A year ago the novel coronavirus was a story of interest, but not headline news in most of the world. It had been identified in China and had just been confirmed in the Mediterranean region (World Health Organization interactive timeline). Daily briefings from WHO didn’t begin until February 5 and it wasn’t until February 24 that WHO issued a warning about the potential for rapid spread.

The epicenter moved to Europe in early March, and interest in the US began to rise, but still, other news, mostly political, ruled the headlines. But by the middle of March,  following the official declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, people in the US started paying attention.  On March 11, the day WHO declared the virus as “the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus” (npr.org), it had spread to eight countries and killed 4,000 people.

As of this writing,  COVID19 has taken 2.16 million lives across every continent on the planet.  It’s far more devastating than anyone could have imagined a year ago.

Through this year of loss, God has not forgotten His children.  We may feel like our prayers are unheard, but He hears. We may momentarily wonder where to find respite, but He is with us in the middle of our pain.

How long will this endure? There’s no telling. But God has not abandoned us. He is eternal and waiting for us to focus less on loss and to take refuge in His everlasting arms.

When this pandemic is over (and it will eventually end) we will look back and see how God revealed Himself in the middle. He will be glorified by the testimony we share because He brought us through it all. When we abide in Him, we are safe in His arms, no matter what happens in the chaos of the world around us.

Steadfastness of hope

1 Thessalonians 1:3 (part 3).

There is so much packed into this one verse! I may use these short devotions as an outline for something longer eventually!

Steadfastness of hope is one I struggle with, particularly with the little things, like where I will work next year. I get discouraged when I see so few opportunities closer to home. I love my work in Las Vegas, which makes it even more challenging to persevere in hope for something in the South. However, I remind myself that this is just a blip in the whole of my life and God has the eternal view. He will provide on His timetable.

To be steadfast in hope is to know that our salvation through Jesus is not a ticket to a trouble free life. It means we continue our work in spite of our feeling like we can’t catch a break. It means we rely on the Father to meet our needs even when we can’t see how or when. To be steadfast is to be persistent in our love for one another, even when people are being unlovable. Hope is knowing that God takes the long view of our lives while we get tangled in the moment.

I know I’m not alone in struggling to be steadfast in hope. I’m sure most of use want burning bushes or pillars of fire to guide our way forward in life. Disappointment and discouragement can make us question everything we do and think sometimes. It reminds me of Habakkuk saying, “How long?” I am confident in my heart that I am working out my salvation according to His plan for me, but sometimes I question that in my head. Fortunately, my head is also able to remember that God does have a plan and that I can be confident in that, even when I don’t know what it is.

Paul taught in his letter to the Romans the path to practicing steadfastness of hope (Romans 5:1-11):
1. Have peace; we are already justified by faith
2. Rejoice during hard times; joy is a choice
3. Grow in endurance; life is a marathon, not a sprint
4. Develop character; do justly, love mercy, walk humbly
5. Know God’s love is poured on us, even when we don’t feel it.
6. Do not be ashamed of your hope; people may criticize you for being persistent in declaring the gospel, but do it boldly anyway.
7. Remember whose you are!

To be steadfast is to be certain in our work, in our calling, in our salvation, and in our love for one another. Certainty is hard! But we are not alone in feeling uncertain. Name any of the saints of old and you’ll find moments of darkness and doubt. But they didn’t dwell on their feelings of discouragement, they chose determined joy. They joined Habakkuk declaring that the Lord in in His holy place. They imitated David in proclaiming that the Lord is a shield. Certainly we can remember that the Lord is our Shepherd and He cares for us, even though it is sometimes hard to do. We need to push through our frustrations, disappointments, and struggles with dogged determination, knowing that God sees us where we are and He is aware of our difficulties.

As for me right now, I know there will be a position for me next fall, but I want to know where. And wanting to know more makes me feel uncertain about my call and my work! It’s a cycle that keeps me in the Word and on my knees for sure.

What kinds of struggles do you have with being steadfast in hope?