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20 Days and Counting

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death, so that one way or another I will attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

Lest you forgot amid all the talk of the coronavirus, we are now halfway through the season of Lent on our way to Easter. Though not a Biblical mandate, Lent serves as a reminder of Christ’s love for us and His sacrifice on the cross. As Christians, we are encouraged to repent, pray more often, abstain from luxuries, and fast during the 40 days in an effort to become more like Christ by participating in His suffering.

I don’t normally give anything up for Lent, but this year I decided to stop playing Spider Solitaire on my iPad and use that time to read the Bible and pray instead. When I told my husband what I planned to do, his response was, “That’ll be a lot of prayer!” That was an understatement.

When Lent began on Ash Wednesday, almost three weeks ago, the coronavirus was predominantly an Asian problem. That is no longer the case. It is now everybody’s problem. Some are more affected than others, but no one will walk away from this pandemic unscathed.

I know a lot of people are using this forced self-quarantine to catch up on old movies, clean their closets, and stockpile toilet paper, but not me. I am leaning deeper into the Lenten season because I fear God more than the coronavirus. Had it not been for this outbreak, I probably would not have delved into the Minor Prophets, who have a lot to say on living through struggle and dealing with situations out of their control. They are a good reminder that God is God, and I am not. Take Joel for example.

When locusts invaded Judah and a severe drought ravaged the land, the prophet cried out, “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon all the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry out to the Lord.” (Joel 1:14)

I have yet to declare a holy fast or call a sacred assembly (nor have our government officials), but I have cut back on watching coronavirus reports to just three per day. And when I feel the desire to check the Internet for an update, I pray instead.

Last week I willingly navigated the 500+ crowd at Costco to purchase items I thought I could not live without: fish, nuts, ice cream, and flowers. (Yes, flowers!) I stood in line for more than 20 minutes to make my purchase, surrounded by carts laden with toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and bottled water. Was I missing something? As I made my way to my car, I could not help but wonder how many people might actually find themselves in desperate need of toilet paper in the days ahead and wouldn’t be able to find any because of the selfish, fearful actions of others.

Chapter 11 in the book of Proverbs gives good council on how to handle this situation. Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. (vss. 24-25) So I am prepared to share my toilet paper with anyone in need, even though I did not stockpile any.

I am not afraid of running out of toilet paper. I am afraid of the stock market crashing and of catching this virus. But more than either of these things, I fear God. Fear the Lord if you are wise! His voice calls to everyone in Jerusalem: “The armies of destruction are coming; the Lord is sending them.” (Micah 6:9)

What would happen, I wonder, if we all feared the Lord as much as we fear the coronavirus?

There are approximately 20 days left of Lent. I am no expert, but I do not think the danger of the spread of this virus will be over by the time Easter arrives, and I dare not state the realities of what lies ahead for some of us. Sure, we can take extra precautions to protect ourselves and others from coming in contact with COVID-19, but none of us has the ability to stop it. Only God can do that.

How apropos that the outbreak of COVID-19 came during the season of Lent. It’s as if God provided each of us with a gift of downtime so we could make the most of these 40 days in the wilderness with Him.

May each of us use our extra time wisely—to repent, pray, fast, and set aside habits in order to draw closer to Jesus. May we also take care to protect ourselves so we are better prepared to care for the weak, elderly, homeless, and poor in our neighborhoods. During this time, may we take advantage of opportunities to share the gospel with others. And instead of focusing on the negative, may we take inventory of the goodness of God in our lives as we wait in joyful expectation of the resurrection.

We will get through this. But let us pray that we are transformed into wiser, kinder, patient people who are more aware of God’s presence in our daily lives.

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time, make them known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS "The Same Power" by Jeremy Camp.

Lyrics: “I can walk down this dark and painful road. I can face every fear of the unknown.”

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