April 14 – Sheltering in Place: John 20:19-22
Life as they knew it had suddenly changed. Now here they were, hiding out, terrified and confused on the evening of the resurrection. They were desperately seeking answers to the many questions they must have had. Then, without warning, Jesus showed up. There he was in their midst. He had found them in their isolation. He had found them in their fear. Jesus had found them even in the throes of their guilt and shame. And he spoke to them: “Peace be with you.”
Scripture talks a lot about peace. The Prophet Isaiah (26:3) said that God will keep them in perfect peace whose minds are focused on God. The Prophet Jeremiah delivered a message of God’s peace right before the people went into captivity (29:11), admonishing them to continue searching for God, even in their exile. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:6-7) wrote about the peace of God that passes all understanding. Jesus, himself, invoked peace in John 14:27, when he told the disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” he said. He was going to prepare a place for them, and he was leaving them with his peace.
During this Lenten season, many of us have stolen away to secret places, quiet places, where we can reflect on our relationship with God. My prayer is that Jesus has met you in those places. That he has shown up in your struggles, your fear, your confusion, your searching. I pray that Jesus has shown up as you’ve fasted and prayed. I pray that Jesus has spoken peace over your circumstances – a peace that passes all understanding.
April 7 – Find What Brings You Joy! Philippians 3:4b-14
Someone recently gifted me a journal engraved with the title, “Find What Brings You Joy and Go There.” What a powerful sentiment, I thought as I put the journal on the bookcase beside my other notebooks, ledgers, and binders. You see, I have been keeping journals for the better part of 70 years. I have been committing my thoughts to paper and examining every aspect of my circumstance throughout my life. It’s helped me to sort things out and put things in their proper perspective.
Those journals have served as vessels for my growth and development. I’ve poured onto those pages things that only my journals could bear to hear. The very act of excavating my anguish forced me to see things in a new light. And with each revelation, I was able to see a bit farther down the road. With every entry, I was able to learn and grow – to figure things out. It has helped me test some hypotheses – you know, like the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians: Test everything; hold onto that which is good. And after I dumped it all in the journal, I took it to the Lord in prayer.
In conclusion, journaling has helped me take back my joy and reestablish my peace. It has helped me identify the source of all that is good and perfect. So, I offer you this advice: Find what brings you spiritual joy, and go there!
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.