I woke up this morning feeling the weight of these distressing times. It is all anyone can seem to think about or talk about, or even joke about. It is almost as if the fact that the pandemic is global removes all permission to put my attention on anything else. Even though my stay-at-home-mom routine is not altered all that much by the shelter in place order, the routine of my inner-person is greatly altered, shrunk down to this one thing: pandemic. Even my devotional times and sources are focused on the pandemic.
God is bigger, but my attention is not. Perhaps that’s something God is using this trial to reveal in me. Perhaps He is showing me that my attention needs to be bigger than a 3×6 inch screen. I’ve used my phone as a window to the world outside of my house for years, without noticing how much I was changing to fit my window. It might be time to notice.
The old worship song Trading My Sorrows was a staple during my time in youth group and chapel at school. Besides empowering a generation of bass players while they got their start; and somehow convincing thousands of grown men and women to sing “Yes Lord” repeatedly as a worship chorus; it was an early seed of scripture in my heart.
The bridge of this classic church song is a slightly shortened version of a verse from 2 Corinthians, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8 NIV) Adolescence was not an easy chapter in my life, so I clung to this bridge, this scripture, through it all.
In fact, this verse has been my anchor once again since the beginning of the year. My family has been buffeted with loss and setback well before the world shut down. So, it’s really turning into a theme here. Yet every time I feel the weight of loss and the worry of setback I find myself turning once again to this verse, I am pressed but not crushed; struck down but not destroyed. Not abandoned. Not in despair.
God is with me. God is with you.
It is by His power that I am not crushed or destroyed. It is through His unfailing love and presence that I am not abandoned or in despair. Paul confirms this in the verses preceding verse 8, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:6-7 NKJV) God, the creator of light and life, the originator of all hope, He is the one who gave us Jesus.
Even though we are as fragile as clay on the outside, it is by His power in us that we are able to persevere through every trial. Even though every emotional up and down cycle throughout the day tells me, “You’re weak, you can’t do this!” It is God and His power at work in me that enables me to respond to my emotions, “You may be weak, but it is not by my power but His. You can do this, and it will be for the glory of God.” God fills us with His Holy Spirit when we ask Him, and we are filled with a treasure that is greater than any earthly treasure with us and in us.
In Romans Paul tells us that it is by His Spirit that we are able to truly acknowledge who He is and who we are in Him at the same time, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba Father.’” (Romans 8:15 NKJV) I believe the “knowledge of the glory of God” is the knowledge of recognition. By His spirit I recognize Jesus and the meaning of what He did through His life, death, and resurrection; I recognize God as my eternal Father who has taken me in out of the cold loneliness of an orphan heart and into adoption; which then enables me to recognize myself without any twisting lenses for the first time, maybe ever.
The Holy Spirit gives me new eyes that are open with recognition and I can see God at work in every trial. I can see that I am pressed, but I can also see that I am not crushed, and down the whole list. I can experience the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. But I can distinguish it too, and in the distinguishing I have hope.
So I am going to embrace this season of stretching for my attention. I’m praying every day, “Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit more and more.” I want my ability to see God in everything to grow. I will wait on the Lord in worship and prayer until my attention is expanded enough to see around the pandemic and into the face of Jesus.