This is Where I am At…Where are You?

In mid-March, we packed 12 bags for our family’s international flight to South Africa. We loaded everything up – shoes, clothing, vitamins, school books, bible reference materials, lots and lots of donated children’s books, sets of note cards, chocolate chip bags, lotion, coffee, cheese crackers, DVD sets, cans of green chiles, surprise birthday presents, and a little bit of this and a little bit of that – to make sure everything would all fit and be within the required weight allowance for our long journey home to South Africa.

It was a preliminary pack-job. The good news was that everything fit, and everything was underweight. We were ready.

Until we weren’t.

The next day, everything changed.

Cancellations and more cancellations due to the pandemic sent shock waves across the country and world. And then, South Africa shut down its international borders. Even if we wanted to travel home, South Africa posed uncertain quarantine/isolation requirements. John and I realized that taking our autistic children into this melee of confusion was not wise. We rescheduled our plane tickets for May – hoping that by then we would have a better idea of what to do next. Alas, as March and April passed, vision and clarity were fleeting. Then, our flight in May was cancelled. To date, the international borders of South Africa remain closed. We have no idea when we will be able to go home.

What happened to the twelve bags we assembled in March?

Eight of them are still packed and ready to go. John, Jake, Caleb and I have been living out of four bags for the past 65 days while we wait here.

What has sustained our family during this uncertain time?

Honestly, for me, the Word of the Lord continues to provide soul-strengthening encouragement and solace – especially during moments when I especially need some life-giving promises from my God. For the past 65 days, I’ve been focusing on verses that address fear, anxiety, and dread. Why am I looking for verses that address these less-than-appealing feelings?

Well, consider these points: Many aspects of this pandemic induce fear, anxiety and dread for our family. Unexpected financial strain is stretching us. We are responsible for the expenses of both our home in South Africa and our living expenses here. We hadn’t budgeted for either set of costs for this length of time. We are asking ourselves what the wise and prudent action to take is regarding these financial responsibilities. We are thinking through the ramifications of these financial burdens. Secondly, our sons have struggled with loss and disappointment during this shelter-in-place season. We feel concern for our children and  any possible long-term emotional effects. How will they come through this time? Will they continue to show resilience? Third, after more than 14 years of living life-on-life with our friends and ministry partners in southern Africa, John and I feel frustrated and helpless to address their serious needs since we are so far away. Our apprehension increases with the growing health crisis in this special part of the world. Fourth, we have no idea – none, nil, nada, zilch, nothing-no-way – when we are going to be able to return to South Africa. To be frank, we wonder if we can even return within the year. An indefinite stay was not our plan. I would love to tell you that in the face of these different challenges I am standing strong and steadfast at every hour of our additional 65-day hiatus in Oregon. However, if I did, this wouldn’t be the truth.

I am doing well most of the time.  But there are days, hours, and moments, when I feel discouraged. It’s at these junctures in time and space, when I need a good word from my God. Gratefully, the Lord has many, many, many helpful and reassuring words to address my fears. I am desperate for them.

My God desires that I share my present distresses and laments with Him. In fact, there are many instances in Scripture that affirm this action.  In Isaiah 33, for example, the Israelites cried out to their God for salvation from the unstoppable, invincible Assyrian army.  The Assyrian army was a ruthless, devastatingly efficient war machine. As its military force of professionally trained soldiers encroached upon the nation of Israel, the Assyrian soldiers’ reputation alone sent the Israelites into a state of frenzied paralysis. Thus, in the face of this imminent danger and eventual conquest, the Israelites realized that they could not depend upon any assistance from Egypt, nor could they rely upon their own strength or strategies of defense.

Instead, they looked to their Lord and cried:

Lord, be gracious to us;
    we long for you.
Be our strength every morning,
    our salvation in time of distress.

New International Version, Isaiah 33:2

They declared their trust and confidence in their God for His care and protection during this dangerous, uncertain time. They appealed to their Lord to be their strong arm of defense every morning. During this difficult hour, this people of God experienced an epiphany. In order to see the Lord as their Savior and Redeemer, they needed to humble themselves and be brought low. And when they looked up from their low-to-the-ground, desperate position, they could see the power, the might, and the majesty of their exalted, holy God.

They could now proclaim – even as the Assyrian army advanced towards them:

He will be the sure foundation for your times,
    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

New International Version, Isaiah 33:6

As they waited upon their God for his help and protection, this group experienced the gracious care and miraculous salvation of their Savior. He did what they could not. In this time of physical and spiritual warfare, the Israelites recognized that their power and strength were futile and impractical. The Lord defeated the Assyrian army and proved Himself to be their sure foundation.

We would be wise to admit the same insufficiency – especially as we look to our present challenges associated with the pandemic. We cannot will anything to  happen in our own might. It is our God who equips and strengthens our arms to see His will come to pass this side of heaven. This is the strength of salvation – strong, lasting, and complete – that will be our faithful stability and sure foundation in fearful, anxious, dreadful, uncertain times.

My physical location in the world may not have changed at all in the past 65 days. I may still be living out of four bags. The pandemic may be still advancing against us – keeping us sheltered-in-place for an indefinite time. There are many real challenges associated with this difficult-to-perceive threat. Yet, in this present danger, my God is here. He is exalted high above every fear, every anxiety, every dreadful care and concern.

He is my strength every morning.

He is my salvation in the nighttime hours of distress.

He is my foundation of saving faith which hones and establishes my peace of mind.

I don’t know what is next.

What do I know?

The salvation that my God ordains for us all has strength, power, peace and wisdom in it.

I look up from my lowly position and call out to my God who is above every state of matter and every situation for His help and His strength.

O Lord, be gracious to us;
    we long for you.
Be our strength every morning,
    our salvation in time of distress.

You are the sure foundation for our times,
    a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
    the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure of life.

Are you feeling any measure of fear, anxiety or distress during these uncertain times?

Seek the Lord and cry out to Him for his help. This is what I am doing as I pray each morning. I am confident our God will help us all.

This is where I am at while we wait here in Oregon…where are you?

Image retrieved from Google Search for Wait

2 thoughts on “This is Where I am At…Where are You?

  1. Shirley Hethorn May 16, 2020 — 9:01 pm

    You are doing all that is required of you. He is going before you just as He did before the Israelites. You are right, we don’t see the end yet, but it wall be glorious when be do. Do you think the huge sigh of relief will cause a wind storm?😋 I know the feeling of hopelessness and frustration. God is even allowing this..I guess..Then I remember, This too shall pass.We just keep sending encouragement to each other. May GOD give you wisdom and strength. Love, Shirley

    1. Thank you, Shirley.

      I appreciate every single word. You are a blessing and cheer-giver. Yes, this time will pass eventually. I confess I’d like it to pass sooner than later. 🙂

      All my love,
      heather

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