Wow. 2020. The memes are endless about what’s happened this year, and so is the hate and shame. Oh, the giggles I shared with friends over the memes. Oh, the ugliness I continue to see over the hate. The judgment and condescension. And I’m not talking about the looters, rioters, and anarchists.
Rather than deal with the difficult questions of the sciences as they relate to coronaviruses, insects, and racism, let’s make it more practical. It’s been a tough year, and most of us need the reminder that Christians aren’t meant to waiver between surviving or thriving.
No, this isn’t the prosperity gospel. Rather, it’s an encouragement to face today with the proper mindset.
A Year of Big News
In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers. ~Fred Rogers, TV personality, minister
The word of the year is uncertainty, or at least it could be. As scientists discover one new thing about Covid-19, five more questions emerge. Many questions remain unanswered and likely will for months or even years to come. As much as we know about disease, we still have a lot to learn.
As the number of sick surged, country after country shut down. Governments forced many businesses to close their doors. Some got creative, keeping the income flowing even if it was slower than before. For many, the temporary closure was too much. Record unemployment. Social distancing. Forced stay-at-home orders. Depression, fear, anger, hopelessness, and more are at record highs.
Then news broke about murder hornets. The name alone sounds terrifying. Thankfully, the headlines were fantastical, and we learned this was not the next plague to threaten our society in 2020.
But then, before the calendar said it was time, tropical storm (TS) Arthur formed in the Atlantic. Then TS Bertha. TS Cristobal, at least, waited until the calendar was in the right month, but his remnants went as far west as Wisconsin, one of only three storms in one hundred years to do so. And when TS Dolly formed on June 23rd, we learned that 2020 is only the third time we’ve had four named storms before July.
And I won’t fail to mention a tragic death that occurred at the end of May. Regardless of your feelings, it dominated American culture for several weeks, heaping on more fear and shame.
What to do?
The unease continues. It doesn’t matter whether your focus is on the threat of a miserable disease, financial insecurity, scary insects, an active storm season, or well-inbred disunity, chances are you’ve faced a lot of turmoil this year.
What should a Christian do? Any of these concerns may be too big in your life for a pat-Jesus-answer, but altogether you may feel overwhelmed, stifled, and hopeless. Hmmm. Now, who does that sound like? God, or your enemy? It reminds me of the first part of John 10:10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
But keep reading! The rest of the verse reminds us of our truth. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
A Firm Foundation
I’m not here to preach grace and prosperity. I won’t promise that God will bless your bank account, protect your health, or even keep the hornets from your front door. But I will encourage you that when Jesus is your foundation, the rest doesn’t matter so much.
Do I want to be sick? Of course not. Do I want to face hornets? Please. Who actually wants to face stinging insects? An active storm season? Nope, not in my plans for the summer, particularly since a couple of loved ones are busy with the final details of an outdoor wedding.
We must maintain balance and keep a godly perspective. While it’s wise to do what you can to protect yourself from potential disturbances, none of them are life-ending. Oh, yes, I suppose you could die. But as a Christian, the end of your body doesn’t mean the end of your life.
Surviving or Thriving? Do you trust God or not?
Lest you think I’m anxious to be done on earth, let me be clear that I’m not. I’m looking forward to my son’s wedding. To lots more time with my grandchildren. And to see where my boys end up in their careers. I rejoice in the bits of work that God is doing in all my children, and I look forward to what He’s going to do next!
I don’t want to just survive in this life. I want to thrive regardless of what else is going on. In order to do that, I don’t focus on the blessing of God, which I may not see or understand. Instead, I pay attention to the journey with God. That’s a slight mind shift that makes a huge difference as the world personifies Chicken LIttle and screams the sky is falling.
Perhaps this quote says it best.
Elizabeth Laing Thompson wrote,
It’s tough to be present in small daily moments. We tend to live highlight to highlight, marking time by epic moments: first boyfriend, college graduation, wedding day, big promotion, first child. . . But most of life is lived in the in-between.
Mountaintop experiences don’t come along that often in life. When they come—when prayers are answered and the answer is yes—life is glorious, and we should stand on that mountaintop and praise the goodness of God at the top of our lungs.
But let’s remember that most of life is lived between mountaintops, struggling from one peak to the next, through dark valleys and rocky detours. Life is the journey.
And even as we hike, if we will stop and look around and live in the moment, we will be treated to breathtaking views.
To laughter with friends.
To obstacles overcome.
To talks around campfires.
To storms proclaiming the power of God.
To struggles that become stories we tell for the rest of our lives.
Let’s find joy in our journeys, wherever they may lead, however winding, however many detours, however long the space between mountaintops.
If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person. ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher and statesman
“If we stop and look around and live in the moment, we will be treated to breathtaking views.”
That’s not surviving. It’s thriving. And that’s the perspective I want to maintain, even if my personal piece of the sky does truly fall in 2020.
Years ago, Amber’s world crashed around her. As she watched circumstances beyond her control destroy the family she knew and loved, she decided escape was the best option. Now, God leads her to a family that faced similar devastation but came out of it stronger. More united. Could they teach her the secret before her past decides to walk back into her life?
For years, Amber traipsed around the Northwest avoiding the skeletons in her closet. Job-hopping every few weeks, she refuses to let anyone get close to her, protecting herself from the pain that relationships bring. As winter plants itself firmly across the Rockies, though, she decides to take a chance on a job at a logging company with a family different from any she’s ever known.
But is this family genuine?
Watching the family interact creates more questions than answers for Amber. The adults love to spend time with each other and dote on the little ones. Even more mysterious, the parents treat the married spouses like their own children and carefully keep watch on employees and friends.
Feeling like she’s entered the happily-ever-after written at the end of fairytales, Amber watches for cracks in the façade. Surely as the days pass, the play-acting will cease and the real family will emerge.
Or could she be wrong? Could this family hold the key to what she’s seeking?