emotions that can be felt rather than seen and touched.

But though our enemies are different, we can learn from the psalmist. Here are a few principles we can glean from him:

  1. Acknowledge your anxieties and doubts. The psalmist wasn’t afraid to confess his alarm and fears that God wasn’t there or couldn’t see what was going on or couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything about it. He didn’t pretend the enemy wasn’t there or try to minimize the situation. He faced the facts and expressed his initial reactions to them.
  2. Be aware of your focus. At some point the writer had to look up from his enemy, had to stop counting the soldiers coming against the city and quit following the fiery arrows with his eyes. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to see God’s lovingkindness. We need to be informed about what’s going on…but if we continue to focus on the news, in whatever medium we’re watching or reading or hearing, we won’t be able to see God’s lovingkindness all around us. Lift up your head, look around, see what God is doing in the midst of this besieged city. And see what He wants you to do to show His lovingkindness.
  3. Change your tune. The same psalmist who wailed “I am cut off from before Thine eyes” sang a different song with these words: “Blessed be the Lord”…”O love the Lord”…”The Lord preserves the faithful”…”Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” I imagine it wasn’t easy, it took an act of his will to change his tune. But it was a choice he made that changed his whole perspective, which changed his whole attitude. That’s something we all can do as well.

So there you have it – the ABC’s of this Psalm! There’s nothing new here. We may have encouraged others with these words, but it’s time to say them to ourselves, apply them, and determine to live in them.

Carol Landfried, MA
CCC Intake Coordinator