Faith

Surprised by Peace

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:8

My short legs wrapped around our neighbor’s shoulders. I clung to his chin, my little body draped over his head like a bonnet. I had just followed him into the water. Suddenly, he snatched me up and plopped me on his shoulders as the jellyfish surrounded us.

“I got you. Don’t be afraid, Marlene.” 

The Okinawan ocean was crystal blue. The jellyfish danced serenely around his legs as he glided his way to the beach. But I wasn’t afraid. I had been lifted up. I was being carried then and I am being carried now.

This has given me peace over the past few weeks. When the news floats through my living room, threatening to sting, I remind myself, “The Lord Himself goes before me and will be with me. Don’t be afraid, Marlene.” 

When I start feeling depressed because we’ve been separated and isolated for so long. God answers, “Don’t be discouraged, Marlene, I am with you.”

Today, when we feel the Corona virus hovering like jellyfish, unseen and dangerous in the waters of everyday life, there is a pull toward fear and discouragement. And yet, God still echoes the same words, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” These words pull us in the opposite direction, causing resistance. Not necessarily physical resistance, like immunity to a virus, but a covering from the world—a sense that we are on God’s shoulders and He is walking us through the waters. In other words, the Bible is true. It promises trouble but Jesus has (past tense) overcome the world. 

Consequently, God was not surprised by Covid-19, but I was surprised by peace. It’s not the peace the comes with denial or the peace that comes with knowledge, rather it’s the peace that surpasses understanding. This is what Romans 15:13 means by “overflowing with peace.” When I put my hope in the God of hope­–not in my health or my family or financial stability–He fills me with joy and peace as I trust in HIM! 

So, just for fun, close your eyes and picture yourself on a beach standing in front of Jesus with your back to Him. He’s waist deep in the Ocean and jellyfish are all around. Your eyes are closed, and your arms are crossed over your chest.

He says, “I got you.”

Without hesitation you fall back into His loving arms. It’s the ultimate trust fall. But that’s where the joy and peace come from! Our hope is not in avoiding the Corona virus, our hope is in the Lord. The enemy is trying so hard to stir up division, strife, fear and hopelessness. But we are like little five-year old’s who can’t see clearly until we get up on God’s shoulders. So, hold up your arms and allow God to scoop you up onto His broad shoulders. Then, rest in Him as He carries you through. He always does.

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”…They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.

Mark 4:35-5:1
Faith

Social Distance

1970’s Social Distancing

I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.

Hebrews 13:5

Have you ever felt abandoned? I have. It’s a powerful emotion mixed with isolation and loneliness, then baked in the oven of time. As a verb it means: To cease to support or look after; desert.

I was almost eleven when we moved from the “comfort” of military life to the unknown. I stayed at home for a full year, mostly by myself. My mother worked full time, my sister started beauty school and my younger brother spent his pre-school days with my mom at her secondhand store.

Because my parents had separated, my father remained in Las Vegas. We moved to Southern Oregon with my mom to start a new life. At least everyone else did. I was literally abandoned. My physical needs were met but my emotional needs were deserted. For an entire year I sat at home reading mature novels, watching General Hospital and collecting fears like precious coins. I was already a fearful child, but isolation fueled the fears like oxygen does fire.  Also, my dad never came to visit. Not once.

Of course, I’m sharing this because of the social distancing we are experiencing as a global community right now. We too have distractions where we can immerse ourselves into other’s drama so we don’t feel so alone. However, that only lasts as long as a crocus’s bloom. The reality of being created in the image of God is that we need real relationship. A real relationship with God and with other people is the only way to avoid feeling abandoned. God promised that He will never leave you or forsake you. Even if you are left at home and no one seems to care. God is there. God’s loves. God’s grace is sufficient. 

But, in this miraculous age of technology, we are never without the resources to connect–at least as long as we have electricity! At ten I was unaware of my need and welcomed General Hospital’s Luke and Laura into my life as friends. When I was pulled away from them at eleven (my mother finally put me back in school) I grieved the loss of their “relationship.” I missed them desperately. It sounds ridiculous now, but it was so real to me as a child. They were my family. 

In the same way, we need connection with our “family,” even if we remain at least six feet apart. We are not meant to be alone in the family of God, floating individually in a protective innertube of isolation. So, now is the time to figuratively link arms. If you weren’t connected before, reach out to someone. Chances are they are feeling lonely too. If you are connected, maintain those relationships through phone calls, FaceTime, and the like. It is good for the soul.

Having said that, please don’t forfeit this time by treading water. Dig into God’s Word. Covet this time to be with God as He shapes us with the waters of solitude. The rough edges will be smoothed if we swim toward Him, I promise.

For example, this time, as I am left at home with my husband, I have become aware of other self-indulgent behaviors–selfishness, impatience and a desire to be the center of my world. Instead of escaping into another’s fantasy I battle the real pull of self-centeredness. Our pastor reminded us on Palm Sunday that we are not the center of our world, God is. God made it that way to save us from ourselves. You see, apart from Him we can do nothing. There is no real comfort, no real love and no real belonging without Him. 

I pray that we will all be changed when the tide comes in and we are all back on the same shore. I pray that God’s love will compel us into the arms of those we hesitated to hug before the pandemic. I pray, in this time of social isolation, we will run into the embrace of our Heavenly Father, and reach out to others as we are able, leaving our fears in the wake of His lavish love.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5