By the Rev. Linda “Lin” George
South District Resource Assistant, Local Pastor and
Grove UMC Pastor of Congregational Care and Community Outreach
When life gets chaotic, we all know that getting back to basics is important.
We try to get more sleep, eat healthy food, remember to take our vitamins, get some exercise, go outside every day. Maybe we spend time with family and friends, count our blessings, look for opportunities to smile, listen to music, even dance in the kitchen, make sure we have some kind of plant growing and sleep under our favorite down comforter.
But we know we need more than a fluffy comforter (or other grown-up blankie) at times like this, when things that we could never have imagined become reality, turn our lives upside down and shake us at the very core of our being.
At one particularly distressing time in my life, the mailman hand-delivered a certified letter to me. At the same time, in the same stack of mail, he handed me an envelope from the Billy Graham ministry.
Now, I like to sort out my junk mail and put it in the recycling as soon as I get it. So already knowing the contents of the certified letter, I tossed it, unopened, onto the kitchen counter. And I threw the Billy Graham “junk” mail into the recycling bin.
But as I walked away from the trash can, the Holy Spirit put a thought into my mind. I can still remember the exact words that I heard silently, yet loud and clear, in my mind. “Sometimes there is scripture in those mailings.”
I retrieved the envelope from the recycling bin and opened it to find a little card, which the Holy Spirit used to speak directly to me. This is what it read: “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up. The flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One — your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3a)
God personally gave me that verse; and now it is where I go in difficult times. As a result, I created a 4-step spiritual back-to-basics plan. I still want my puffy down comforter when I go to bed. But I need my 4-step plan for the rest of the time. Maybe you will find it helpful, too.
Number One: Tenaciously hold on to our faith.
Choose to believe. Even when everything around us seems to indicate that God is nowhere to be found. I once met a woman whose 5-year-old child had run out into the street and was struck by a car. Her little boy had died more than 20 years before I met her.
This Italian woman who had been raised in a devout Roman Catholic family told me that she never set foot in a church again. She was angry with God; so she had separated herself from God. The sad thing is that she could have received the miracle of God’s comfort, peace and healing. But she chose not to.
It is essential to tenaciously hold onto our faith like a dog with a bone, in spite of our circumstances. Choose to believe.
Number two: Pray.
One of the most sincere, honest prayers I’ve ever prayed was, “Okay, God, I don’t have the strength to cling tenaciously to you any more. So if you want me please hold on to me.“
Let me tell you, that was a prayer of true desperation. And God answered it that very day. As phone call after phone call came. literally the voice, the hands, the arms of God were present.
There are no rules for praying except that our prayers are sincere. When we pour out our hearts to God He speaks to us, He comforts us, He heals us.
Number three: Open ourselves to receive God’s grace through Scripture.
Scripture reading, personal devotions, Bible study, etc., can provide us with answers to questions, with new perceptions about our situations and new understanding about our relationship with God and with people. It can offer us an inner peace that makes no sense to the world around us, and enough hope to make it through the experiences that seem to have no good answers. God speaks to us through the scriptures.
Number four: Be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So often we can miss out on what God is trying to do in our lives because we don’t pay attention to the moving of the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful that I listened to that inner voice that spoke those words, ”Sometimes there is scripture in those mailings.”
Be open to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Pray that you will recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit when it comes and act on it when it you do.
No one is exempt from the trials of this life. All of us long for health and wholeness of body, mind and spirit. During this strange and stressful time of the coronavirus pandemic take good care of yourself. Go back to the basics.
Choose to Believe. Pray. Search Scriptures for God’s word for you. Be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
And remember: When we go through deep waters and great trouble, God will be with us. When we go through rivers of difficulty, we will not drown! When we walk through the fire of oppression, we will not be burned up. The flames will not consume us. For the Lord, our God, the Holy One is our Savior.
Let us pray.
Gracious and Holy God, give us strength to carry on the work of your church during this unique time in history. Bless us with your guidance, provision and protection as we navigate the deep waters of transition. Grant gifts of grace and mercy to us and to those we serve. And help us to love one another the way you love us. Amen.