2 Chronicles 33
10 The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
I continually find myself focusing my mind, heart, energies and resources toward what is next rather than what is now, here. And this pandemic season has dramatically increased this in my life. It makes me want to curl up and hibernate until it’s all over. Wake me up when we this is history, when social distancing is over and toilet paper is plentiful. I’m tired of swimming in this sewage: the news, the blaming and shaming, the fear and anxiety, the what-ifs and potential apocalypse.
Even though I’m not literally going catatonic in my cryogenic chamber, I find my heart drifting off into slumber-ville in an effort to keep from engaging the darkness.
What a waste.
So let me preach to myself for a second. You can listen in if you’d like.
This hard time is not something to merely get through, but to grow within. This is an extremely valuable time to teach me what is essential, what I’ve been resting on, where my hope rests. What causes me excessive frustration? That’s something that I can repent of, grow in.
Starting with the littler things – the conveniences of life that make me comfortable. Having to wear a mask in public; not being able to hang out with my friends; delaying my vacation plans. These comforts and conveniences are being revealed as being far too important to my joy, my hope, my life.
But also going into the bigger, serious things – these are very real, very hard, very frightening…and very revealing. These are things like friends and family who are vulnerable to the point of death; jobs and finances hanging by a thread…so many of these issues. Real issues. Real fear. Real pain. Real loss. But no matter how big and important, they aren’t my savior, my hope. This doesn’t diminish their value, it just puts their value in proper perspective, in their proper role. I desperately love and value my family, but I can’t build my life on top of their safety and happiness. Oh, believe me, I’ve tried over and over. And what’s happened every time? My hope gets dashed because everything in this world is tenuous and temporary. Except for Jesus.
This swirling storm has given us a tremendous opportunity as it is perpetually shining a spotlight on the idols of our lives. What an opportunity to rearrange these loves as we put The Love into His proper place.
Look at how Habakkuk put it. God revealed to him that He was going to do the unimaginable: take his chosen nation into exile because their priorities were totally out of whack. BUT that he would also bring them back home and restore to them all that was lost, renewing their families and faith. This terrified Habakkuk, so he said this:
O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
He was saying in more literal Hebrew….”do what you have to do, over and over again, until your refining work is done.” Habakkuk realized that the beauty, goodness and glory of God is more valuable than his comfort, even he didn’t understand or like the plans that lay ahead of him.
Now, I am NOT saying that this pandemic is God’s wrath and justice for us being naughty. None of us have any idea WHY it is happening, but we can know FOR WHAT it is happening. We have an opportunity to join Jesus in the Garden when things are painful and not going the way we want to say “Not my will but yours be done.”
So, right now, what would it look like to lean into the struggle? To ask the Holy Spirit what we can learn and how we can find True Rest in Jesus, even now. And YES, ask for God to heal creation, destroy the virus and bring us back to “normal.” But also ask him to create a new normal, one where our hope is based on Him, which will help us to actually enjoy the gifts He gives us even more because we enjoy the Giver more than what He gives.