As our country, really as a world really, we’ve experienced an unusual opportunity to slow down considerably in the last few weeks. Not surprisingly, when the first announcements about different athletic events, colleges, and conferences closing trickled out Americans didn’t handle things well. The lack of communication as to when things would end was disconcerting.
Even before events were canceled there was a mad rush on toilet paper and other essentials to the point where grocery shelves were completely emptied multiple times over. In our home, we held our breaths hoping we’d be able to go on our spring break getaway (we didn’t) and that school wouldn’t be canceled (it was) and now we’re wondering if we will send the summer rushing to catch up before fall begins.
What was most surprising to me was the balking and defiance around us came largely from those who claim to value and prioritize the sanctity of life. No matter how many scientists, experts, mathematicians, doctors, nurses, and family members of the deceased spoke out and said the same consistent thing it didn’t matter. “Hoax, lies, overreaction!” came the cries. Most responses were filled with indignation. How dare American lives be inconvenienced even if it means saving thousands of other lives! The prioritizing of self above our brother and sister in Christ or even the action to love our neighbor flew out the window.
We’re weeks past the initial shock of the virus and we’re sheltering in place, shopping for groceries differently and longing for the days when we can sit in a restaurant again.
As I spoke with people individually and listened to their concerns what I’ve learned is that the overbuying, overreacting, and denial were often fear responses to the inability to do anything. People were feeling like their lives were lacking control and they were attempting to take back the illusion of control by telling other people how to live their lives or overbuying unnecessary items.
When life is interrupted it’s never easy but it’s something that will continue to happen in small and large situations throughout our lives. It’s also something humanity can’t avoid.
We Control our Response
Several summers ago I read Life Interrupted by Priscilla Shirer with a group of coaches wives. We were all in different stages of life, but we learned a lot about responding to life transitions and the importance of our response to God.
One of the key takeaways Priscilla Shirer makes in Life Interrupted is that how we handle interruptions tells us a lot about ourselves. Throughout the book, Shirer tells the story of Jonah and she also tells about different interruptions in her life and different responses.
Shirer asks, “Is He sending you to Ninevah? Then His presence is going with you -meaning, you have no need for shortcuts, regardless of how daunting a task this is.”
There is something I know about Jonah’s response, and about my own instincts at times, it’s that they are similar. When the road ahead looks hard, sometimes we turn and run the other way. But that doesn’t help anything, does it? God knows where we’re running and he knows where we’re supposed to go.
As we read different stories in the Bible one thing is clear, God can move mightly without our intervention. He invites us into a relationship with him because he loves us. As we engage with our creator he reveals his character to us through different situations. He teaches us how strong we are, and he shows us how well we work as a team when we rely on him as our guide. Sometimes God asks us to step out further than we’d prefer to stretch us. As we do so, we have the opportunity to deepen our relationship and trust in him.
God never needs us to defend him but he does ask us to reflect his love to the world so that everyone has the same opportunity for a relationship with him that we have. Sometimes that requires us to step out of our comfort zone and love people selflessly.
Have You Felt Like You’re Living in Ninevah?
In our town, we had several days where we couldn’t access schools other than to pick up meals for the kids. The library, restaurants, church, park district, and of course many goods at the grocery stores are sparse or closed.
We are reliant on the internet to continue to run so we can work, complete school, engage with the outside world and have many forms of entertainment. We have expected store trucks to continue to deliver food, and other supplies and they have come through. This sets us apart from living in other decades and from the access other countries have. Yet in true American fashion, many pout and complain. The inconvenience of canceled vacations and limited access to shopping is too much to accept. The entitled feel they should be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want because they are the exception to the rule. Isn’t there someone they can pay to get their way? It worked for Operation Varsity Blues.
While generally, this perspective rears itself when discussing helicopter parenting and student-athletes, in truth this global pandemic has leveled the playing field on the depth of humanity’s willingness to serve themselves for the greatest good. To quote Bob Goff, “The way we deal with uncertainty lets us know whether Jesus is ahead of us leading, or behind us just carrying our stuff.”
When Jonah obeyed God and headed to Ninevah he fulfilled his job as a prophet and spoke truth to the Assyrians. The Assyrians understood their selfish ways. They turned their backs on their false gods, repented, and turned to worship the one true God. Their thoughts shifted from lies to truth once Jonah told them the ultimate truth.
Why we Need to be Still
In times of uncertainty, we can look at the situation with a glass half full or glass half empty view. Because the impulse is occasionally to run or to look at things from a glass half empty point of view it’s important to make sure that we’re doing what we can to remind ourselves that God is bigger than any unknown concern in front of us.
For some, including me, one way of being still before the Lord includes worship. The posture of worship turns by heart and thoughts away from me and points them where they belong. Toward the one who is able to actually handle whatever I’m facing.
I also often read Scripture. One of my favorite sections is Exodus 14:13-16. God reminds Moses that he will take care of the Israelites as they are leaving captivity. They don’t need to do anything other than continue to follow him.
Pursue Being Still
As you process the past month and consider your future responses I encourage you to purse taking time to be still before the Lord rather than impulsively running like Jonah or impulsively hoarding toilet paper as the situation may be, because neither response acknowledges God is in control.
Rather, take some time to read Exodus 14, and listen to worship music. I love Still by Reuben Morgan. It’s an older song, but as you read the words I think you’ll see why it’s still a favorite. And finally, you can pursue being still by focusing on your thoughts. When your glass half empty thoughts start to fill your mind turn them to glass half full thoughts.
Lyrics for Still by Ruben Morgan
Hide me now
Under your wings
Within Your mighty hands
When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You, above the storm
Father, You are king over the flood
I will be still and know You are God
Find rest my soul, in Christ alone
Know His power, in quietness and trust (source)
note: this content was originally published 2/14/15 and has been updated for freshness