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On Following Christ, Covid-19, Tests and Trials and God's Sovereign Goodness

We all walk through trials and tests in our Christian life.  We will also experience the proverbial 'dark night of the soul' in our Christian life. There are times when we experience multiple trials of great significance at the same time, and, during such times, we might well wonder if we will 'break' or if we can 'take anymore.' 

You've been there. I have as well. 

Such times are not 'enjoyable' if we are honest. No matter how mature we are in our faith, our first reaction to trials is rarely, 'Praise God! This is a great opportunity for my growth and sanctification! My Sovereign God is working in this situation!' 

I'm not being flippant, rather I am being honest. Our first response is usually one of weariness, or frustration or pain and confusion.

That is where we often start as we begin processing our trial or trials or season of trials. 

However, as we walk through that time or season, we must remember who our King is and what He has promised us. 

If we do, and if we cling to Him in faith, we will grow and learn from the experience. If we do not, if we kick and scream and shake our fist at heaven, or turn inward and believe the lie that God has abandoned us, our trial or trials or season of trials will still remain, but, we will not grow or learn through that process. We will not experience His presence in that dark night of the soul.

Again, I am not diminishing the severity of trials and how they can shake us to the core.

The phone rings. You answer. The trembling voice on the other end of the line stammers through tears and finally breaks the silence:

'He's gone.'

'Who? What do you mean?'

'Your father. He's...gone. Just this morning. He's gone. On the way to work. He had a heart attack....'

Way too early. You just saw him. You thought you'd have at least another 20-25 years together....

The doctor comes into your room. He smiles and looks at your 4 year old daughter, then, your spouse and then you.

'She has all the markings of Neurofibromatosis. Textbook case. That explains a lot of what you are seeing and experiencing.'

'Neuro...what?'

'Specifically Neurobromatosis Type 1. It is in the cancer family. The good news is it is rarely fatal, but we will need to see her every 9 months to a year. '

He is the lead researcher in the United States on NF Type 1. He is a researcher at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston. 

'There are certain things we watch out for, things that can happen before puberty, and, things that can happen after. Things that can happen once she is older and gets married and if she decides to have a child. Right now, we watch out for loss of hearing or sight, and there is the possibility of bone deformities and spinal issues. Once we get past puberty, several of these potential issues usually don't happen. 

We watch out for the development of fibromas. They can be painful. 

In addition, the brain doesn't cleave with our NF kids. Not the way it does for everyone else.'

'What do you mean, 'cleave.' 

'It's how we are designed. But it is fascinating, that brain rewires itself and a lot of the things you're seeing now, again, textbook NF Type 1 stuff, the impulsivity and difficulty with attention and the seeming never ending supply of energy, that changes in time, usually around 12-14 years old. It will be okay.'

What is this?

Your spouse becomes very ill. The disease she has almost killed her as a teenager. It comes out of remission and has to have major reconstructive surgery. She is in constant pain. 

Medical bills mount. They never seem to stop coming. You and your son add to them of course. Ankle reconstructions. Plural. Three to be exact. Shoulder reconstructions. Emergency hospital trip and a long stay because your blood pressure and pulse are low-dangerously low. They cannot elevate either. 

Medical bills keep rolling in. Financial stress comes with all of that of course.

The vehicle breaks down. Again. 

The A/C unit goes out. 

Another phone call. Your spouse's mother has died. Cancer. She was also young. 

Trials. 

They happen. Some are more severe than others. Some seem to come all at once. 

Where is God in all of this? 

Right there. Not one thing happens apart from His Good and Sovereign will. 

Again, some trials are larger and more stressful than others. None are 'enjoyable.' 

'Dad...I have Covid.' 

Five days later, you start to feel really strange. Exhausted. This is not good. 

The doctor says 'Well, you have Covid.'

Great. 

'We don't want this settling in your chest because of your asthma. I want you to get an antigen infusion.'

'A what?'

He explains. 

You get the infusion, but go downhill anyway. Every muscle and joint hurts. Breathing is a bit more labored. A nonstop, headache is your companion. 

A few days later your spouse says she doesn't feel well. A day after that, she is diagnosed with Covid.

The Covid house. 

Everyone is miserable. 

But, God is still there. Working. Speaking. Teaching. 

The experience was not 'fun,' but I'm thankful for it. In fact, as I look back on all of these trials, while I didn't enjoy them or celebrate during them, looking back, I can see God's faithful, Unseen Hand faithfully guiding, protecting, teaching. 

Was I always teachable in those moments?

No. Sometimes I was selfish. Sometimes I was childish. Sometimes I had a pity party. Sometimes I was angry. 

But, God...God persevered with me. He didn't let me go, and He won't let you go. He taught things I couldn't learn otherwise. 

I learned more of the truthfulness of His Words by going through trials and seeing His faithfulness than if I had a life of comfort and ease.

'I will never leave you or forsake you.' -Hebrews 13:5

'And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.'-Romans 8:28

'God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.'-1 Corinthians 1:9

'And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.'-Philippians 4:19

'The Lord is my Shepherd.'-Psalm 23:1

'A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench..'-Isaiah 42:3

'But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint'-Isaiah 40:31

'In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'-John 16:33

'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.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.'-James 1:2-5

And that is just a start. 

Once we 'learn' lessons, must we re-learn them again? Yes. We will. We must. God is not cruel, He is shaping and molding us and working in us through all of our trials. 

I want to encourage you, as we all collectively try to process the (almost) one year 'anniversary' of Covid-19 hitting American soil. Yes, everything about 'normal' life has changed because of Covid-19. Yes, the past year has been wearying in many ways. We all would like for 'normal' to return.  Yes, it can cause stress. Yes, the culture is also rapidly changing at the same time, and with both of these things going on there is great uncertainty and all of this can be quite disorienting! However, there are certain truths we can hang on to:

1) God does not and has not changed. 

2) God is Sovereign and All Wise and He is over all of this. He is teaching us. Refining us. Pruning us. This is a test. 

3) God's Word is absolutely trustworthy because He is absolutely trustworthy. You can build your life (and you must!) on His Word.

4) God has not forsaken you. He is with you and calls you to Himself. This trial and this test is not something we should waste. We must learn from Him, from this.

I pray you remember who your King is, and I pray you and all of us, lift up our eyes to Him. He is our Peace, our Comforter, our Strength, our Stronghold. He is our Great and Mighty and Good God.

And you are loved. 

I pray you remember that. Don't waste this trial. 

Grace to You,

Pastor