“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
This is not the first time the world has been in turmoil (the spread of the Bubonic plague, the invasions of Genghis Khan, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, the year without a summer, the Cuban Missile crisis and so on). And it probably won't be the last either. Even so, I'm sure I'm not the only one who feeling we've accidentally wandered onto an apocalyptic movie set. It's like we entering a long dark tunnel - we don't know what the world will be like at the other end or who may be left behind or even how long it might last. It's a scary, surreal feeling. Yet we are not alone. There is light and hope and a future.
In view of the uncertainties we are all facing, the CWD admin team have banded together to offer a few thoughts and reflections on the current crisis.
Fear is one of the most common emotions we experience when times are difficult. It affects people in all kinds of ways. From mild anxiety, to insomnia, to doing crazy, crazy things, fear is a wildcard that can make a difficult situation worse. I mean who would have thought the first shortage in a respiratory virus epidemic would be toilet paper? Or that people would fight – even stab – each other in Australian supermarkets over groceries. Bonkers. I certainly didn’t think that when I went to church last weekend, someone would deliberately cough all over me and my husband. I’m sure that was fear-induced denial on the part of that fellow but that doesn’t help my newly developed sore throat. So how do we deal with fear – be it from a pandemic or a job layoff or any other event that threatens the security of ourselves or those we love?
I believe the key is staying close to God and others. I think we need to be open with God about how we are feeling. Lift our hearts to him aka Philippians 4:6-7, saying I am anxious, help! The other thing we can do is remember. Write down all the times God has broken through in our lives. Like when he gave you that job at the 11th hour or when someone invited you to dinner when you had no food in the house. Don’t just think it – feel it and thank him for it.
But it’s not just about Jesus – we also need to stay connected with others. Imagine how isolating social distancing would be if we didn’t have forums like this where we can come together and encourage one another. Stay in fellowship even if it’s a group like this or via skype or Messenger audio. Don’t just look to your own interests but be kind to others. Find new ways to communicate. I pray each week with a friend who lives in Malaysia using Messenger audio. How amazing is technology? We’ve been praying like this for a year now. There’s an old saying – necessity is the mother of invention. Difficult times often birth amazing solutions. Be wise, keep walking and keep trusting. God is with us and we are not alone.
Last Saturday’s Omega Writers Fair in Brisbane: To go or not to go, that was the question. Normally a no-brainer, but this time, the hype and legitimate concerns regarding Coronavirus required wise, reasoned consideration. With no clear reason to stay away, the Lord resolved the matter in my heart with the second part of verse 16 from Psalm 139 which immediately tested—and settled—my anxious thoughts.
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)*
Did I truly believe that? If so, what fear is there for me if I am living and acting in obedience to God and to those to whom he has given authority? Neither of these, nor wisdom and reasoned consideration, forbade my attendance, though I took care to practise responsible ‘social distancing’. I’m so glad I went, because much blessing ensued, and I now have a terrific new stash of reading matter for which I’m grateful. Christian Writers rock!
According to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1, we have cause to be very thankful for Christian poet and translator, Mary (Sidney) Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, for “contributing the larger number (107) of the verse translations of the 150 biblical psalms … Her free renderings re-create the psalms as English poems …” with some “… strikingly effective images … this influential collection was an important bridge between the many metrical paraphrases of psalms in this period” (Greenblatt, S, Gen Ed. p994). Her poetic rendering of Psalm 139 (circa 1595) is a particular favourite of mine. Her beautifully rhymed and metered rendering of verses 13-16 says:
Each inmost piece in me is thine:
While yet I in my mother dwelt,
All that me clad
From thee I had.
Thou in my frame hast strangely dealt:
Needs in my praise thy works must shine,
So inly them my thoughts have felt.
Thou, how my back was beam-wise laid,
And raft’ring of my ribs, dost know;
Know’st every point
Of bone and joint,
How to this whole these parts did grow,
In brave embroid’ry fair arrayed,
Though wrought in shop both dark and low.
Nay fashionless, ere form I took,
Thy all and more beholding eye
My shapeless shape
Could not escape:
All these, with time appointed by,
Ere one had being, in the book
Of thy foresight enrolled did lie. (Greenblatt, p996)
The parts in italics are my emphasis—God knows our bodies, and their vulnerabilities, through and through. He knows each moment that marks our lives. He knows our every anxious thought. As Herbert puts the psalmist’s plea:
Search me, my God, and prove my heart,
Examine me, and try my thought;
And mark in me
If ought there be
That hath with cause their anger wrought.
If not (as not) my life’s each part,
Lord, safely guide from danger brought. (ibid)
Kirsten shares her favourite quotes:
It’s better to walk alone, than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.
Don’t be afraid to do you, but always remember to be considerate of others.
When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening.
Don’t let stress or fear control how you handle a situation. You’re able to see things a lot clearer when you’re calm and in control.
Looking at life from a different perspective makes you realise that it’s not the deer that is crossing the road, rather it’s the road that is crossing the forest.
Try to look at it in a different light. Find something positive out of every situation, even if it’s only small.
Breathe, darling. This is just a chapter, not your whole story.
Yoga is an amazing tool to reduce stress and anxiety. I have been doing this for over a year. I . She fairly down to earth for a yogi and great for beginners too.
And from me:
Some years ago, I was sorting books with my mum. We came across one that had belonged to my Nanna with a handwritten quote inserted inside it. My mum told how, in 1939 on the eve of the second world war and the dark days of the battle of Britain, King George VI had given a speech, quoting from a poem which had profoundly moved his wife, Elizabeth, and presumably him as well. In turn, the poem, broadcasted across the waves to faraway Bowen in Northern Queensland, had greatly moved my Nanna and had given her the courage to face the days ahead, as a mother of four young girls, as a teacher, as wife and as a citizen.
Here are the words she heard - and which some of you may remember - and which, I think, are as relevant today as they were then.
"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East."
“God Knows” (aka “The Gate of the Year”) by Minnie Louise Haskins
(You can read the full poem here.)
When the storm comes, do we like Peter look at the strength of the wind (Mat 14:29-31), or do we look to the Creator, our Lord and Saviour, who made the cosmos, who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, the one who controls the tempests?
*Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.