Never Going Back

There’s been much talk of what to make of Coronavirus. When an extraordinary event of this nature takes place, man pauses, hopefully, and takes account of himself and the world around. The reality of and circumstances surrounding the Covid-19/Coronavirus/CCP Virus have produced in our people varied, dramatic, and even divisive responses. Reactions and perspectives vary as much as our religious, political, racial, geographical, philosophical and socioeconomic differences. I, myself, have gone through a few waves of perspectives, observations and takeaways as we have progressed through the events of the pandemic and corresponding national and global reaction. As my family and I have embraced this strange time, we have sought wisdom, discernment, and knowledge in the surest of places and found one message resounding clearer and surer than others.

Let’s first observe a time-tested truth that history confirms and human-kind often conveniently ignores. Those who fear The Lord and seek after Him earnestly possess an inherent firmness of inner foundation the world knows nothing of. While others are shaken, by God’s grace, the godly man, woman, family or community has a peace that passes understanding. Scripture advises that wisdom and knowledge come from a fear of The Lord and that a man who builds his home on a rock (The Rock) will surely withstand. This isn’t to deride those who choose to stand on their own and know nothing of this promise and truth, but it is to offer hope to all.

“He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” – Psalm 145:19

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of The Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

As the realities of the Coronavirus (translated in some languages as Crown virus) began to become apparent in the U.S., reactions came quickly and with much conviction. In my home, the first response took on something of a “Whew…Thank God…a forced Sabbath rest.” My own personal observation was that many people, both Christian and non had been engaged in a debilitating and endless rat race of more, better, bigger, faster, get, do, be for so long as to have replaced life with an alternate version so undesirable you’d think it wouldn’t take a forced stoppage to recognize the futility in it. The fact is that many, whether consciously or subconsciously aware or unbeknownst, just haven’t had peace about the way they have been “doing life.” If you are a follower of Christ who has been reborn and have the hope of salvation and blessed assurance of His promises, if the purpose of your life is to seek His above all else, you still will not have full peace if there is duplicity in your heart and life. And if you have not “died” and given your life to Christ and been transformed by Him, then this duplicity is certain, and that longing in your soul will keep you from rest, pandemic or not. Rest is not only necessary for our bodies and minds, but a necessary component to honor God and His laws of nature. To pursue the desires of the world and the flesh necessarily puts you at odds with the promised rest of abiding in Christ.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

I heard a pastor the other day say he was amazed at how some of the same people who a few months back were in his office complaining about their life were now telling him they “just couldn’t wait to get back to normal.” Now, that is really interesting. You were miserable with “normal” but now can’t wait to get back to it. As my 3 year old twins would say, “No-no, ah-ah.” Not in my house and not on my watch. This is a gift and to miss this fact is to miss the fact that blessing often comes disguised as trial or tribulation. And whether blessing is realized is usually dependent on our response and what we choose to focus on. My response to the whole Coronavirus pandemic and the national and global reaction that ensued was something like, “Great….exactly what we needed. Normal was not good and any fear I am feeling is the fear of things returning to the way they were, if anything.” This “new normal” was quickly embraced as an opportunity, by God’s grace, to grow, learn, live, expand….to get in touch with some areas that had been neglected and to see resurrected a few things that needed resurrecting in my life. I felt sadness and sympathy for those who had experienced massive financial upheaval or loss of health or life, but this is the course of things. We will have loss, we will have pain, we will have suffering in this life. The real question that needs answering is what loss is actual loss? Is it possible to lose something and find gain? If Paul can say “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” can we not at least say that our precious, so carefully constructed and controlled lives, when inconvenienced, are not valid measurements of suffering? I mean to say that few are experiencing actual death or grave and permanent financial consequences, but rather an inconvenient interruption to an already compromised and feeble form of life that hardly resembles prosperity or abundance. If the Coronavirus pandemic and how we let God choose to use it in our lives can bring forth newness from that which is old and stale, liberty from slavery, and life from death, will we call Covid-19 a curse….or a blessing? I’ll submit to you that your own personal perspective may rest on where exactly you cast your crowns.

We crown many things on this earth…hence our own shaking when those things are threatened. Maybe it is time to crown the one who is and was and forever will be. Now that is something you can count on.

For many months I drove up and down the fast-growing part of my family’s hometown streets as an economy on overdrive was resurrected from the rubble of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. I marveled at the speed, at the sheer will, at the determination of man to create, to expand, to persist and prosper. As trees were cut, new homes constructed, businesses opened and strip centers added…and added….and added, I asked both myself and my wife, “Is this sustainable? What is all of this stuff? Are there enough people to support all of this? Do we really need a Beef Jerky Outlet,” and I imagined it all being vacated or abandoned and torn down. Oh, these places won’t go away, at least not quickly or anytime soon; but I now see my notion as prophetic, at the very least symbolic. We have been functioning now on the very high levels of self-actualization for so long, with all we could need or want at our fingertips, with the just-enough becoming the just-a-little-more which gives way to the never-enough. If it isn’t food it is clothing and if not clothing it is entertainment and if not entertainment then technology or fitness or fame or politic or publicity. If it isn’t our wife it is our job, and if not our kids then our car and a hobby or two or three, and three or four more for each kid, and a few personal indulgences of guilty pleasure for self; and if we could just…reach…a little…bit…higher, and go a tad faster and then a bit more…and we will al-most have…it. We could almost have it all….normal.

The normal we know is where we are in control. The place where, unfortunately, even most Christians have been living in poverty of spirit, in bondage of time, space, and energy, is the normal we know. Our cues come from a secular culture whose values shape not only our thoughts and activity but our very lives. It has become so comfortable, so normal, not to mention busy, that the still small voice inside can barely get a word in edgewise to wit. That voice is still speaking. The question is “Who will hear?”

The Israelites strained and strove, they wallowed in the captivity of the Egyptians for centuries under harsh rule, subjected to a pagan nation and people who knew nothing of God. By God’s grace they were called out of Egypt by a merciful and very capable deliverer, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob – the same God of my family. They were delivered out by plagues which overtook the will of the Egyptian rulers temporarily and provided an escape. They were delivered from imprisonment, entrapment, starvation, and judgement and promised a new home, a free and abundant land of their own where peace and prosperity would be their lot. They were delivered by a God who had proven himself to them time and time again…and yet they faltered. Most were unfaithful and disbelieving, many ungrateful and vile in rebellion and largely rejecting God at His word. The majority demanded to return to the land they had known. The land where they would be slaves offered security and predictability, a comfort of the known, and a certainty that made them feel as though they were in control. They would reject God’s promise to return to normal if given the chance. Many couldn’t wait to go back to Egypt. The Israelites, save but a few families, never entered the new promised land. Like Lot’s wife before, they couldn’t turn their eyes from what they thought was good, what they feared might be better than the unknown and the new, even though it was in actuality Sodom and Gomorrah, a loathsome and dying place.

What new and better, unknown place is God trying to take usto take you to?

And what is your “Egypt?”

What things have you laid hold of that you will not release to the God of all Creation who holds a promise so true, so good, so desirable, and so real that it will provide genuine rest for your soul? You see, I believe we today are like the Israelites of old, and God, through extraordinary events, is graciously calling us out of where we have become all too comfortable – a place that was never meant to be our home. He loves and cares for us and Has plans so much greater than ours. He longs to save us from the slavery which binds and withholds liberty from our lives. He promises when we walk according to His ways, His plans, and His will for our lives, we live in freedom…we live in peace. When are we going to realize that sometimes we long for something that really isn’t that good? I mean, was normal really that great? Are you sure you are ready to go back? I, for one, am not. And while the world will rush back, my plea is that we take a stand right here and never go back.

The new mantra around our home is, “Never going back. Never going back to Egypt.” I heard pastor Steven Furtick as he shared his version of a similar sentiment (Isn’t the Holy Spirit cool?) suggest we do not return to normal but that we all, “Look forward to normal.” His suggestion was that what we have been doing is actually not normal for Christians and that, at least by God’s design and through His eyes, we need to get to normal…His normal for us. I concur.

Maybe you have heard of the phenomena of a long-time prisoner in our jail system being released only to purposely commit a crime to return to prison. This phenomena is said to be a result of what that person has come to know as normal, as safe, and easier than the alternative to adjust to. We can be that prisoner. We can be those Israelites who bemoaned God’s plan and relied on self, those ancestors of humanism, who chose to reject being called to a new and better promised land never to return to slavery and subjection; or we can be a people who never look back…never go back…and receive what God is graciously offering today.

Will you receive it?

Forget what you’ve known. It wasn’t that great anyway. Ask God to forgive you. Seek Him for guidance, discernment, and permanent deliverance from your Egypt. Or maybe you feel as though you are out of Egypt but are now stuck in a desert wilderness. Do not complain. Do not seek return. Ask for direction and clarity and seek a new place to dwell…God’s promised land for you – and never return to “normal.”

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