Hope in this Time of Distress

    He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 NIV)

“Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve listened enough to reports about the coronavirus!”
“Okay. I’ll turn the TV off,” my husband said.
He did, and we spent some time praying and singing. Energized and encouraged, I began to work on my projects for the day.

In my protective mask and stay-at-home secure position, it would be possible for me to forget about the world beyond my doorstep. My heart will not let me do that. So I listen to news reports but not too many of them. I don’t want to be overwhelmed with grief.

My heart wants to connect with others. It cries when I see their pain and struggles. I want to share comfort and hope. (Sometimes, I’m the one who needs comfort and hope.) How do I balance staying informed with retaining sanity and peace-of-mind, so that I can make a positive difference in the midst of this social isolation?

The only way I can do it is to listen more attentively to Jesus. The burden that he asks us to accept is easy; the load he gives us to carry is light. (Matthew 11:30 NCV) He also told us that on earth we would have many trials and sorrows. (John 16:33 NLT) Wait a minute! Doesn’t that sound like a contradiction? How can our burden be easy and our load light when we’re experiencing many trials and sorrows?

For me, the answer is that Jesus carries most of the load. He sees our pain and suffering but is not overwhelmed by it. He empathizes with us because when he lived on earth he experienced deep pain. (Isaiah 53:3 NLT)

  • He gives us no promises of success, no guarantees of ease, no freedom from pain and loss in this world.
  • He does promise he will not leave us and that by staying connected to him we will not only survive but also rise above the difficulties, pain, and losses.

How do we know we can count on his presence? How do we know he will give us the strength to rise above our suffering? How do we know his promises are true? He rose from the grave. In doing so, he overcame the power of evil and the power of death. We celebrated his resurrection less than two weeks ago.

His Spirit is with us now and someday Jesus will return, lift us from the distress of this world, lift us from the grave, and give us bodies like his, free of pain and dysfunction.

This gives me strength for today and great hope for tomorrow.

Oh what comfort! Oh what hope!
No longer will I have to cope
With a virus that can kill;
Nothing, there, will make me ill.
Oh what peace! Oh what rest!
No more conflicts with the flesh;
No more failure; no defeat.
God’s work in me will be complete.
Oh what mercy!  Oh what grace!
No more injury will take place;
No more guilt; no more shame;
Face to face, I will remain.
Oh what joy! Oh what bliss!
I can’t comprehend all this.
Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior,
For you, I’ll work; for you I’ll labor
A few more hours, a few more days,
A few more weeks  to bring you praise.
A few more years upon this earth,
Let me show your matchless worth.
Jane Ault

Who has ultimate immunity?

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that
we could be made right with God through Christ.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT)

Every night as the broadcast ends, ABC nightly news picks a hero for the day. Earlier this week, their hero for the day was a physician working in the ICU to save the lives of coronavirus patients. This man displayed an attitude of humility and took compassionate actions beyond the call of duty.

He noticed that one of the cleaning women wearing only a mask and no other protective gear was about to enter the room. He said to her, “Let me do it. Then, dressed in his protective gear, he took her mop and mopped down the floor. His final comment to the news reporter was, “All of us are in this together.”

This took great courage because, despite his protective clothing, the doctor had no assurance of ultimate immunity. Many of his fellow doctors and nurses have contacted the virus and some have died.

To me, this doctor illustrated the character of Jesus. He, who participated in the creation of the world, descended into a human body. While in that body, he became a servant to those he created. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, put his arm around the rejects of society, and confronted the arrogant and self-righteous religious leaders. In an ultimate act of compassion, he died on behalf of all of us.

Why did he die? Because all of us have been infected by the virus called “Sin.” That virus kills everyone. It causes us to hate God, self, and others, rather than love God, self, and others. it’s responsible for the spiritual disease we’ve all inherited.

Jesus, alone, had complete immunity to the sin virus. He, alone, displayed the character of God in everything: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. He, alone, walked humbly, acted justly, and showed mercy in ways that portrayed Father-God. He, alone, fulfilled the call we all have to live in love.

How did he gain immunity? What protected him from the sin virus? He did nothing out of arrogance and self-centered ambition but always listened to the Spirit of God and followed his directions.

So, if Jesus never contracted the sin virus, what killed him? He received the sin virus we all were infected with and died on our behalf so that he might transfer to us the complete immunity he achieved. What amazing love!

And now, Jesus says to us, “We are in this together.” He’s given us his Spirit to aid us so that we can effectively resist the sin virus.

Questions for reflection:
1. What makes you vulnerable to the sin virus?
2. What actions do you need to take in order to resist it and live in the immunity Jesus achieved for you?

Joining in Jesus’ Prayer

Jesus said,  “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep“.
(John 10:14-15 NLT)

As I listen to the many reports of the coronavirus pandemic, my heart grieves. I believe Jesus, also, sees, and he calls us to pray with him. Let us be faithful in intercession. It is an act of love.

The following song flowed from my heart as I spent time with Jesus this week.

Jesus took three friends to the Garden with him
He wanted them to support him in prayer
What did they do?
They closed their eyes
Closed their eyes and fell asleep
Closed their eyes and fell asleep
Closed their eyes and fell asleep
Jesus took three friends to the Garden with him.
He wanted them to support him in prayer.
What did they do?
They left him alone.
Left him alone to pray and weep
Left him alone to pray and weep
Left him alone to pray and weep
Jesus knelt alone in a separate place
He wept so hard his sweat was blood
Why did he weep?
Because of love
Love for his Father and love for his sheep
Love for his Father and love for his sheep
Love for his Father and love for his sheep
Jesus looks, today, for some friends who will pray
They feel the pain of the struggling sheep
What will they do?
They will stay awake.
Stay awake to pray and weep
Stay awake to pray and weep
Stay awake to pray and weep
Jesus looks, today, for some friends who will pray
They feel the pain of the struggling sheep
Why will they weep?
Because of love
Love for their Father and love for his sheep
Love for their Father and love for his sheep
Love for their Father and love for his sheep
Jane Ault

Is Faith a feeling, a thought, or an action?

I have placed my rainbow in the clouds.
It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. (Genesis 9:13 NLT)

[Jesus said] “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (John 14: 1-3 NIV)

John and I have a covenant with one another. It’s a promise we made to each other and have kept for over fifty-four years. I felt so excited when he slipped a ring on my finger and said, “I love you!”

We waited for about six months to enjoy the pleasure of living together and being united in with our bodies, as well as our spirits.

In that time between our engagement and marriage, we lived over 150 miles from one another. We saw each other every two weeks. We had no mobile phones, no email communication, and no computers. We wrote letters and mailed them at the post office. They arrived a day or two later. We called each other once or twice a week, using the dial-up phone system. Thankfully, we were not on the old-fashioned party line, which was shared by family and neighbors!

What did we do in the moments, the days, the nights, and the weekends when we did not see one another’s face or touch one another’s hand? Even though we felt lonely, we felt joyful.

Our faith in one another’s promised words gave us the confidence to think through what we needed to do in order to prepare for our upcoming wedding. We made plans and acted on them.

In the same way, what we think and what we do in response to God’s covenant, his promise to love and not forsake us, is evidence of our faith. How nice it would be in these difficult days if we could just depend on our feelings! As it is in easier times, feelings may or may not be evidence of faith.

I never liked logic
I thought it was toxic
A hindrance to faith
That was a mistake
God is a thinker
God is a planner
His love and compassion
Include knowledge and wisdom
What looks like spontaneity
Is surprising just to me
God knows the end from the beginning
Yet allows for human choosing
This is beyond my comprehension
Yet it provides me with a lesson
Faith excludes the use of magic
To retain, in me, God’s holy image
I must think and I must plan
When I fall down, go back again
Learn by listening to God’s voice
How to make a better choice
This, I think, is faith in action
It’s not a feeling or abstraction
When I embrace this kind of faith
God rewards me by the action he takes.
Jane Ault