It will go down in history as perhaps mankind’s most bizarre year. Never has the entire globe in unison shut down because of a virus. Restrictions in travel, work, recreation, size of gatherings etc., have ruined businesses, increased the number of suicides and deaths for those with other ailments who cannot be hospitalized, amped fear to unprecedented levels, and created a huge divide in opinion over what should or should not be done. Meanwhile political unrest, rolling waves of violence, storms and disasters add to the cacophony of 2020.
Ten times the word despair is used in the Holman Bible. Fittingly Job is the source of one third of them. The Psalmist cried out, “Insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. I waited for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, but found no one” (Psa. 69:20). Despair is the stuff of hopelessness. It is a sinking feeling that saps one’s resolve. If not properly addressed it becomes the lingering glue of gloom.
Psalm 85:15--But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth
My son Bryan was invited to share his story at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He was one of two featured speakers on a night when almost every participant in the room shared some kind of disability. Disabilities included Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), asthma, depression, cancer, arthritis, etc. Each person was asked to write a poem about their challenges and to highlight what was bad as well as what was good. Then, throughout the evening, volunteers could come to the front of the room and share what they wrote.
Part of the retirement process when leaving the military is to make sure that one’s physical maladies or challenges are all reviewed by the Veterans Administration to determine if the veteran may be owed compensation. I had to undergo a battery of tests to see if past injuries or problems with my Achilles tendon, ankles, knees, hips, lower back, shoulder, hearing, sinuses, hair loss and sleep deprivation were service-related. I was asked all kinds of personal questions by the sleep psych0logist I met with to see if anxiety, depression, any kind of drug or chemical addiction etc. were preventing me from falling asleep. I mentioned multiple times that my problem getting to sleep is lifelong and has to do with an overactive brain that does not shut off easily. I assured her that even though it is a battle for me to rest, I am mostly full of joy and did not blame the military for my condition. I don’t think she was expecting that answer.
Zephaniah 3:15,16--The Lord has removed your punishment; He has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, Yahweh, is among you; you need no longer fear harm. On that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, do not let your hands grow weak.
Genesis 12:10-13—There was a famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine in the land was severe. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “Look, I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live. Please say you’re my sister so it will go well for me because of you, and my life will be spared on your account.”
The story of Abraham would make a great movie. Knowing how attractive his wife was and what the Egyptians were like, he was correct in being concerned. Pharaoh’s
Joshua 1:5—No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or forsake you.
What is your motivation for reading the Bible? Some people enjoy the stories. Others find that the instruction and advice is valuable. Personally, when I study Scripture I am looking for ways to apply it to my life. One year as I read through the Word I put a “P” beside every verse where God gave a promise. I used a green marker so that now whenever I am reading I can quickly spot promises throughout Genesis to Revelation.
Peggy Joyce Ruth and Angela Ruth Schum wrote stimulating stories to complement their verse by verse analysis of Psalm 91 in their book Psalm 91 God’s Shield of Protection. They also compiled a stirring collection of stories from people who experienced, first-hand God’s protection as a result of claiming passages in Psalm 91—by faith.
Psalm 121—I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber . . . The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side . . . The LORD will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life. The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever.
As hurricane Irene approached the eastern coast of the U.S., the media were concerned the category 3 storm would inflict catastrophic damage from North Carolina to New England. My quiet time passage for August 26, the day before the hurricane was to hit, was Psalm 107. Verse 29 reads, “He made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed” (ESV). Reminded of God’s awesome power, I prayed, Lord, You have many people who love You in that region, please calm the storm and hush the waves, spare our country the enormous damage that large hurricane might inflict.
People change. They are fickle like the weather and predictably unpredictable. Two people pledge to be faithful to each other until death yet divorce. Companies promise employees pensions but if they go out of business the hope of a secure future is dashed. Governments make pledges to their citizens yet renege when circumstances turn unfavorable, newly elected officials reverse policies, or whole administrations are overthrown. My assertion that people change is believable because you change and you’ve seen others change.
Have you ever sat on a plane and gone in circles? San Francisco airport is fogged in and so we fly around the city in a holding pattern waiting for permission to land. The airplane is sufficiently equipped for the pilot to take us to the runway we can’t see but he does not have permission. Despite the security of a Captain’s confident promise that he can fly us down when needed, fear etches the faces of folks who probably have not flown here before. Eventually we land in fog so thick even the wing is obscured!
Step after step in unison they marched, accenting the weight of each boot upon the carpet so that everyone in that banquet room could hear. Not an eye wandered, each man in his dress uniform staring straight ahead as they slowly moved across the assembled guests. Near a small round table, the squad leader halted them and faced them to the center. Then he moved to the second man and slowly saluted him, before taking from his outstretched hands the folded flag. In return, the one no longer carrying his nation’s colors, saluted. Next, the sergeant marched in silence to the empty table and placed the folded flag upon it. Returning, he aligned himself in front of the next man in line. From this one’s hands, he took another folded flag. Instead of saluting as before, he turned to his right and waited while the last man in formation moved to join him. Slowly the two unfolded the mostly black flag. Then, with reverence and precision, the younger soldier snapped the flag in place on a thin pole, beside the empty table set for one. Across the bottom of that flag were printed the words, “You are not forgotten.”
The Honorable Sid Jones, former Assistant Secretary of Treasury gave his “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” lecture to over 55 senior leaders from industry, the military and the government. His address punctuated the bleakness of the current U.S. economy, future dangers and possible remedies. He foresees an economic collapse for America given the great number of aging adults and the demands they place on social security. In describing U.S. assets and priorities one of his statements grabbed my attention. “We spend as much on security as the rest of the world combined.” Those words reminded me of Psalm 61:5.
The nation of Israel pretty much did everything possible to anger and alienate God. They exceeded the sins of the evil nations He commanded them to destroy. Repeatedly they quit following Him. They broke His heart and deserved annihilation which really makes His statement below more than amazing.