With Me

Written on

March 15, 2020

This past Thursday morning started like most normal Thursday mornings. I had been better this week battling for my quiet time with the Lord and, as I closed my Bible a little before 7 am, I felt content that I had heard from Him. The devotional topic was not new or earth-shaking but I had no idea how appropriate and God ordained it was. Having underlined several verses and jotted down some cross references into the margins of the thin pages I considered myself ready for the day ahead.

That assumption should’ve been a sign of things to come.

I dropped our 2 youngest daughters off at school and went into work. Teachers and staff of the church preschool I direct started to arrive. A few comments and questions were made and asked about current events. Everyone seemed to know something but no-one seemed to know anything for sure.

The children and families soon began trickling in through the glass doors. I donned a bunny rabbit puppet and sat on the floor, greeting my little friends. I felt my watch vibrate, indicating a text message. I excused myself and then the normalcy of the day of ended.

The girls’ school was on a “soft lock down” because of an unconfirmed possible exposure.

My husband and I spoke on the phone trying to decide to get them or leave them, what needed to be done next and what steps did we need to take to ensure the health of his elderly dad. Not really coming to any conclusions, we decided to wait to see what the school would do next and to make the best use of the next hour or so we might have in the mean time.

We didn’t have that long to wait. The district closed the girls’ school early and he would pick them up. In the meantime though, I found myself juggling questions from staff along with all the quirkiness of 200+ preschoolers. (These kids, coming off a week with a time change, a full moon and an anticipated Friday the 13th, were wired! Did I mention we were under severe weather watches too?)

One of our teachers was handing out stickers left over from Valentine’s Day. The red heart shape said simply, “Jesus is with me.” Ms. Casey asked me if I wanted one to wear and I enthusiastically accepted it. Right then, the truth from the morning’s quiet time came flooding back to me.

That morning I had read verse after verse driving home that very point: (emphasis mine)

“fear not, for I am with you,

be not dismayed. for I am your God;

I will strengthen you , I will help you.

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

~ Isaiah 41:10

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9

“Fear not, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from from the east

and from the west I will gather you.”

~Isaiah 43:5

“And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” ~ John 14:16-17

“…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:20b

The author of my devotional, Ruth Chou Simons, had encouraged me that morning not to fear because God was with me. In the quiet that morning, I wasn’t feeling fear, but by mid-morning those fears I wanted to downplay and refer to as insecurities were quickly threatening to overwhelm me. God used Ms. Casey’s sticker to gently remind me why I was not to be afraid.

In the couple of days that have passed, the world has seemed to turn upside down. Honestly, I don’t think it will ever be as it was before. A planner full of dates and appointments and agendas and lists seems to mock me. The stability of routines and predictability is gone as each new news cycle reports new lists of closures and postponements.

The economy has been turned on its ear as people inexplicably race to the nearest store that may have a fresh stock of toilet paper. 2020 will be the year of no seasons or tournaments – at least for spring sports. We all hope for graduation commencements and spring recitals but no one knows if those will be a reality or not.

I do not fear the virus. By God’s grace alone, I and mine are healthy. We are not in the high risk populations that are most likely to face serious consequences if we get sick. We are in the population that is highly likely to carry it and pass it on though. I see the need to stay home.

I do fear other things though.

I fear the financial impact this will have on our country and our community and us.

I fear the unknowns. Will we or won’t we? I like the predictability of knowing certain things that are scheduled will happen and when they will happen. I don’t like not knowing.

This morning, our little church gathered for the last time for we don’t know how long. We aren’t equipped to worship electronically on the internet like other churches. As we bumped elbows while leaving, I felt sad not knowing when I’d see this family of mine again. I fear something will happen to them.

I did get to teach our student group of teens this morning. It was interesting to hear their take on this new world we are living in. Like me, they weren’t scared of getting ill, and also like me, they don’t like not knowing. I shared with them the above verses and we talked about what to do when the fears and negative thoughts start to overwhelm them. Here’s what I came away with:

  • First, I need to identify these dark thoughts for what they are – not insecurities, not concerns but fears and worries – sins, if I let them go unchecked. They are symptoms indicating a lack of faith.  Like a small snowball that starts innocent and harmless at the mountain top they slowly evolve into a debilitating avalanche in the lowest of valleys below.
  • Second, I need to talk about it. Fears and worries lose a lot of their power when I have the courage to confess them. The first thing the teens said this morning was that we needed to pray in order to capture these unwanted thoughts. The second thing was to tell someone else. Prayer allows me to confess to God that I can’t handle these thoughts on my own. Telling someone else allows for accountability and opportunity for other believers to speak truth into me.
  • Third, I need to replace those fears and worries with God’s truth. Just like the simple sticker last Thursday reminded me of the truths from my quiet time that morning and eased my spirit, God’s promises can and should be stood upon during these days. I am listening for God to speak His truths to my heart. I am keeping the television turned off more than on. I am choosing to listen to praise music. I will fill some of these hours reading my Bible and other spiritually minded books.
  • Fourth, I need to look to see how God is fulfilling those promises. He will never leave me. There is nothing that can separate me from His love. He will bring good out of all things. I don’t want to miss what He is doing. So far, I see Him drawing us closer to Him and closer together as a family. Where do you see Him working?

These are fearful days for many reasons but we don’t have to live in fear. My last post was titled “Practicing Fear.” If you read it, you know it talks about living out a holy fear of the Lord to find wisdom and gain understanding. This is the fear I am actively choosing to live in.

I can’t do anything about the virus, the economy or the future, but as I study the God who is in control of these things, I find the faith needed to capture the fears that would depress and overwhelm me. He has this. He has me. He is with me.

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

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