Reflections Over Tumultuous Times
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I don’t know about you, but 2020 proved to test even the most resolved, steady person. The true colors of many people have shown what they really believe about faith issues, caring concern about others, and the ability of some to agree to disagree over a host of controversial topics. I found myself caught in arguments when I thought they were supposed to be discussions. Everyone’s nerves are edgy this year. And who can blame them? Anywhere from a ridiculously dangerous Coronavirus, to wildfires scorching the western U.S., to lost jobs and pay cuts, and uncertain work and school situations frazzling nerves, we’ve all been affected to varying degrees.
I think isolation, combined with our world turned upside down, had the most significant impact on us this year. We want stability yet need community. Both have been shaken to the core. We never experienced what our parents and grandparents did during World Wars I and II, Typhoid Fever, the Spanish Flu, followed by the Great Depression(CDC). Typhoid Fever killed 128,000 to 161,000 people—thanks to Typhoid Mary, who insisted on working at the cafeteria. This plague followed by the Spanish Flu that claimed 50 million lives worldwide. We’ve had it pretty cushy until now, haven’t we? We aren’t accustomed to major fluxes that hit us where it hurts the most—home. As a result, people have become hypersensitive emotionally, demanding freedoms be returned to everyday citizens, all of which may be exaggerated by fear.
This deluge of changes brought along anxiety and stress behaviors, so I’ve noticed. Some have responded with anger attacking anyone that threatens their views. Some people on social media have responded by hiding behind cute memes, insisting we all step away from reality for a while. Other people on social media rallied others to specific causes, regardless of reasonability. Others have gone yet another direction by insisting everyone side with them on their agenda, whatever that may be. The Mask vs. Anti-Mask Christians adopted the Faith Over Fear mantra to hide behind their dislike of face masks garnished an air of oppression. These scenes turned simple discussions into political rants or a overblown arguments. My responses on social media have been mixed due to the reasonability of readers, friends, and family. I’ve muted, blocked, and unfriended argumentative people on some of my social media accounts because of it. Anxiety and stress have divided friends, families, and churches. How sad.
Loneliness and isolation have plagued the already lonely and isolated—the elderly. I’ve watched my 90-year-old mother at an independent senior living complex struggle with loneliness. The seniors in Michigan have been in isolation much longer than anyone else here. They have remained in their apartments or rooms, eaten alone, whiling away the time with televisions as their primary companions. When they have been able to see each other, they’ve donned masks. Can you imagine being hard of hearing struggling to hear each other from six feet away? In this lonely time, Mom has found Love with another resident. They pray and do Bible study together, which helped their emotional struggles. Unfortunately, she is separated from him and other familiar people by an infection that caused her to require another care level. No one from outside can visit her. She has been able to do FaceTime on a tablet, but she can’t touch her Love, family, or friends. When we feel restless to get together, it is vital to put our feelings into perspective. Maybe if we reach out to seniors and others we love by safely sending photos, texts, or do FaceTime with them, our attitudes might change for the better.
God’s Word in Challenging Times
With heightened emotional responses comes a test of faith. Do we trust that God is who He says He is? Do we trust that God is loving and faithful to His people? Does He care about what concerns us? It’s become quite noticeable that some of our churches are doing poorly with discipleship. The language, attitudes, and behaviors of God’s people demonstrate what they believe. Vulgarity, profanity, and vengeful attitudes signal a lack of prayer, the study of God’s Word, and even not gathering together with other believers—whether live or virtually. You will know a tree by its fruit (Matthew 12:33). I find encouragement of the faithful ones who continue to share a Bible verse from a modern translation with everyone who reads their posts. I love the truth from wise spiritual leaders who aptly apply God’s Word to our current situations. The insight of those who see the times and call them for what they are can be quite sobering, but although we don’t know when the End will be, we can trust that every day brings us closer to Christ’s return. I see the Fruit of the Spirit displayed in believers who immerse themselves in prayer and the Bible, taking church involvement seriously, and encourage others. God does indeed have a remnant, doesn’t He?
Our pastor has been teaching out of 1 Peter. The past couple of passages have been so timely. Look in 1 Peter 2:1-13. It speaks to us by refocusing our viewpoint. Spiritual milk is an essential element of our Christian faith. We can certainly use God’s Word to address issues we face every day, but if we don’t grasp the basics of what Jesus did for us, we lose our focus. When we appreciate the Truth of our salvation grounded in the basics of the gospel, then our hearts remain pure.
The Cornerstone, a building term for a stone block, is laid first to set the building walls square. Jesus is referred to as a Cornerstone in verses 6-8. In other words, our whole way of thinking and living must align with faith in Jesus Christ. Those who do not align with Him will trip over His teachings as if an annoyance. I’ve encountered disagreements with other Christians who have bought into false teachings, drawing people into their ideologies. The depth of Bible understanding in some seems weak or shallow during this long period of social distancing and modified church attendance. In my encounters with them, they have taken passages out of context. When these individuals find themselves confronted with God’s Truth in context, their demeanor turns defensive. The Cornerstone becomes a stumbling block because a spiritual concept from another religion had no root in Jesus Christ, nor in God’s Word. They don’t mesh.
We must become a spiritual house, built upon the stability of the Rock rather than shifting sand (Matthew 7:23-25). Staying spiritually pure–in our words, attitudes, and actions–requires being firmly grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior while living out His teachings in the Bible. Scripture is foundational to daily Christian living; otherwise, we begin living like non-believers, tossed about by the waves of different ideologies of the day, unstable in our ways (Ephesians 4:14). It shows by our way of life, words, and behavior. The events of 2020 have certainly tested us, revealing what we really believe. Joshua put forth this challenge to the Israelites when they were ready to enter the Promised Land:
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” ( Joshua 24:15 NIV)
Where do you stand? Do you allow fear to determine your actions, or do you allow Scripture to guide your actions? What keeps you grounded in Christ during our trying times? How can you make a difference in the lives of others with your faith?
May God bless you!