I have two church bulletins from 2019 tucked in the back of my daytimer. These bulletins are filled with handwritten notes. The sermons spoke to me then, and continue to speak to me to this day, and I occasionally pull them out to review the lessons.
The interesting thing about these two sermons, which were preached in back to back consecutive weeks by two different pastors, is that both sermons were based on Joshua 3:4, and bear the same title:
“Since You Have Never Traveled This Way Before…”
Pastor Mel preached the first one on Janaury 6 as a Happy New Year message. Pastor Jay preached the second sermon on Janaury 13 as a Happy New Year … again. I don’t think it was a predetermined plan. Evidently Pastor Jay could’t shake the title or the topic either. I love that. Yes, let’s visit this again because there are still lessons to learn.
And now, here we are entering the 2nd quarter of 2020, and once again, that sermon title begs to be revisited… “Since You Have Never Traveled This Way Before…”
Many of us feel that sentiment right now. Our world has changed dramatically over the last 2 months, and we are afraid of what the future holds. We aren’t even sure what tomorrow holds as the Covid-19 news and guidelines change daily. We indeed have not traveled this way before. We’re a little shell-shocked, and truth be told, a little bit scared.
This too shall pass…
We hear that statement frequently, and often quoted as a loose Bible verse, spoken in times of suffering and trials. The words are meant to sooth and comfort. But do they? That quote feels more like a “grin and bear it” admonition to me. Is the message to hunker down, grit our teeth, and wait “this” out (whatever this is?) I don’t find much comfort in that sentiment. Holding my trials tight in my hands, while waiting for time to pass, feels passive and depressing and more like a recipe for despair.
“This too shall pass” is a famous quote, but it is not a quote from Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible do you find those words. In Romans 5:2-5 we read,
“…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
When we give our trials to the Lord, actively seeking the comfort of the Holy Spirit, trusting him, and looking for any lessons that would prompt growth in our lives, there is hope.
And hope does not disappoint.
During this pandemic, I’ve had days when my faith feels weak, and I have more questions than answers. I worry about what’s happening right now and what life will look like 6 months from now. I worry about my husband who is an “essential worker.” I am afraid for my children, some of whom have compromised immune systems. And the grandkids? How will this affect them? On those days, I push myself to answer these questions:
Do I believe there is a God?
Do I believe that God is sovereign and in control?
Do I believe that God is not surprised by Covid-19?
Do I believe that God is working out things for my good?
I answer all those questions with a resounding ‘Yes!”
I find hope.
When I say yes to those questions, I don’t need to worry about this untraveled “way” as I beg God for answers. I can stop praying like a beggar and I can begin praying like a believer. I can boldly go to the Lord in prayer and thank him for his sovereignty and control. I know he is wise, and he is good. I know he has plans – and they cannot be thwarted.
“Wait for the Lord. Be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” — Psalm 27:14
I love that “wait for the Lord” bookends our active participation. Waiting is hard, but waiting isn’t passive.
Be strong. Be faithful. Be courageous. Believe.
This too shall pass? Yes, I have no doubt that it will, and while I wait, I will actively believe.
I will have hope.
Hope is my anchor. A certainty. A sure thing.
As I glanced back at those two worn bulletins, I see these 3 points scribbled in the margin:
I chuckled — well, we have the “stay” down pretty well — we are indeed all staying at home, staying in quarantine, and staying away from each other. I don’t think that was exactly Pastor Mel’s intention, but how perfect is it? But yes, stay the course. Stay where God puts you. And don’t give up.
But what about trust? And expectations?
Trust is the natural outcome of our belief. And expectations blossom when we trust.
Paul’s words in Romans 5 offer us everything. Absolutely everything because…
Hope does not disappoint.
Are you acting like a beggar, fearful and worried? Or do you believe God?
Can others see that belief in you?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13