Life has been anything but stagnant over the last year. Yes, maybe we have spent a decent chunk of it in quarantine, but the life we once knew has taken a quick turn and we have had to make decisions and adapt in ways that we could have never anticipated. In the midst of change and confusion, even concepts that once seemed easy to grasp have become lessons that have had to be re-learned. Sometimes, I think I’ve got something down and I am quickly reminded otherwise. One of the biggest questions we have had to address in the chaos has been this: What are we clinging to and why? I’m here to share just a few of the convictions I’ve had and conclusions I’ve come to, during my recent season of learning to trust the Lord and cling to His promises in the midst of a crazy, unpredictable, 2020 type of world.
Lesson #1: Circumstances Expose Unbelief
Here we have it, the simple idea that it’s always easier to trust God when we’re on the mountain top than it is when we’re in the valley. We’ve all heard this before but I don’t think we ever fully grasp it until we find ourselves in a low place. To go along with the theme of thinking I already know things, and the Lord showing me that I really, really don’t, Psalm 23 has supplied me with the truth that I needed to walk through this season. The psalmist writes,
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. – Psalm 23:1-6
I have known this verse practically my whole life and was simple-minded enough to think that there was nothing left for me in it. However, the truth is that the Holy Spirit continues to work in us and unpack more of God’s Word for us as we continue to dig deeper into it. “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The Lord took the time to gently lead me to the understanding that sometimes the path of righteousness goes through the valley of the shadow of death. But we must take heart and be encouraged because surely goodness and mercy shall follow us. We endure because this is for His name’s sake, the One who will restore our soul, comfort us, and not just fill, but overflow our cup.
Circumstances expose unbelief and ask, “When you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, are you turning to practical atheism — failing to live in light of what you know to be true about the Lord, or are you turning to the God of Abraham, who has proven to be faithful in his promises time and time again?”
Lesson #2: The Enemy is Real but Never Victorious
As we are all vulnerable and feeling the effects of a global pandemic, the enemy has been given a plethora of new opportunities to cause chaos, and I have never experienced having to fight the devil in the ways that I have in the last few months. I’m talking about nights where I’m face-down on my carpet in tears over things that are too complicated to even get into right now. I experienced literal wrestling with the enemy, forcing me to learn how to recognize lies and fight them with truth. After having experiences like this, I can testify that no matter how fearful, vulnerable, and weak you come to be in the presence of the enemy, the darkness is never able to overcome the light (John 1:5).
There is something special about the morning light that I have come to love. I have never truly been the morning person that I’ve always wanted to be, but every time that I actually have the self-discipline to make myself get out of bed early, or more commonly have an early obligation that forces me to, I am so grateful to be awake as the morning light fills me with joy and warmth. The enemy fights with lies, but the morning sheds light on the truth that the darkness of the night tried to hide, bringing with it redemption for our souls. The morning reminds the enemy that he has already been defeated, once for all (Hebrews 10). Praise the Lord, for He is faithful in His promises, providing new mercies every morning and grace sufficient for the day, every day (2 Cor. 12:9, Lam. 3:22-23).
Lesson #3: Jesus is Better
COVID season convicted me deeply. It took a world-wide pandemic for me to come face-to-face with the fact that I have loved life more than I have longed to see the Kingdom of God come. I have not been living in a way that is expectant to see the Spirit of God work in my every day. As Christians, the way we walk and live and breathe should be different from the world around us because we have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Cool! But what? And how does this actually affect my everyday life?
The Holy Spirit (Remember! Within us! 1 Cor. 6:19-22) resurrects and renews and empowers us to live. He frees us from the bondage that sin holds us in. The sweet Holy Spirit gives us the ability to believe and to comprehend our union with Christ. We are co-heirs with him! He is our righteousness! The Father looks at us and sees his righteousness! (Rom. 8:14-17). With the Holy Spirit living inside of us we are changed — our spirits begin to be stirred and provoked by the treasures of Heaven rather than the knock-offs that earth tries to entice us with. As we become more like Christ due to his dwelling within us, we feel a gentle nudge to let go of the other things that we are clinging so tightly to.
When we begin to think of this practically, it seems a little scary. Naturally, we all want to protect the things that we love and believe that we need. I promise that you are not the only one who isn’t all that eager to open your clenched fists that hold so tightly to the things you love, or even the things that God has blessed you with, as it is not earthly to do so. Even Abraham had to decide what would take the throne in his heart: God, or the precious son that God had promised and was faithful to bless him with (Genesis 22).
It is all too human to love the gift more than the Giver, but it is my experience with God that communion with Him is so much sweeter. When we give him our treasures, we can trust that He will do beautiful things with them. If you are anything like the rest of us and everything that has promised to fulfill or comfort you has fallen short, I encourage you to surrender to the One who will fulfill the desires of your heart, and never falls short. Severing the ties that our hearts have put around the things of this world can be a painful process, but as I have begun to break free from them, I have tasted the goodness that comes from clinging only to Christ.
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
– Psalm 34:8
Jesus is better. As John Mark Pantana explains in his book Love Secrets, one can try their best to describe to you the wonder, satisfaction and superiority of eating a strawberry right off the vine versus eating one from the grocery store, but only you can taste and see the difference for yourself. So it is with Christ. I’ll almost guarantee that after one bite, you’ll never want to go back to the shadows that you once clinged so tightly to.