“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:38-39 NIV
I am sitting here on July 5, reflecting on the year 2020 so far. I remember at the beginning of the year, having so much excitement and optimism. I looked forward to so many things involving family, friends, photography adventures, revamping my garden, Band of Brothers’ work, and even trying something completely brand new this year, which I had not chosen at that time. And most of all, I was looking forward to growing in grace and in the knowledge of my Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) What an amazing year 2020 was going to be!
Halfway through the year, one that had so much promise, everyone’s 2020 goals and plans have evaporated. What is it that Robert Burns wrote in his poem, The Mouse, “the best-laid plans of mice and men!” which means that no matter how well planned, things may not work out as desired. Who suspected that my and everyone else’s new thing would be a “pandemic?” Satan probably, because he is the sower of anxiety, fear, darkness, hatred, and destruction, all things we have experienced in abundance in the past six months. With the onset of COVID-19 in February, the first half of 2020 has been as stressful. It has been unsettled, and unsafe as the world has seen for quite some time. More recently, the social unrest at home is tearing at the very fabric of who we are as a society and as a nation. The remainder of 2020 looks dim as uncertainty reigns.
From a personal standpoint, 2020 has been a challenge, to say the least. Early in the year, my wife was diagnosed with Mononucleosis. It took way too long to diagnose, but we were relieved that it wasn’t something worse. The Coronavirus was not well known at that time. I was feeling pretty good until mid-March and had gotten a great start on my garden overhaul due to the early mild weather. Then, I started experiencing fatigue, which got worse as the days progressed. When I don’t feel like going on a short photo outing, I know something is wrong. As COVID-19 had become well known by then, I said: “Praise the Lord” when my doctor called to say I had Mono also. That was in Mid-April. Wham, I’m flat on my back for the next six weeks. Fortunately, Liva was recovering well. Slowly, as I started to recover, I began to work on my garden an hour or two a day and eventually worked up to 3-4. Yesterday, July 4, I finally completed my revamping project. It was a struggle with some rough days when I overdid it. It was a blessing to complete it.
While I am happy, I was able to renovate the flower beds in my weakened condition, I am much more pleased to say that I have stood firm in my faith in Jesus Christ throughout the pandemic. In normal times, life presents itself with all sorts of distractions and temptations that can derail us from following Jesus with our whole heart. During regular times, we have our church and worship services to praise God and be fed spiritually. I also had my weekly Fellowship Friday’s Bible studies to sustain me and help me grow. But, with the pandemic, all that came to a halt. No longer did we have that reliable support structure to help us stay strong in the faith. I miss all that terribly and long for that normalcy again.
The isolation could have easily brought a spiritual drought if I had allowed it. Prior to being saved, my heart was barren, borne out of selfishness. That was not a good place to be, and I never want to go back there. It would have been easy to have become lazy and gotten away from the Word, It would have been easy to have said there isn’t anything I can do to serve Him at this time, and, It would probably have been easy to become bitter about all that has and is going on. But I wouldn’t and couldn’t allow the distractions of this world and my personal situation to keep me from following Him with my whole heart. While I can’t hang with my beloved Christian friends, I do have Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and the writers of three other devotionals to keep me company and enlighten me. While Liva and I have not chosen to return to church yet, I enjoy various online services. Staying in the Word is the key for me. It keeps me grounded as well as inspired. I am so thankful that I chose Proverbs 3 verses 5-6 as my guiding scripture for the year. It has served me well.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6
We have been so blessed as many friends have sent well wishes by phone, online, and the regular mail. Friends have been kind in many ways. One of the highlights of recent weeks occurred when the Breath of God Worship team set up in our front yard on a gorgeous day and sang their beautiful worship songs for about an hour. What a blessing that was. I recorded them on my phone and play them now and then, especially “Evermore, I will serve you.”
In closing, this is one of Jesus’ friends who have and will stay the course. There will be no spiritual drought here. Every day, I try to emulate the Psalmist who wrote in 86:11: “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart…” I am heartened by the fact that no matter how this world seems so increasingly out of control, every new day is a gift from God and provides an opportunity to better understand His truth and serve Him.
If you are having difficulty, maybe even in a spiritual drought, I hope my testimony will encourage you and help you live more fully for Jesus. Stay safe, stay well, and until next time, Godspeed.
Feature Image: @Backyard Photography, Alan Tucker