Can I be completely honest for a minute? This week has been difficult for so many. I know it has been more difficult for those in the frontlines of fighting this disease, and I don’t want to take away from that fight. While my troubles this week pale in comparison to that, it doesn’t diminish the financial toll this is taking on so many. My husband has spent most of his week trying to secure a Payroll Protection Loan for his company; he’s attempted to file for unemployment only to be denied. Our doors have been closed for over two weeks, and who truly knows when this safer at home order will end? We have no income, and rent for our three stores is past due; vendors are trying to collect payment on invoices. And this post doesn’t even cover the anxiety or sadness from the toll of the disease itself on so many in the world. We also have our own bills to pay like most families in America who ride this wave of uncertainty in the same boat we occupy, a boat that seems to have no captain, no lifejackets, and no oars, so we drift aimlessly until we either see the salvation of the lighthouse or run ashore and watch our boat splinter to pieces on the jagged coast.
We’ve weathered similar crises before. We watched our cultured marble business bob for life in the choppy seas of 2008 when the housing bubble burst, but this is unlike anything I’ve witnessed. At least then, I could secure income through teaching, but even that has been thrown overboard in the prime of this pandemic. I am grateful, though, for health and that my family hasn’t yet endured the pain of watching someone we love suffer through this terrible disease, but that doesn’t seem to minimize the wave of fear that seems to wash over me from time to time when I wonder if my family will lose our business or our home. That is the reality that swims around us like sharks that just detected blood in the water.
Yet, yet, because my faith is anchored in the one who calmed the seas with His word, I don’t feel hopeless. Yes, I have moments where the storm threatens to toss me into the waves of worry and into the depths of despair. Overall, though, I feel this overwhelming sense of peace that I believe is grounded in my faith. It may seem trite to many to say that my faith keeps me anchored in the midst of this storm, but the reality is that God never promised us an easy path. Jesus assured us we would have trial in this world but to take heart because He had overcome the world.
When we make the commitment to follow Christ that doesn’t put us in a canoe on a babbling brook, where we float safely to our dock. If anything, it tosses us into a tempest that threatens to blow us off course. Anyone who tells us that life as a believer is easy, that faith in Jesus assures us a trouble-free life full of plenty is lying. The Bible is full of men and women who endured trial. Ruth and Naomi lost everything before they returned to Israel and saw their lives redeemed in ways they never expected. King David wrote many of the Psalms hiding in a cave, fearing for his very life, wondering if God was ever going to follow-through on His promise to make the young warrior a king. Esther faced the possibility of death in order to save her people. Almost every word of the scripture was penned under duress, which is why it should bring such comfort to know that these men and women were not once forsaken by their God. Deliverance happens in a myriad of ways.
If you’re wondering, why on earth would I step off the shore and get into that boat I’ll tell you. It’s because all of us are going to have highs and lows, moments where everything is floating along peacefully then suddenly a gale rises and threatens to overcome us. Christ- follower, agnostic, or atheist, we will all experience despair. The difference is for those of us who follow Jesus, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to bravely face whatever life throws at us with the assurance that our eternity is secured.
I’m learning that how I weather times of trial depends on what I believe about God. Do I believe God is good or not? Do I believe that He is with me in the midst of trial or not? Do I believe that He can use tragedy and trial to transform me or not? Do I believe this life is just the beginning, just a breath on my way to eternity or not? Do I believe Jesus took care of my greatest need on the cross or not? Do I believe God works all things to the good of those who love Him, even if I don’t see the outcome in this life or not? Every time my family finds ourselves in the midst of a storm, I am forced to reevaluate what I truly believe. While God may not deliver us from this financial fiasco in the way that I want, I walk through this with peace, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves me and can use this situation to transform me into a stronger, more faithful follower.
I’m sure many have heard the story of the fretful daughter, who, bewildered by the many trials she faced, complained to her father about her circumstances. Rather than offer her advice, he simply put pot three pots on the stove and waited for them to boil. Into one, he placed a potato, the other an egg, and into the last one coffee beans. Confused, she questioned his actions. He ladled the egg and potato onto a plate and poured the coffee into a mug. What do you see, he queried? She responded, impatiently, a potato, an egg, and coffee. He explained, the potato went in to the water strong, hard, and unrelenting, yet came out soft and weak. The fragile egg came out hardened by its circumstances. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new. “Which are you,” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean? “ Adversity is pounding on our doors right now, and we have a choice. Are we going to fall apart in the water? Are we going to allow life’s circumstances to harden our hearts? Or, are we going to allow God to use these circumstances to create something new and wonderful in our lives? This is the question I must answer as I sail through this storm in faith.
As we prepare for Holy Week, I look to Jesus, the model for my faith, and though the weight of this all threatens to sink me, Jesus bore the weight of the entire world when he said, “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will but your will be done.” Some of us are asking God to take a cup from us, and in His great love, sometimes our Father answers, “No.” Lord, not my will, but your will be done.
Lest we forget, Jesus understands the depth of emotion that racks our souls when God says, “No.” So, Jesus endured the weight of the cross, and he says to us, “If anyone chooses to follow me, he must deny himself, and take up his own cross.” So, if this is the cross, you are asking me to bear, Lord not my will, but your will be done.
Upon the cross, Jesus bore the sin of the world and endured the pain of losing communion with His Father, because God looked away and poured out His wrath on His own Son. “My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” And because Jesus obeyed not His own will, but the will of His Father, you and I will never have to be forsaken. You and I will never bear the burden of our cross alone. In an echo of reversal, Jesus said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Having borne the sin of every living soul, having endured the wrath of God, Jesus took our greatest burden, lightening the load of our own crosses. And though Jesus carried His cross alone, He comes along side us, shouldering the weight of ours. Jesus, endured His storm alone, but you and I don’t have to. Jesus enables us to truly say, Lord, not my will, but thy will be done because of His redemptive work on the cross. But don’t fret friends, the dreary, dark days of Holy Week always give way to the light of Easter. Though threatening now, the storm clouds will part, making way for the light of Love. God works His resurrection power in our lives redeeming any trial we face to His glory and to our ultimate good. No matter how dark the world seems now, Easter is coming, and the glory of God will be revealed through us because we endured.
So in these times, when we are holding on in the storm of a lifetime, remember we follow the one who has the power to calm even the angriest seas. But friends, even if He chooses not to calm the storm and instead allows us to sail right through the middle of it, He is in the boat with us, shielding us from the destruction of that which is most precious, our souls. And when we come out on the other side, we will look a lot more like our Captain.