April 25 Devotional

By René Watson, Minister of Administration

Control. It’s something that we humans struggle with. Specifically, we struggle when we feel like we don’t have control — which is often. It’s perhaps one of the most common battles we face as human beings — to accept that we don’t have all the answers, to acknowledge that we cannot control others or at times even the circumstances in which we live. Much of the world is living through this tension right now, and Christians aren’t exempt from it.

Throughout history, humankind has come face to face with circumstances that provoke anxiety, fear and doubt. In biblical history, you may remember when the Israelites, a generation living as slaves, were freed from captivity but then were chased by the enemy. They found themselves trapped — standing at the edge of a vast body of water — their promised future in front of them and their past closing in from behind. And God called them to step forward — to trust that God would do what only God could do. And yet, they stood there and considered going back to a life of captivity, making bricks by day and sleeping with empty stomachs by night. Why? Because it’s what they knew. In that historic moment, they faced what you and I face every day — the temptation to lean on our own understanding rather than accepting God’s offer for a new and better life.

Just about every one of us has been there. Unable to see a clear path forward, we search and search for a way around the problem, even as we agonize about outcomes that may never come to pass. Faith is not an easy thing. We don’t put it on and just wear it. It has to be tested, because faith can only become our intimate and trusted friend through conflict. Through tough choices. A decision must be made and a step taken to learn that God is right where He says He’ll be.

After a year-long battle with cancer, I had to make one simple, yet paralyzing decision. A friend knew I was struggling, so she asked me if I was afraid to die. I realized, in that moment, something worse — I was afraid to live — afraid to embrace the idea of living fully for fear that it would be snatched away from me (again). It sounds a little crazy to me now, but at the time, I was afraid to risk even putting my toe into the refreshing, cool water of life that the Lord had already prepared for me. Doesn’t that sound crazy?

Over the last few weeks, we have all had to come face to face with the realization that much of what’s going on in our world is beyond our control. And perhaps even worse — the people who seem in control may not be making the kind of decisions we might make. Life has changed dramatically, and that makes a lot of us question even the things that we know to be true.

My friends, I invite you to remember a couple of things that are true. First, we can control what we think and how we respond to it. Are you worried about something that has a reasonable chance of happening, or are you just anxious that something might happen? Anxiety is experiencing in our minds a terrible outcome that has not yet actually happened. In 2nd Corinthians chapter 10, Paul said “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” I hold onto this truth whenever wrong thinking tries to derail the truth in my life or when it stops me from boldly proclaiming my faith. This I know — God has control even over this pandemic, and the way we respond and witness to other people is incredibly important to God, and, therefore, it should be incredibly important to us. We’ve witnessed incredible acts of generosity within and beyond our church as people care for and encourage others in need, and this is amazing!

Second, we really can control what we believe and who we trust. Faith is absolute trust in God — trust that could never imagine that he would leave us. Hebrews 13:5 says this, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” These are promises from God! God is not leaving us, and He has plans to care for us and never, ever harm us. When I have walked through some of the toughest obstacles in my life, I ultimately figured out that, no matter the earthly outcome, God was and is and always will be right there with me in the struggle. He is worthy of our trust.

I suspect that at some point in the future, we will look back at the way we responded to Covid-19 and all that is happening in our world and, perhaps, think of the Israelites and the decision they had to make that day. For them, the rest of the story was this — they stepped into the water, and God parted it, so they were able to walk across on dry land. I believe you and I will have similar stories to tell. I can’t wait to hear you tell them!