This current worldwide crisis has both inspired me to write and constrained me from writing.
There is so much to say but I’m not sure most folks would understand.
Suddenly everyone is living a life they would not have chosen and for most, a life they couldn’t have imagined. But eventually most will resume the life they once had.
Things will return to normal. Kids in school, parents working, social distancing a thing of the past.
But some will never again know the life they had before this virus made its way across the globe. Someone or several someones they love will be snatched from the here and now and transferred to the hereafter.
So what if I’m not rescued?
What if my family isn’t spared?
What if all the faithful prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?
Will I still believe?
Will I still trust that God is a loving Father who is in control and working all things together for His glory and my good?
That was precisely the question before Jerusalem’s Jewish citizens on Palm Sunday and the week that followed. Jesus entered the city to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”.
The faithful lined the streets and believed the Messiah had come to rescue them from the tyrannical rule and reign of not only irreligious Gentiles but corrupt leaders within the Hebrew hierarchy.
It didn’t take long for them to give up hope and call for His crucifixion.
He didn’t live up to their expectations. He didn’t act according to their timetable. He didn’t rescue them from persecution and suffering.
So they discarded Him.
Six years ago I woke to Palm Sunday wondering why my family wasn’t spared,why my son wasn’t rescued, why death had crossed our threshold and taken up residence in our home.
I had to decide if Jesus was Lord of all or if He was Lord at all.
I came face to face with the fact that God doesn’t need my permission to run the world according to His will. He doesn’t require my consent to do (or not do) anything.
But a God that needs my approval is no God at all.
I went to church that Palm Sunday, lifted my hands and voice in spite of my broken heart because I knew Jesus had not abandoned us.
Some people insist on reading the end of a book first.
They want to know if the characters they may grow to love end up well and happy.
Me? I start at the front and work my way through letting things unfold as the author intended.
I will admit though there are times when I’d kinda sorta like to have a heads up in real life.
Of course there’s no crystal ball, lines in my palm or deck of cards (in spite of Madam What’s-Her-Name’s claim) that can see into the future.
But there is One who KNOWS every little thing the future holds and Who holds that future in His hands.
From the beginning I told you what would happen in the end. A long time ago I told you things that have not yet happened. When I plan something, it happens. I do the things I want to do.
Isaiah 46:10 ICB
When Dominic left us suddenly, unexpectedly and instantly in a motorcycle accident, it was a shocking surprise to our hearts. But as I wrote in the service program for his funeral, it wasNOsurprise to God.
I don’t believe for one minute that my loving Heavenly Father put His finger on my son and declared that night it was his “time” to die. I DO believe that my omniscient and omnipotent Lord, who is outside time and sees the end from the beginning, KNEW that Dominic would drive too fast, lose control and enter Heaven at 1:10 am on April 12, 2014.
I believe that while He could have miraculously saved my son, He chose not to and Dominic suffered the natural consequences of a series of physical and biological forces that operate without His supernatural intervention every single day in this world.
I am confident that God worked His purposes in and through Dominic all the days of his life and I am certain God has been and continues to work His purposes in me and through me even in child loss.
My heart is often disturbed and even frightened by what’s going on around me.
In these especially unsettled times, if I focus on what I don’t know, what I can’t predict and the limitations of the humans in charge, I will melt into despair.
So I remind myself that God’s purposes will stand. His rule and reign is sure. Nothing-NOTHING-can stand separate me from His love, His grace and His mercy.
Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 AMP
One of the oldest “proofs” non-believers like to toss at those who follow Jesus is this: If God is all-knowing AND all-powerful, then why do bad things still happen? How might you answer that question? Have you ever wrestled with it yourself? Here’s a link to my thoughts on the matter: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/06/10/did-god-take-my-child/
While God may rarely give an individual foreknowledge, He gave Israel prophet after prophet to tell them what He was going to do. How often did they take His warnings to heart? How often do we?
In the passage from Isaiah above, God declares His purposes and plans will stand. That comforts my heart and echoes Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Write down three other verses (using a concordance) that reinforce this biblical principle about the character and purposes of God. Make them personal-how do those verses confirm hope in your own heart?
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” is a powerful concept! Unlike the times in which we live where human leaders say and do one thing one day and say and do another the next, we can rest firm and secure that what God has declared in Christ is absolutely, positively rock solid! “Every promise of God in Christ is ‘yes’ and ‘amen'”! (2 Corinthians 1:20). What promises of God in Christ bring you the most comfort? Write a list and post it where you can see it.
If you have children or grandchildren at home, how might you help their hearts cling to the truth that no matter what, God is in control? How might your own confident, consistent love and support model our Heavenly Father’s unfailing love toward us?
These times are trying my soul. It feels like everything is out of control and there’s no sure way through this valley of confusion and potential disaster. Help my heart take hold of the truth that NONE of this is a surprise to You.
Your purpose will stand. Your plan will unfold. No one and nothing can prevent it.
Make Your Presence real to me today. Open my eyes to the ways You continue to prove Yourself faithful. Sing courage to my soul when I’m afraid. Remind me by Your Spirit of every promise.
Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the assurance that no matter what, my eternal security is assured.
It’s no secret I have a particular fondness for biblical passages on shepherding.
For over twenty years I’ve kept goats and sheep in varying numbers and every day discover one more way I am a sheep in need of a Shepherd.
I wander, I’m afraid when I don’t have to be, I do foolish and self-harmful things, I push and shove to get that certain bit of food or space or whatever when all the while there is an abundance, and I often make it hard for the One who loves me best to guide me to the safety and rest of His fold.
That’s one reason the Twenty-third Psalm is especially beautiful to me.
But there’s another reason-hidden inside the original Hebrew-that makes it a favorite Bible passage and a very appropriate one for these frightening times: within the verses are references to seven names of God.
And unlike we who are named according to our parents’ whimsy, God IS His name.
“The Lord is my Shepherd”
– Jehovah Rohi (The Lord is my Shepherd and my Guide) – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will GUIDE you into all truth” ~John 16:13
My goats and sheep will follow me anywhere. Why?
Because they know I won’t lead them into danger and if we happen to stumble upon it, I will protect them and fight for them.
My Shepherd King is so much more trustworthy than I am.
He knows the end from the beginning and loves me more than I love myself. If I will only follow closely behind Him, I can rest assured that wherever He leads, I am in His loving care.
“I shall not want”
– Jehovah Jireh (The Lord is my Provider) “My God shall supply all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:19
My critters are utterly dependent upon me to make sure they have the basic necessities-food, water and a safe and dry place to sleep at night. They can’t run to the grocery store if I forget to toss them grain or hay.
But they don’t pace back and forth afraid I won’t do what I’ve always done.
I waste so much energy and time worrying that somehow God will forget to provide what I need.
It’s that simple. I am not promised everything I WANT. I’m not even guaranteed everything I think I need. But I am absolutely certain that in Christ I have the most needful thing-forgiveness of my sins and right standing with the Father.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters”
– Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is my Peace — my calm in the midst of a storm) – “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely” ~1 Thessalonians 5:23
Shalom is a big word.
According to Strong’s Concordance (7965) Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.
Peace isn’t a place or only a promise–it’s a Person.
And that Person is Jesus, my Shepherd King.
When my little flock hears something that frightens them, they run straight toward me and wait to see if I am frightened too. My presence brings them peace.
I am often more foolish than my dumb animals! I run to so many people and things of the world hoping one or the other can bring me the peace I so desperately crave. But I can only really rest when I place my full confidence in Jehovah-Shalom-the One who IS Peace.
“He restores my soul”
– Jehovah Rapha (The Lord my Healer) – “And by His stripes we are healed” ~1 Peter 2:24 (and Isaiah 53:5)
Anyone who has spent time with me here knows I’m no fan of “sunshine” Christianity. I’m no “name it and claim it” crusader. So I do not believe that God my Healer means I won’t ever suffer.
That’s why I really love the phrase “He restores my soul”.
Because isn’t that really what we ALL want? Restoration of the very core of who we are? Rest in the center of our being?
Jesus has restored my soul more than once.
When I reach out and touch the hem of His garment, He heals the most broken places in my soul.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”
– Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord is my Righteousness; in Him I have right standing with God) “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” ~2 Corinthians 5:21
Let’s be honest, I can always find somebody that makes me look good. There’s always someone whose a little badder than I am.
Problem is, that’s not how God does things. He doesn’t use a sliding scale or a grading curve to determine who meets the mark and who misses it.
God is holy, set apart, completely righteous, pure and good.
I am none of those things.
And there is absolutely no way I can make myself those things.
But He has provided righteousness for me through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice if I choose to believe.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me”
– Jehovah Shammah (The Lord is There; He is our Ever-Present God) – “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” ~Hebrews 13:5
This may actually be my very favorite name of God. “The Lord is There” is an amazing concept!
“Immanuel”-God with us! The Lord Himself come down to dwell with men.
The God who made the universe, made me. The God who counts the stars and sets them in their place, counts the hairs on my head and set me in this place at this time.
This virus crisis FEELS like the shadow of death.
It feels like some creeping thing slinking around the edges of my family, waiting to devour us. I can’t see it and I can’t stop it.
But I am not alone. Jesus is here.
HE is here.
And I can rest in His promise that whatever I may face, I will never, ever face alone.
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”
– Jehovah Nissi (The Lord is my Banner, my standard, He covers me) – “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him” ~Isaiah 59:19
In the Song of Solomon His banner over me is love.
In Ruth, His banner is Kinsman-Redeemer, covering my weakness with His strength.
In the gospels, His banner is victory over sin, death and the grave.
You may be hunkered down in your home, wondering how we all got here- questioning whether this may be a work of evil men or the evil one and when or if we might be rescued.
I can’t answer the why or when.
But I can point you to the Who-the One who wants to love you, to give you strength and to assure you that even death doesn’t have the last word.
“You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
My Shepherd King cares for me when I’m distressed and He fills me with Himself until my soul overflows.
His goodness and mercy pursues and overtakes me!
I have spent many, many hours hunting down a lost sheep or goat. I’ve had some wander off so far in the woods we couldn’t even hear them, much less see them.
But I do not give up. I do not stop looking. I do not go to bed and say, “I’ll find them tomorrow”.
I pursue them until I can bring them back in the fold. There they dwell in safety, fully cared for as long as they live.
I am worth so much more than a sheep. God will not forget me or dismiss me or allow me to wander forever.
He will come find me and bring me home to His heart and His path.
And one day-one glorious day-He will take me to my forever Home.
Does the image of Jesus as Shepherd help your heart find hope? Why or why not?
Psalms 22, 23 and 24 are considered by most biblical scholars to represent three images of Christ (22-Suffering Savior, 23-Shepherd, 24-Victorious King). Read them together and see if you agree.
Is there one of the names of God included in this study that is particularly precious to you?
Write out each name of God and see if you can find one other verse not previously mentioned that deepens your understanding of what the name means.
What does it mean to say God IS His name? If you have access to an online concordance, find one or two other names of God that might encourage you right now.
You are a good, perfect and loving Father. You are my Shepherd, my Provider, my Healer, my Righteousness, my Banner and YOU ARE HERE.
Help my heart lean into this truth.
Provide the most needful thing-Yourself-as I walk fearfully through this Valley. Restore my soul and flood it with Your peace.
Thank You that You are my righteousness-I am not left in my sins to receive the punishment they deserve. Thank You for Jesus.
Spread Your banner of love over my heart. Spread your banner of strength over my weakness. Spread Your banner of victory over my feeble attempt to ward off worry.
Let me feel Your Presenceand help me trust Your heart.
I have loved Scripture as long as I can remember. When I was in second grade I got the notion to read the whole Bible straight through-in the King James Version. I made it to Leviticus before I threw in the towel.
By the time my kids were grown I had read and studied Scripture for decades.
But three years before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I realized my reading had become rote-I felt like I “knew” all the stories. So I slowed my study to a crawl-only one chapter a day-and I usually copied the whole chapter plus my notes into a journal. I had just finished this time through the Bible in January before Dom was killed in April.
And all that truth stored in my mind and heart was what I “read” for months when my eyes were too full of tears to see print on a page.
Driving down the road I look to the right at the pond overflowing its banks and find myself drifting out of the lane and onto the shoulder.
I never intend to run off the road.
But I steer where I stare. Every time.
I do the same thing with my thought life.
Even before Dominic left us I realized that if I stared long enough and hard enough at the challenges before me (educating and raising four children), the world around me (full of danger and potential danger) or the looming prospect of some giant future obligation, I’d drift from the firm foundation of peace and contentment in Christ and end up in an ocean of worry and despair.
It was critical that I redirect my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection to Jesus and I used Scripture to help me do just that.
I remember the first time I copied out and held onto this verse:
Dominic was only six months old and I absolutely, positively HAD to have my gallbladder removed. I was anxious about leaving him and his siblings for the twenty-four hour hospital stay and even more anxious to be placed under general anesthesia.
The last time I’d been wheeled down a hospital hallway for an operation other than a cesarean section was as a three year old.
There’s something very eerie and frightfully final about having that mask placed over your nose and being asked to count backwards. I didn’t count. Instead I repeated my verse.
And when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, this was one of the verses that helped my heart hold on.
What was once a good habit became a lifeline.
Peace was elusive in those first days, months and even years, but I clung desperately to the truth that if I continued to meditate on, recite and copy out God’s Word my heart would eventually hear it.
Life may be swirling all around me, threatening to steal my hope, my peace, my joy. But I am declaring right now that I will not be swept up into a storm of fear and wild emotions. The Lord has promised me that He will keep me in perfect peace when I fix my mind on Him. I very much recognize I will steer where I stare. So I must watch what I fixate on. If I keep staring at the wrong things, I’ll go in wrong directions. I am choosing to place my attention on the Lord in this very moment. I am choosing to focus on trusting Him and believing His promises. And as I steer my attention more and more toward Him, His peace will come and flood my heart and settle my anxious mind.You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
Lisa TerKeurst, It’s Not Supposed to be This Way
My heart is headed somewhere.
Focusing solely on what I’ve lost, what I’m afraid of, or the emotional and relational storm around me will lead to despair.
When I lift my eyes and fix my gaze on Jesus, He will lead me to hope.
When I reach out my hand for the edge of His garment, He will help me hold on.