Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once talked about two kinds of faith, the “if” faith and the “though” faith. The “if” faith says “If God blesses me, I’m prosperous and healthy and happy, then I’ll trust God.”
“Though” faith is different:
Though things go wrong, though evil is temporarily triumphant, though sickness comes and the Cross looms, nevertheless I’m going to believe anyway and I’m going to have faith anyway.. Though the waters doth roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Martin Luther King Jr.
In the Old Testament, Job looked around and saw that everything had been stripped away from him. He couldn’t see the big picture. He just saw the losses stack up. Even his wife advised him to “Curse God and die.” Job’s response was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15a).
So what kind of faith do you and I have? Can we say we have a “though” faith?
Though hate and violence rear their ugly heads in my country
Though all collapses around me
Though I get lonely and desperately want face to face people connections
Though people I love are experiencing grave difficulties
Though I lose loved ones to COVID-19
Though I fear for much of what is happening in our country.
Oh, we will grieve. We may be lonely. We may be fearful or depressed. But we still have a choice. Will we choose to trust God despite those circumstances, and as we work our way through them? Or will our faith collapse under the weight of the pressure?
This is Pentecost Sunday, the day commemorating the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ earliest followers. The Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate, Helper, Comforter, Counselor. He is still with us. Let us trust him to help in our times of need, to give us strength to hold on, to share His love with those around us, and to trust that God is holding us when we feel we have no strength left with which to hold onto him.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
We still have His power working in us today to help us through these various challenges.
Psalm 31:14-15 tell us “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands...”
I have struggled with depression; I am grieved and angered by much of what occurs in our society; I don’t know what to expect next–do any of us? But I will choose to trust the One who holds my times in His faithful hands.
Like many in the midst of this pandemic, I am looking for places of hope. Pastor Rene Schlaepfer, at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, California encourages us with the following thoughts from the story of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8.
In the midst of the WHAT is making us anxious, there is a WHO saying “Look at Me.” When our focus moves from the storm itself to the One who is with us on this journey, when our faith in someone surpasses our fear of the something, then we can be at peace. We will face storms–they will come into our lives unpredictably, unexpectedly, inevitably, and impartially.
Jesus is close. In the middle of the storm, Jesus was right there in the boat with the disciples. And in this pandemic, He is here with us. Isaiah 43:1-2: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”
Jesus cares. The disciples said, “Jesus, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” He does. As hard as this is for some of us, we are to relax in His care. I Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”
Jesus is in control. In our Western culture we like to think we are in control. A pandemic like this shows us how little control we actually have. But we can rely on the One who is in control. Mark 4: “Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!'”
I rely on these truths for myself and for those family and friends who are ill, have lost jobs, are going through marital struggles, and are just feeling anxious.
I will leave you with a wonderful song by musicians from 25 churches in Hawaii, from six islands. Skip the ad and go to The Hawaii Blessing, hosted by Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM).
May God bless you and keep you and give you His peace.
Mom used to tell me how often God wakened her with a song in her heart, usually one that gave her hope or peace in a difficult time.
Don and I slept in yesterday. Our room was still in shadow, all the windows covered. Don got out of bed first and opened one of the blinds. The sun poured in, almost blinding. Immediately an old chorus popped into my mind. It goes like this. Do you remember it?
Oh there's sunshine blessed sunshine
When the peaceful, happy moments roll
When Jesus shows His smiling face
There is sunshine in my soul.
There is gladness in my soul today
More glorious and bright
Than shines in any early sky
For Jesus is my light.
I got up singing. It’s the first time in forever that I’ve had five consecutive nights of good sleep. I know people have been praying for me, and we’ve made some small changes to our daily schedule. But to waken with a song and feeling refreshed felt like a gift from my heavenly Father and my mother!
Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.
Hope. Without it, we soon lose our way. With it, we can move forward through our fears, our griefs.
So how do we respond during this time of conflicting news reports on COVID-19, differing opinions on what kind of contact is or is not safe? Different states, and counties within states, have varying regulations. Individuals and families struggle with long-lasting illness and death. And we deal with fears, privately and corporately.
As we Shelter in Place, one of our biggest joys is going for a walk around our neighborhood, especially on a pleasant day.
Churches–and businesses–meet on Zoom or another platform (and thank God for technology that allows us this option).
Friends email, call, Zoom.
Visits sometimes occur through the windows of residential centers which cannot allow guests inside.
We delight in meeting neighbors out walking, retaining our distance but treasuring face time.
But we still have choices.
We can complain and be filled with negative thoughts, and pass those on to others.
We can trust that the God of the universe has not lost control, nor has He lost sight of what’s happening in our world. We can ask Him what purpose He has in this situation, how He is working out His plan as we are all reminded that ultimately, we are not in control.
I treasure this scripture.
Don’t misunderstand. God is not promising bad things will never happen to His people. But He is promising the security of knowing He will be with us, will never leave us, no matter what circumstances we face. (Hebrews 13:5).
And we need to surround ourselves with hopeful friends who encourage and support us, who help us look to the source of our hope. If we keep our eyes on the problem we will despair, but if we keep our eyes on God, the problems take on a different perspective.
I need to keep returning to that source. It’s not at all a once-for-all thing. My fears resurface, motivation veers off course, and I need to drink deeply of the well of living water again and again. I’m encouraged by these verses.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
What’s helping you walk with hope in this challenging time?
I’ve never given birth. Never held a child of my flesh in my arms or watched him or her grow up.
Nevertheless, I am a daughter. I was blessed with a gracious, loving mother as you know if you’ve read my last few posts. And while Mom left us for heaven five weeks ago, her impact will always be a part of my life, my character, my memories, my heart.
I have three sisters-in-law, all mothers whom I love and appreciate.
I’ve had meaningful conversations with my second sister-in-law, who lives out of State. She has been a model of sweet acceptance following the limitations of a stroke she had six years ago. Don and I have traveled with her and my brother and have enjoyed seeing different parts of our world together. We’ve also loved hosting them in our home, talking and playing table games in the evenings.
And the third, who lives near me, has been generous both in her love and service to Mom, and in encouraging me to spend as much time with her children as I wished. Never possessive, always protective, she invited me to invest in her children’s lives, never resenting time they were with me. What a gift!
These three women are mothers to some of the best nieces and nephews I could possibly want. Phone calls of love after Mom passed away, precious times spent together, sharing deeply of life, memories, hopes, challenges, and coping mechanisms, occur especially now that they are adults and raising their own children. And hugs (before they all became virtual). Did I say hugs?
So my hat’s off to you, Vicki, Carol Ann, and Sheila. Thank you for loving me enough to share your thoughts, conversations, and children with this auntie.
And when I married Don I inherited five adult stepchildren, whom I love. I treasure their children and our darling red-headed great-grandson.
I have girlfriends who are mothers of wonderful children. I have girlfriends who, like me, have not been biological or adoptive mothers. Some of us have the joy of mentoring younger women. Others are involved in their churches and communities in a variety of ways. But we’re all linked to family somehow–as a child, a parent, a sibling, an aunt, a niece, a grandchild, or a mentor.
During this pandemic, many of us have been reminded anew how much we need and value loving relationships, family and otherwise, closeness which is having to take different forms than in the past. But God had a purpose and a plan when He “…sets the lonely in families.” (Psalm 68:6a)
Blessings to all mothers, and to the families who birthed, love, encourage, uphold them!
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
How do you hold a memorial service during a pandemic? This is a relevant question for many whose loved ones are dying either from or despite COVID-19.
My brothers and I brainstormed ideas of how we could grieve together as a family and honor our mother during this time of Shelter in Place. And we took a page from the playbooks of many churches. Through Zoom, we held a virtual memorial service for immediate family yesterday and hope to have a broader service or burial at some future date.
While we couldn’t hug, be in the same room, meet together as a family for a light meal before the service, or share stories with extended family and friends afterward, we did have a meaningful time.
I was just one part of the service, which we recorded. But here’s what I said about my beloved Mother.
After Mom’s death I found an index card in her room on which Mom had written some of her favorite verses. The scriptures I share here were among those favorites.
Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. 4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Mom lived her faith. I think of that aria we just heard her sing (“I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”) as her signature song. While she had questions and doubts at times, she loved Jesus with all her heart. She spent a lot of time reading His love letter to her, and talking with him in prayer. She beamed when she spoke about her Lord. And often when I shared a concern with her, she said, “Let’s pray about it.”
Mom encouraged others. Many of the cards she received over the years talk about her thoughtful notes, phone calls, visits. She prayed faithfully for each of her family members. And she and Dad were hospitable from as far back as I can remember. When we were still in Winnipeg they hosted parties for nurses and grad students. My little girl eyes loved to peek out of my room to see the pretty young women, all dressed up, and their handsome boyfriends.
Because Mom treasured her relationship with Jesus, she wanted others to know Him too. She and Dad worked in Bible clubs, street meetings (Mom sang and played the accordion and Dad preached), and Sunday school. The longevity of her impact is reflected by her decades-long relationship with Sylvia Sigurdson, who was a child in Winnipegosis, Canada when Mom led her to Christ. Sylvia has kept in touch with Mom these 70-odd years.
And when as a teen I doubted my salvation, Mom listened to my fears and gave me John 6:37: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” I began to rely on Jesus’ work and Word rather than on my feelings for my assurance of salvation.
Isaiah 41:10 was another favorite:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Five years ago, Mom wrote this:
“Before God revealed himself to me I was … a young girl (7 or 8). I did not have conviction of sin. Now I am … a mature, 93-year old woman who has been a Christian for 85 years. As I study God’s Word, it becomes dearer to me! I love the verses in Isaiah 41 and others that state that God chose me even before I was born! He loves me – so precious to me!”
Zephaniah 3:17 concludes:
“The Lord your God … will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Music was a vital part of Mom’s life. Hymns were a significant way God spoke to her. When I broke off an engagement eons ago, she and Dad worried about me. She wakened one morning with a song that reminded her to trust God that all would be well, and her heart was at peace.
Mom sang to us a lot as children: not only hymns, but classical songs and “Auf dem Baum ein Kuckuke sass” (the cuckoo song) which Mel, and perhaps Arnold, have sung to their children and grandchildren.
On October 25, 2012 Mom wrote:
“Today it’s 10 years since John left this earth. I have shed tears this morning and I hurt. I have the assurance of Jesus holding me fast, assurance of reunion, that John is in heaven, happy. Am so thankful for that! For over 90 years Jesus has kept, protected, loved, guided, forgiven me! He will keep doing that and I’m grateful for all his promises!”
After Dad died, and again after Jerry died, Mom and I took several out of town overnighters –to Napa, Sonoma, Winnipeg – even the Ukraine where Dad was born. Whenever we had relaxed, extended times together, whether for several hours or a couple of days, we had wonderful, deep conversations about life, love, faith, family. Oh how she loved her family!
And when Don and I started dating, and Mom had a good male friend, we double dated several times. Now that was both fun and interesting!
Mom always felt she was too serious. She wished she laughed more easily, was more fun. In these last months and years life became more difficult, communication more challenging because of her hearing and memory. But on occasion her chuckle reached her eyes so they twinkled. It was at those moments that I thought “There’s my Mom.”
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
Mom longed to go home to Jesus, and to see Dad again. She was not only ready, but eager to go. And on April 4th, her prayer was answered.
I love you and miss you Mom. See you soon!
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!
Should you wish to access the one hour memorial service online at your own convenience, please let me know and I will share the link with you.