There are moments.
Those catch-us-at-our-weakest-most-vulnerable-points when we really would prefer that no one pay us any mind.
They are the low-to-the-ground times.
They are the moments when John and I confess to one another that had we known the future, had we been offered a glimpse into 2020, we would have made a vastly different plan. We have no doubts we would have turned our family around in the OR Tambo concourse outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. We would have backtracked our steps. We would have retrieved our luggage. And yes, we would have called our teammates to fetch us. We never-ever-ever would have boarded a series of planes from South Africa to the United States in November 2019.
Had we known…
Looking back to November 2019, we never anticipated being grounded in the United States in March 2020 due to a world-wide-beyond-our-comprehension pandemic.
Yet, we were not offered a pandemic sneak-peek.
No one predicted the world would shut down for month upon month upon month.
Our family would be in limbo between our home country and our adopted homeland for nearly a year. A lot has happened in that time frame. Too much to share here. And truth be told, I am not ready share all of it yet on this platform.
But what I can say is that our family has experienced a myriad of emotions – distress, sorrow, regret, uncertainty, anxiety, frustration, and pain – that have stretched and tested all of us.
We did not ask for any of this to happen.
Who willingly raises their hand for uncertainty and hardship?
Pick me! Pick me!! Pick me!!!
No, I am not that spiritual. I am not that mature. I am not that good.
Do you believe that the strengthening spirit of contentment and joy can emerge from the dark, distressing, sorrowful recesses of the heart?
The half-brother of Jesus, James did. James contends:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
New International Version, James 1: 2-4
This is certainly an amazing prospect!
I’m looking for that kind of strengthening joy.
Honestly though, John and I find we are tempted to look back instead of forward. Maybe it’s our age. The older we become the more we are inclined to remember the past and memorialize it. We LOVED our southern Africa life.
Yet, some significant things have changed for us now.
Was it the hand of God?
Was it the pandemic?
Was it both?
Yes, and from ancient days I am He.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
When I act, who can reverse it?
New International Version, Isaiah 43: 13
We certainly cannot reverse our days, months, and years.
There is no going back to an earlier time, to an earlier place, or to an earlier opportunity.
Isaiah continues with his exhortation:
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
New International Version, Isaiah 43: 18-19
I appreciate how The Message brings this admonishment to light:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
The Message, Isaiah 43: 18-19
Yes, our family has experienced the wilderness. Each of us walked a journey uniquely our own. At times, there was no clear pathway through the badlands. We did not know the way forward. The past and its blessings, its miracles, and its wonders appealed to us. At times, they still do.
Yet, the Lord’s word is clear.
What is past is past.
It is all old history now.
Pay no mind.
Take no heed.
Forget. Forget. Forget.
Is that possible?
It’s a good thing to remember, to be thankful for, to think fondly of, to be filled with awe about the blessings that occurred in our lives.
Just as the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt, provided an incredulous escape route through the Red Sea, dispensed direction, provision, and protection in their desert wanderings and guided them to the Promise Land, the Israelites remembered. Yet, Isaiah exhorted God’s people not to stay camped in their recollections.
A new deliverance – the manifestation of God’s amazing power and love – was coming!
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
New International Version, Isaiah 12:3
Greater, more profound, life-giving and life-affirming spiritual blessings rose out of the desert with the advent of Jesus Christ!
The Lord was doing a new thing!
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
English Standard Version, Isaiah 43:19
The Lord made an amazing new way with Jesus – for you, for me, for John, for our family, for us all.
Honestly, isn’t it in desolate, dry, desert-like experiences that we most need Jesus?
Our barren souls, stamped with despair, discouragement and even death, need a Savior. We need His living waters of joy, contentment, and peace – especially when our lives have been turned-upside-down-left-and-right-and-we-can-never-go-back-to-what-we-once-knew-and-had.
I know I am not alone.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard someone sigh, and with a sweet reminiscence in mind, they say, “I can’t wait until things get back to normal.”
Here’s the deal, though.
We will not be going back to what our lives were like pre-pandemic.
Too much has happened.
Even if we never were struck by the virus, we have been marked by COVID-19 in one way or another. Our lives before the pandemic are old history.
The Lord is now doing a new thing in our lives.
Do we perceive it?
Are we taking notice of the good that is rising?
Are we setting our sights on eternity – upon the return of Jesus and His kingdom to come?
I know I am guilty of looking backwards. Yet, my God is asking me to cast my eyes in a forward direction. His redeeming power, his gracious love, his enduring guidance are still at work.
Everything that is coming will eclipse everything that is behind us.
Even when there appears to be no way in this wilderness-experience we call life, our God is making a new, glorious, gob-smacking way for those of us who will trust Him, love Him, and follow Him.
Yes, we thank our God for all that He has done in the past.
It’s now time.
It’s time to believe His promise:
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
English Standard Version, Luke 21: 25-28
This is not the time to look back, but rather to be alert and to be present. It is time to look forward in anticipation. We do not know the hour of Jesus Christ’s return, but if we keep our sight and our hope upon Him, the joy and contentment we seek in these uncertain times may be found in Him.
The Lord has formed us for Himself and His praise, glory and love may be seen and known in us – as we trust Him for today!
Do you believe this?
Do you know Jesus as your Savior and Lord?
Do you trust Him to make a way in your life when there seems no possible way?
Friends, I’ve been there. I am there. At our greatest point of need, this is when and where Jesus shows up and cares for us. He is working out a brand, new thing in our lives.
And so, we must let go of what we once had and trust Jesus to form and shape us for this new, glorious age to come.
Are you ready to receive the blessings that only come from walking through the desert of this pandemic-affected life towards something altogether new?
Because we’re not going back to ‘normal.’
Something new is coming….Help is on the way!