Empty

I took this photo of my Jeep tonight as I left the office.

It’s been a wild seven days. Early last week, we had a campus of excited students and a myriad of activities. Within 24 hours we were shifting classes to online formats and letting students return to their homes. It’s like we flipped a switch.

And it’s not just here. The coronavirus has impacted lives all over the country. We’ve watched the situation overseas with interest in the Fall, but few realized how fast the virus would spread…and how quickly it would impact our lives.

We’ve been encouraged to stop gathering in groups. To isolate. To stay at home. The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to create distance from one another.

And like the photo of my Jeep indicates- it’s a lonely existence right now.

The Los Angeles Times ran a news story this week about how working from home, seeing empty shelves in stores and- yes- the plunging stock market can cause anxiety and depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even talk about it on their website.

And man…I’m feeling it.

The Bible speaks quite a bit about times like these.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:6-8

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lordyour God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Tough times come. I’ve read about the plagues from 100 years ago. We’ve faced uncertain financial future before. Wars have ravaged our country and torn apart families. This earth is filled with uncertainty and fear.

But Jesus provides peace. He promises hope. He promises a future.

When I doubt myself or our future this week, I pledge to double-down in my prayer life.

When I’m anxious about our current situation, I will give it over to the One who cares for us beyond measure. I’m going to pray to the One who loves me unconditionally.

And when I feel empty, I’m going to ask Jesus to fill me with his love and blessed assurance.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Pray for me during these uncertain times. And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless and keep you. Always.

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Wounded

I’ve been acutely focused on wounds these past few months.

My dad has struggled with diabetes for many years, but recently it’s gotten progressively worse. Recent surgeries have caused both physical pain and emotional hardship.

There are lots of unknowns related to his future. And the uncertainly can take you to dark places.

The New York Times recently reported that from 2016 to 2017, the proportion of adults who described themselves as more anxious than the previous year was 36 percent. In 2017, more than 17 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode, as did three million adolescents ages 12 to 17. Forty million adults now suffer from an anxiety disorder — nearly 20 percent of the adult population. 

These are the known cases of depression. The actual numbers must be astronomical.

Wounds have always existed. There are many examples in the Bible:

  • The woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11)
  • Struggles with family, like the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-18)
  • Persecution because of following Jesus (2 Corinthians 11: 23-28)

 

We hurt in many ways. Wounds of regret of past sins. Wounds of illness and sickness. Wounds of broken relationships (perhaps the toughest of all…)

Fortunately, we have a Savior that has borne wounds for us.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  2 Peter 2: 21-24

By His wounds we have been healed.

How do we begin to heal? I suggest three ways:

  1. Learn from the pastAn intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18:15. We must learn from our mistakes and acknowledge our forgiveness. (“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:45). We must also seek forgiveness from others when necessary.
  1. Focus on the presentSet your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
  1. Realize the potential of the futureTruly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life. John 5:24. Finally, remember that suffering always precedes glory, as the Savior said of his own wounding (Luke 24:26).

 

I don’t know what you are struggling with today, but I do know that there is relief. My prayer focus this week will be for the millions of unknown issues across our world that are creating wounds.

And if I can pray for you specifically and confidentially, please let me know.

God bless you.

 

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When your best-laid plans put you in the Emergency Room

Yesterday began like most days around our home. 

Our two oldest children got up and out the door for a full day of school. Our youngest was headed on a day-long field trip. 

Hollianne planned to chaperone the field trip. I was to attend an all day meeting with Leadership Knoxville. 

My how things can change. Quickly. 

Within two hours of all of us leaving home, I received a text messsge from Hollianne. One of our children ended up going to the doctor’s office- and eventually to the Emergency Room. 

Hollianne’s field trip plans were derailed by his trip to the hospital. And I rushed from my meeting over to join them. We had gone from “normal” into a state of urgency. 

It all worked out. Our son received the treatment he needed and is feeling better. He will be fine in a few days. 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.  James 4:13-17

The events of our day reminded us of how unpredictable life can be. Our best-laid plans can quickly evaporate into turmoil and uncertainly. 

As the passage from James suggests- our lives are truly a mist. The activities of our day seem important, but ultimately we aren’t in control. 

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

We should always keep in mind that God is in control of our lives. We should commit each day, each task, each plan to Him. We need to ask Him for guidance in all our plans. 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Let me know how to pray for you this week. 

God bless you. 

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