Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
If you’re anything like me, it’s been a while since you’ve been through a “trial.” Like, maybe even a whole day.
I don’t delight in trials much. Depending on the trials, I might not appear to be persevering. (I know… not a great witness, is it?)
Sometimes my trials are compounded by my own sinful behavior. Other times, prayer and the Peace of the Lord are what help me endure.
Here are just a few of the most-recent trials I’ve encountered. It’s certainly not the complete list, and obviously not the most severe trials I’ve ever been through. Just random recent examples.
Things were different this year
This year, the Women’s Retreat I attend was particularly sparse. Single digits.
Some didn’t sign up to attend, and one who did, had to cancel at the very last minute – she had a fever and a cough. (Good news! She did NOT have “the virus”!)
Smaller group, sure, but big hugs and even bigger hearts for worshiping the Lord!
Ahead of the “official” retreat is brunch at That One Place. That One Place is a bustling diner we’ve been going to for years. They expanded once, to double their size, and a couple years ago they moved – to expand even more! Worth the trip.
THIS March, folks were just starting to stay home, and That One Place was hardly what you’d call bustling. Next to our table a father-and-young-daughter date was going on – complete with her princess tiara.
Ordinarily, we would never have noticed, but this year it was nearly pin-drop quiet. Our waitress thanked us profusely for coming in.
So, here's what happened
Before the weekend retreat, I drove across the state and stayed at my big sister Beth’s house overnight. Hugs.
I also saw my niece and nephew. More hugs. Of course!
AT the retreat (in a lodge in the woods), the cell service is pretty much non-existent, so I had no way to know that Beth visited a relative in hospice that weekend… or that the relative had just tested positive for the virus.
When I DID get the message, I mistakenly thought Beth saw her the day before I spent the night, and I that might eventually have to get tested for the virus. SO, naturally, I contacted all the people I’d been with all weekend.
We all put ourselves in self-isolation for two weeks, and waited.
I Held my breath
Everything in me knows I long to RUN into the arms of Jesus! “Catch me, Lord!”
But now? Am I really finished with my work here?
Even though the virus, in and of itself, is not a death warrant (because the vast, vast majority of those who contract it, DO NOT DIE from it – they recover), I still kind of wondered, “If this was it, am I READY?”
How’s my breathing? Good? Good.
Fever? No. Good.
I don’t have the virus then, right? Right. Good.
I heard the actual story: Beth was with the relative on the Saturday of the Women’s Retreat. (So, it was after I spent the night at her house, not before.)
Oh, and (YAY!) Beth tested NEGATIVE for the virus!
I re-contacted everyone. False alarm. We could breathe again.
If our retreat was even one weekend later, it would NOT have happened.
Our state closed all “non-essential” businesses. So, “non-essential” people either worked from home, or they were laid off.
For reasons that completely escape me, churches were included in the shut-down, even if they had a plan in place to “social distance.”
So, the Sunday before I went to the Women’s Retreat was the last Sunday I was able to attend a worship service – actually, physically with my congregation. That was MONTHS ago, now.
We have persevered and adapted to “meeting” on Zoom for Bible studies and prayers.
I am proud of the way the pastors in our church body adjusted. The congregations that had an online sermon or worship service in place, were generous to share their links with those congregations who did not have those options.
If we used the technology available to most of us, we could have “attended” an online service from a greater number of sources than there have been Sundays on lock-down. Hundreds of them!
Those who were not yet equipped for online gatherings, managed to pivot nicely and have since become more adept at Zoom, YouTube, and other ways to share the Word on the Internet. Bravo!
We Met "together" at the empty tomb
Sometimes perseverance means thinking outside the box – or the church. The WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) had a brilliant way to bring us all “together” in a magnificent live worship service.
Pastors, musicians, and two vocalists – socially distanced, of course – recounted the first Easter morning, using Scripture readings, hymns, and a sermon.
During the hymn, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” families from across the nation were singing “together,” from their respective homes. I cried during the whole song.
Easter is my favorite day in the whole year. This lock-down was not in my plans, but I am so glad our church knows how to persevere in trials.
The Corona Birthday
I really miss my best friend, Ilene. Her birthday was in April. My husband and I found her a super-fun gift, tied on a birthday balloon, and signed her card.
Then we delivered it to the bottom of her driveway, honked, and waved at her as we drove off. It was a bittersweet way to celebrate. I called her, while Lance drove.
Hard not to cry! I just really, really wanted to go hug my friend!
You never know what's NEXT
That very night, Bandit, our tabby cat and leaver of shed hair everywhere, went outside. I told him, “good night.”
That is the last time I saw Bandit.
I cried my eyes out. Then I was finished. And then I wasn’t finished.
I cried snotty, choking tears for that beautiful, hairy, bossy little four-legged friend who once slept at my feet. I was on the verge of tears, or flat-out crying, for days, WEEKS!
There have been a couple of near-misses on the Lost Pets site: Too young. Too perfect (left ear). Too stripe-y. Too light. Um, female.
Every new possibility rips the scab off again. Out of self-preservation, I have commended Bandit to God’s care.
Those tears were not ALL cat-Related
Losing Bandit might have just been the last straw. I’m allergic to cats, for Pete’s sake!
I DO like cats, and I cared for Bandit like a Kitty Momma, but losing him was just reason enough to let go and cry. It had been building, ever since the virus was made public, back in January, in China.
The whole world has been on hyper-alert for a very long time now, and I know there are people, schools, and businesses that will not persevere. They will not bounce back, after the deaths (though relatively few, worldwide), after the fear, after the lock-downs.
a small ray of light
As a bright spot in the lock-down, I was especially pleased that folks in our area made the extra effort to help the local businesses persevere. I witnessed curb-side take-outs spring up out of necessity – you know, the Mother of Invention.
Those new take-out services, and the uptick in delivery services, kept a lot of people employed, AND kept the good people who make and sell take-out packaging employed. PLUS, we could still go out to eat, even if it meant picnicking in our cars. Win, win, win!
You don't know you're in it when you're in it
If someone warns you, “This is a TRIAL,” then sure, you’d likely remember to pray about it. You might seek God’s Word about trials. You might do a lot of wise things.
Me? I’m like most folks. We don’t always stop to distinguish a “trial” from “the last straw.”
When we do step back and see how God is using a circumstance to draw us closer to Himself, of COURSE we want to be closer.
But, when we keep piling on the complaints and moaning about the discomforts and the problems we face – when we wallow in our junk – it’s more like hosting our own pity party than entrusting our burdens to the Lord.
We need to recognize that God allows trials of all kinds, and when we persevere, we come out stronger. And, not just strong for the sake of our own strength. Stronger in our faith, which will help us in the NEXT trial. Because, Sister, on this side of heaven there is always a next one.
lean on me
Well, not me. Lean on God. I will pray for any of you – just ask! God will be the one answering prayers, though.
Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
God is able to help you endure.
Lean on God, Sister!
Next, we’ll take another glimpse into the Book of James, and see what NOT to say when you’re tempted. Stay tuned.
You CAN persevere under life's trials
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