March 31 – Now what? Isaiah 43:1-7
When I read today’s scripture, I thought about our present situation. After many months of being restricted by the coronavirus and its variants, people are asking, now what? Some people have started to experience what psychologists call “pandemic panic,” here defined as “sudden fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.” In other words, some people are terrified about what the future holds and have started to give in to their fears.
By contrast, other people have faced their fears with faith. This faith reaction is happening now just as it did 100 years ago, and throughout history. One psychologist reported that during the Spanish Flu, for example, people of faith frequently recited scripture as a source of comfort and reassurance. They understood that fear tends to weaken people. Faith tends to strengthen them. He found evidence that one of the scriptures they recited back then was Psalm 56:3: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you, [God].” In other words, their faith helped them triumph over their fear.
Common advice today might include breathing in faith and breathing out fear. Breathing in peace and breathing out panic. Enjoying life — remembering to laugh, meditate, read scripture, and pray in spite of the uncertainties. Of course, we don’t know what the future will hold. But, as people of faith, we know who holds the future! Let’s find the courage to move forward without anxiety as we emerge from the pandemic. Acknowledging that God is in control and waiting in faithful anticipation for the pandemic to run its course may be just the thing to help you conquer your fears.
March 24 – Do Not Lose Heart: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
The old folks used to say, “it comes in threes.” Death, that is. Or maybe it comes in fours or more. The frequency is irrelevant. The inevitability goes without saying. Here one day. Gone the next. Today’s Scripture teaches us not to lose heart when our temporary bodies begin to fade away over time. As our earthly natures waste away, we are being prepared to take on a glorious state of being beyond anything we could imagine or measure.
This scripture brings to mind my dearly departed cousin, who recently lost her battle to a complexity of illnesses. I remember the first time I met Lynda (not her real name). The day was sunny. She was sitting outside on a wooden deck while the sunlight danced on her cheek and accentuated her tranquil smile. I grew to know her well over the ensuing years. Soft-spoken, she had this humble, gentle, quiet spirit. Later, as sickness began to claim her vitality, she consistently exhibited peacefulness, as if she knew something the rest of us had yet to learn.
These days, as my own body wastes away, my memories of this remarkable woman encourage me. Taking my cues from her, I am able to look upon my own trials and frailty as a “slight momentary affliction” that is preparing me to bask in an eternal state of glory I can only imagine. So, I do not lose heart.
March 17 – Insight Before Eyesight: Mark 10:46-52
So, here is Bartimaeus, the blind man, standing face-to-face with Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. The man could have requested countless things – the possibilities are endless. But standing in front of Jesus that day, the blind man said, “Teacher, let me see again.”
Jesus didn’t touch the man physically. He didn’t put any salve on his eyes as he had done in other cases. Jesus didn’t perform any ceremonial rituals or say any special words over the man. Jesus didn’t chastise him or condemn him in any way. Instead, Jesus ordered his disciples to call the man over.
“Take heart,” the disciples instructed him.
The first thing the disciples requested of the man had nothing to do with his eyes. Rather, they asked him to change his heart. In other words, he had to have insight before eyesight. The heart would act as a filter for the man’s future discernment. They knew that what the man’s heart felt would influence what his eyes perceived. The Apostle Paul (Ephesians 1:18) described it as seeing with the “eyes of your heart.”
This story holds relevance for us today. Having insight before eyesight makes you consider things from a fresh point of view. Jesus once said, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8). Psalm 36:9 puts it this way: “in [God’s] light, we see light.” When you look at a thing through the eyes of your heart, a bigger picture comes into focus. You begin to see not only the problems but also the possibilities. When you see with the eyes of your heart, the God in you will begin to see the God in other people. Changing your heart might open your eyes to ways that influence justice to roll down like a mighty stream. Having God-inspired insight might prompt you to see hope and truth and peace and love once again. It all starts with a few simple words: “Teacher, let me see again.”