A friend on the staff of a large church emailed about a family basically living in the ICU ward of a local hospital in our city. Doctors had told the parents nothing more can be done for the daughter. So they were standing by, waiting for God to take her home.
The friend asked if I could visit this family.
An hour later, I was in their hospital room.
The patient lay there heavily sedated, while family members and friends were seated around the room, talking softly. They greeted me warmly, having been informed that I was coming.
Two things about this family I found amazing. They had lived in the intensive care units of their hospital back home and this one in my city for over 40 days. And yet, there was such a steady peace and beautiful joy about them.
The question I face
That brings me to my dilemma, one I have frequently encountered when calling on the families of Godly people going through various kinds of crises: Do I enter into their joy or remain outside?
No one ever told Superman, “You be strong now.” Strong was his middle name.
No one ever told Adrian Rogers, “Preach a good sermon now.” They never told Warren Wiersbe to “Give us a good Bible study.” It was what they did.
Words such as “Be strong” and “Be courageous” were given to the weak, the hesitant, the young.
Take the words “Be strong and of good courage.” Moses told Israel to do that in Deuteronomy 31:6. One verse later, Moses told Joshua to “be strong and of good courage.” Same chapter, verse 23, Moses commissioned Joshua to lead God’s people and said to him, “Be strong and of good courage.”
Are you with me now? Then, get this…
The four-year-old who says, “I can do it by myself” has a lot in common with the typical pastor.
Pastors are notorious for their lone ranger approach to ministry. It’s what I call the number one failure of 90 percent of pastors. They prefer to go it alone.
Even Jesus needed a buddy. “He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with me for one hour?’” (Matthew 26:40)
Sometimes it helps to have someone nearby, praying, loving, caring, even hurting with you.
The word paracletos from John 16:7 is translated “Comforter” and “Helper” in most Bible versions. The literal meaning is “one called alongside,” the usual idea being that the Holy Spirit is our Comforting Companion, a true Friend in need. And each time that word is found in the New Testament–John 14:16,20; 15:26; 16:7; and I John 2:1–it always refers to the Lord.
However, here’s something important.
IN TIMES OF GREAT STRESS–AND THE PRESENT WORLDWIDE PANDEMIC IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF STRESS–WORSHIP IS THE ONE ESSENTIAL.
This week, with the assistance of a few hundred Facebook friends, I made a poster “10 things not to do in times of worldwide crises.” You can find the poster on my Facebook page, but here it what it said…
WHAT NOT TO DO IN A WORLDWIDE CRISIS–
- Do not believe everything you read on social media.
- Do not hoard. Love thy neighbor. Share with others.
- Do not watch the news 24/7. That’s a sure-fire recipe for stress and anxiety.
- Do not fall for scams and gimmicks. Con men come out of the woodwork during these times.
- Do not look for someone to blame–God, government, China. Conspiracy theorists abound.
- Do not ignore guidelines meant to stop the spread and save lives.
- Do not interpret this as the judgment of God. It might be, but you do not know.
- Do not interpret this as a sign of the end of the world. It may be, but chances are it isn’t.
- Do not stop doing the things that keep you healthy, sane, happy, interested, productive.
- Don’t forget to worship. Your soul needs this.
Originally, after the first nine, I was left with too many candidates for the tenth slot and left it blank for a time. On Facebook I posted a photo of the incomplete poster and asked, “What’s number ten?” A hundred answers came in. However, on the back deck with my morning coffee talking with the Lord, I felt Him giving me the tenth. Don’t forget to worship. Those four words came with such force and clarity, I knew this was from Him. Not only that, but…
We’re reading books nonstop. I’ve opened another 1,000 pc jigsaw puzzle. Storms are arriving this Sunday afternoon. This morning we “went” to church at three different places and heard three sermons. I’ve decided that if enough pastors do this–that is, watch a lot of preachers they would not ordinarily–it’s going to change forever the way many of us preach. There are few things better at getting us out of our ruts than being exposed to those who do well.
Sunday morning, Bertha made us a peanut butter pie. It took all morning, in addition to the other things she was doing. But it’s to die for.
Sitting on my back deck Sunday morning with my coffee, I was watching the birds flying in to enjoy the seeds and suet cake at my feeders a few feet away. Cardinals, doves, sparrows, and a chickadee. And it hit me that we’re almost out of seeds. The storage bin on the deck has no more supplies for our feathered friends. And then….
My wife Bertha walked out and said, “Amy (our next door neighbor) called. She’s at Kroger’s. Do we need anything.”
“See if they have any birdseed.” Kroger’s seems to have some of everything. Maybe they’ll have this too.
A neighbor who had been out of town for a week or two with her elderly mother has returned. She brought to us a huge package of toilet tissue and several rolls of paper towels. Do we have a nice neighbor or what?
A friend who goes to Alcoholics Anonymous tells me that in his large city there are now 40 chapters meeting online each evening. (Do they call them chapters?) He added, “A lot of people are learning technology who never thought they would.”
I’m one of them. Now, I have done this website for nearly 20 years, so I know a couple of things. On Facebook I can post cartoons and photos and such. But there is so much that is foreign to me.
It’s not hard to get old. Just keep breathing and having birthdays, and one day you’ll wake up and wonder where the time went and why everyone is looking at you as if you were ancient. You have arrived.
The eightieth is one of the big birthdays of this earthly existence….if you can get one. I just experienced mine, with no one here to sing to me except my wife.
The backstory to that is that my older son Neil, living in Mobile, AL, had made plans to have a family-type shindig on Saturday and invite in extended family and close friends. A couple of weeks ago, however, they shut that down. I completely agreed with the decision.
We each do what we can.
One thing I have done is take out cartoons from my huge stock (from 50 years of drawing for Christian publications!) and tweaking some of them, then posting on Facebook. I’ll photograph one, then make a few minor changes on it and photograph that, then post both cartoons with the caption: “There are 4 differences in these drawings. Can you find them?” People are playing along with this and telling me it’s great fun. A nice little diversion.
These days, we can use all of that we can get.
I asked Facebook friends to help me come up with the TOP TEN LESSONS FROM THIS PANDEMIC.
I did the first two, and they suggested the rest…
Praying worldwide prayers…
I don’t know that I have ever prayed for the whole world before. We read that God so loved the world and we know He did, but to pray for the whole world previously would have felt so general as to be worthless. Until now.
We know that we are of God and the whole world lies in under the sway of the wicked one (I John 5:19).
In praying for the entire world–as the Coronavirus works its way into every land, every community–let us pray…