I was in a grocery store today and a woman lamented, “No happy customers today.” I looked at her and said, “I’m happy!” She didn’t smile and responded, “Happy happy?” Guessing what she meant, I said, “I’m pretty happy.” She didn’t look convinced.
What did she mean? Was she talking about a whistling, sunny happy that says, “nothing in this world will bring me down today?” I don’t know if there are many of us with that feeling after the Governor’s order to shut down businesses. A lot of people are putting on the happy face but deep down--something else is churning. If I had to guess it’s maybe fear, anger, despair, or sadness.
As I drove away from that very busy store, I wondered what I was really feeling. I wasn’t sure. This virus closure may last a month or a year or anything in between. We don’t know. There is much we don’t know about the virus or our attempt to slow it down. The thing is--much in this worldly life is uncertain. It always has been. As I searched my heart it dawned on me there is at least one thing I know for sure. Christ dwells within me. The apostle Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.“ (Eph. 2:8 NIVO)
The truth for those with faith in Christ is that deep down, there is always a seed of hope in us. Maybe it is obscured sometimes by the hard shell of events--but the hope remains as surely as Christ remains. If we nurture that hope it will blossom to the glory of God. I sure wish I could see that woman again to tell her, “Yes, I am happy-happy.”
This morning I awakened from a nightmare. I don’t remember the details--I was just very upset. Then my cat Buddy jumped up beside me purring. Immediately my heart settled. Later I was eating breakfast, watching news of the virus. I became annoyed and worried over some government action--imagining a whole world of negative outcomes. Suddenly my cat Buddy jumped in my lap purring. Of course there was nothing to be done but stop and enjoy his attention. My concerns went from fearfulness to mere thoughtfulness in the blink of an eye.
It struck me how much Buddy does to calm me. In moments of unsettledness, his loving presence makes me feel better. How much is that like God? God has a way of doing that...coming to us in the moments of our deepest concern. Maybe it happens as the happy song of a bird outside our window. It could be a silly TV show, or a text from a friend. When consumed with negative thoughts, if we open our eyes and hearts to God, he will jump in our laps and purr. He is always close to soothe us in some way.
God doesn’t want us wallowing in anxiety, anger, or despair. In first Peter 5:6-7 we read, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13 NIVO)
The last six days have been ridiculous. Last Friday schools were cancelled and from there it seems the world is upside down. The first few days people were processing what it means to live in a world on pause--a world where social distancing takes the place of handshakes and hugs. There is a lot of anxiety in the air.
At first, I was anxious and sad. I sat in our empty sanctuary on Sunday morning nearly in tears. I prayed for God to help us...guide us...protect us. I’ve mostly kept quiet until now--trying to make sense of it all. Whether one thinks this virus response is overblown nonsense or a serious crisis--this is the time to listen for God’s voice amidst the noise in our minds and hearts.
God is speaking. He always speaks but we’re often too busy to hear it. In this time when the brakes have been put on our worldly lives--this is a chance for us to accelerate our spiritual lives. This slower time is an opportunity for us to allow God a greater place in our day. Seems to me God is offering us the chance to reprioritize our lives--putting him at the top of our list of things to do.
If your world is radically changed--try making prayer the thing you do in the quiet of the morning when it is just you and God and no other distractions. Lay your worries at God's feet. Open your bible to a favorite passage and let it fill your heart and mind in this quiet time. And for the rest of the day, pray every time your heart feels anxious and angry. Pray with joy for blessings--for what God has done for you in the past. Pray, be creative in doing good, and trust in the Lord's will.
These days may seem like a curse. But they are an opportunity to reassess life’s priorities and practices. When we seek God’s face we will hear him speak. His voice is a song of hope even when all things seem dark.
May God bless and keep you,