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How Long, O Lord?

An article from Pastor's Blog (timesofrefreshing.blog):

How long, O Lord, will we and billions of our neighbors around the world be sheltering in place?  How long will the “curve” of the coronavirus continue to rise?  How long will medical professionals, cashiers, food suppliers and so many others be fighting this daily battle?  How long will we be putting off important occasions – weddings and funerals and all other get togethers?  How long will parks and playgrounds and sports be off limits?  How long will we be nervous about a simple outing to the supermarket or pharmacy or hardware store?

Do any of these cries of “How long?” echo your concerns and prayers this week?

“How long?” questions are nothing new.  People have been asking themselves, one another, and God Himself, “How long?” for millennia.  Around 3,000 years ago, the plaintive words of Psalm 13 were penned by Israel’s King David:

1 “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

David was having more than a bad day.  He was experiencing some sort of intense suffering, at the hands of deadly enemies.  He feels as if God has forgotten Him, as if God has hidden Himself.  David worried that, unless the Lord would intervene, he might end up dead. David was shaken, but he continued to trust the Lord as his Rock and Salvation.

Four times in this brief Psalm,  David asked,  “How long?”  He pleaded with the Lord, “consider and answer me” as he poured out his soul to God.  But David has more to say.  Out of the depths of his anguish and worry, David trusts and rejoices and sings!

David would have to wait for God’s response to all his questions. In the meantime, David didn’t give up.  The Lord’s steadfast love, His certain salvation, and His gracious bounty anchored David in his emotional storm.

What can we learn from Psalms of Lament, such as Psalm 13?  It’s okay to give the Lord a piece of your mind!  He can handle it.  He’s heard it all.  Just read the other 149 Psalms!  It’s far better for our souls to lament to the Lord – to turn to Him in trouble – than to turn away from Him.

But the Lord has also given us a piece of His mind – much more than that, really.  He has given us His written Word, and He has given us His Living Word, His Son Jesus.

God doesn’t promise to answer all our “How long?” questions on our timing. However, through His Word He does promise us so much more than we deserve. He promises His presence. He promises His protection. He promises us the gift His Holy Spirit. He promises His peace. He promises His provision. He promises His healing, both the temporary healing we experience here and the eternal healing that is ours in Christ.

If “How long???” expresses how you’re feeling this week, then tell God about it!  But don’t stop there.  Listen to Him as well.  Read and ponder His promises in Scripture.  Share a Gospel Word with your loved ones and social media contacts.  Take a page out of David’s book – trust the Lord,  rejoice in Him,  and sing & speak to Him of both your sorrows and your joys.

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

Opportunities in this Pandemic

An article from Pastor's Blog (timesofrefreshing.blog):

Each day the news seems to become more serious and the cases and deaths from COVID-19 continue to mount. I don’t want to take away from the gravity of this situation. Even if things aren’t so bad in your neck of the woods, this pandemic is probably affecting people whom you know and love.

With that being said, this pandemic might also be presenting us with some opportunities. Here are a few that I’m thinking about:

The opportunity to pray – it seems the majority of Americans are rarely on the same page about anything. However, surveys in recent days indicate that the majority of Americans are praying for a solution to the pandemic. If you have more time on your hands right now, spend some of that time in prayer with Jesus! Even if you don’t have more time on your hands right now, you can still pray amid your daily labors.

The opportunity to embrace life under your roof – American life is characterized by busyness at all ages,  but not right now. Nurture the relationships within your own home. Be patient with one another. Be careful to not take your stress out on those closest to you. Find a creative outlet. Enjoy the spring weather in your own backyard, or, if you can safely do so, on a neighborhood walk. Declutter and organize your basement or garage. But most importantly, make your home or apartment a place of faith formation in Jesus!

The opportunity to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving – We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” which refers to everything we need to support our lives and our families. If you have your basic necessities right now, give thanks to God. If you have more than enough, look for ways to give back to those who are having a hard time. When was the last time you sent a donation to your local food bank or similar non-profit? These helping agencies are going to be more important than ever in the weeks to come.

The opportunity to fulfill your duty – I saw a New York paramedic who said on the news that it is only a matter of time until he becomes infected with COVID-19, but that won’t stop him from doing his job. He described the sense of duty he feels toward his community, motivating him to keep working, despite the risks. Some are fulfilling their neighborly duty “on the front lines.” Others are doing so by staying healthy at home. Either way, we all have God-given duties to fulfill in our daily callings.

The opportunity to make sacrifices – I’ve heard it said that society has not had to make such collective sacrifices since World War II. We’re (temporarily) sacrificing our freedom of movement, of assembly, of the pursuit of happiness (at least what we can pursue out and about). But let’s remember that making even little sacrifices out of love for others can reflect the great sacrifice of our Savior for us.

The opportunity to be a neighbor – Does your neighbor need you to go grocery shopping for her? Does another neighbor need his lawn cleaned up for spring? Could another neighbor use an encouraging phone call or an old-fashioned letter in the mail? Does your neighbor need you to wear a protective mask and say “hello” from a distance? God’s Word teaches us, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Colossians 2:3). Fred Rogers encouraged kids to look for helpers in tough times. It’s a great time to be a neighbor and be a helper.

The opportunity to care for yourself – Now isn’t a great time to learn parkour or clean gutters on a rickety old ladder. I don’t want to go the the ER right now unless it’s absolutely necessary!  To whatever extent possible, let’s keep taking good, preventative care of ourselves and our loved ones so that our medical professionals can concentrate their energies on this pandemic.

The opportunity to be resourceful and try new things – I’ve learned a LOT about technology in recent days, now that I’m suddenly leading worship services via live stream on Facebook. How about you? Now is a great time to learn a new skill, study some history, cook some different recipes … Even if you’re stuck at home, you can still keep your mind and body active.

The opportunity, as with every day, to rely on the love and grace of Jesus!  Maybe you feel like there isn’t much you can do right now. There aren’t many places you can go. That’s okay, because this is a good time for trusting, not just doing and going.

We entrust our lives, our health, our loved ones, our communities and country into the hands of our Savior. We belong to Him. All things are in His pierced hands. By faith, we trust that in His way and in His time, God will work all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

And finally, we know that the Lord will see His baptized, believing people safely through this valley of coronavirus and sheltering at home to better days ahead, and, ultimately, to the refuge of the house of the Lord forever.

The Lord bless and keep you during these stressful, bewildering days, and may the joy of our Lord Himself always be your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

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