How might God show up in our COVID suffering?
Does God rescue us, help us run, or help us walk?
Which does He do most frequently?
Earlier this year, Tony Evans gave the best teaching on Isaiah 40:31 that I have ever heard HERE, and I cannot get out of my head the three ways he presented about how God shows up when life gets us down: but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
I tuned into this talk because Dr. Evans spoke just a month after his wife of 49 years died December 30, 2019. That in itself earned him the credibility to listen well so recently after her passing, but in the prior 17 months, Tony had also lost his brother, sister, his sister’s husband, his father, and one daughter had a lobe removed from her lung. This is a lot of suffering spread over a lifetime, and even more so to have “one thing after another occur in such a compressed time frame.”
Here is what he taught about God showing up in three kinds of ways.
1. He swoops in and rescues: They will soar on wings like eagles.
This is probably how most of us wish for God to show up. We like the “Come quickly and get me out of this!” answer to our frantic prayers. Examples that come to mind are checks that show up to pay all the bills or debt, or a house sells quickly and miraculously.
This past week my daughter and I were in the master bedroom chatting in social distance fashion when a battery under the bed spontaneously combusted, filling the bedroom with toxic smoke in seconds. We were able to respond quickly because we were right there. The battery was out of the house, floor fans were set up, window were opened and the door shut in a matter of minutes. Had we been downstairs, or not a home at all…
It won’t be until we are in heaven that we will see the countless times God swooped in and rescued. The automobile accidents that didn’t happen, the delay that protected you from a COVID cough from landing on you in the grocery line. Sometime I thank God for all the unseen rescues of the day that I didn’t see or thank Him for.
2. He provides a necessary burst of strength for a race: They will run and not grow weary.
Sometimes our suffering occurs in a measurable time frame that has a start and finish line. In my job life, October and February are months I consistently ask God to see me through because they are always busy. December might be another example as people celebrate Christmas. I think even a rough year can count. Do you have those in your memory? Now the suffering is distant, but you remember 2017, or 2009, or 1986. An analogy I would use here is a running race. Yes, it’s difficult, but the start and finish occur in a distinct time frame and God sees you through the intense labor.
3. He provides sustenance for a mountain hike: they will walk and not be faint.
Lastly, our suffering can sometimes occur over a very long time. God does not swoop in and we can’t run because the distance is too great. So we walk, and we keep walking for a really long time, in an uphill battle. Things that can fall into this category are my friends who live in chronic pain for decades, a difficult marriage, parenting children with special needs or raising a group of children for what totals 25 years of a full house every day. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. I have written about that HERE and HERE. It occurred to me as I wrote for today that they didn’t run for 40 years. They wandered. They walked.
Is one form of showing up better than the other?
I would argue that each has its place in our lives, and we will mostly likely experience the latter two more than the first. God does amazing things in our character when the suffering is longer and requires perseverance.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
We are all suffering right now to some degree. We have yet to learn if COVID-19 will land in the running or walking category, but we can be assured that God is giving us strength in the suffering.
Thank Him for that today.
Picture Explanation: More time at home has meant more time for family games (our favorite is Sequence), more time for house projects, and more time for backyard fires and camping.
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