We've made sure that we are stocked up on our kids' asthma medication. We have enough toilet paper for the next week. We've made some heavy food hauls to the store to enable ourselves to stay inside as much as possible. Yet even with all this preparation, as my baby is still trying to get over bronchiolitis, my son has asthma, my husband has strep throat, my friends have cold symptoms, and my family members have underlying medical concerns, I still don't feel ready and secure. Am I really prepared?
I was sitting in a public hospital in Brasov almost exactly two years ago, surrounded by other children with different respiratory illnesses that my four-month-old could easily contract while still fighting off his own virus. The fourth floor wing of that Romanian hospital had a long corridor outside of our room with a window at the end. I would take Denton to that window several times a day as I would walk the halls just to pass the time and try to keep him from crying - and myself! I was wondering why in the world God would lead us all the way to Romania just for all of these terrible things to happen. But at one point, a very poignant image came into my mind that is, to this day, vividly burned into my memory. In this image, I was walking up and down that hallway with a glow around me, pushing back the impending darkness. Somehow, I knew that I was singing. And it was that image that helped me realize the reality of my situation: I was and still am literally carrying the one true and invisible God with me wherever I go because I have the Holy Spirit. And there is a battle being waged all around me, and everywhere that I go, I am capable of pushing back the darkness of evil. So yes, I needed to be in that hospital to help my sick child. But I also realized that for some unknown reason, God wanted me there to usher in His Kingdom and His presence for other people and for other reasons that had nothing to do with me personally.
So for the remaining days that I had there, I walked those halls - back and forth, back and forth - my shoulders and back burning from constantly holding and bouncing my baby - singing hymns and praying quietly aloud. Because I knew that there is power in the name of Jesus, and I was confident that the Lord truly had me there for a reason. And not just for my own good, though it was for that, too. But because that, for whatever reason, my General chose to strategically position me - His servant soldier - on the spiritual frontlines right there in that hospital for exactly that time. Because my prayers and my singing and my very presence helped push back the Enemy for all the other women, children, nurses, and doctors in that building. I was marching under Jehovah Nissi, "The Lord is my Banner." I took courage and strength in the fact that I was being given a place of honor to do battle for my God.
I give you that story because it's possible that some of us, maybe many of us, will need to be walking, or sitting, or lying under Jehovah Nissi in the coming days. Or we will know someone we love who will. Or we will simply be distressed by the enormity of the situation from our own homes. We may start to wonder why the Lord is allowing this to happen. And why He would place us in our various locations and circumstances. Or we might feel crushed under the weight and fear that we feel. But it's not always about me and whether I've got all the earthly provisions for me and my family. So I wonder - am I spiritually prepared?
Am I prepared to be radically generous with all that I have - money, food, toilet paper - to help others in need? (Mark 12:41-44)
Am I prepared to love my neighbor as myself by remaining isolated even when it is difficult for me, or love my neighbor by helping someone face-to-face even if it exposes me? (Mark 12:31)
Am I prepared to show grace and forgiveness and live peaceably with my family and neighbors with whom I disagree, when we are now in such close quarters where conflict is sure to abound? (Rom 12:18)
Am I prepared to praise the Lord if I or my loved ones get a positive test result? (Psalm 34:1)
Am I prepared to sing hymns if I end up in a hospital bed? (Eph 5:19)
Am I prepared to recite Scripture if I'm separated from my family and friends? (Psalm 119:11)
Am I prepared to pray diligently for these patients and medical personnel if it feels like the channels and articles bring nothing but crushingingly hopeless news? (Phil 4:4-6)
Am I prepared to give thanks for how the Lord is going to use every heart-wrenching trial for the good of growing me into the image of Jesus? (Rom 8:28-30)
Am I prepared to bless the name of the Lord if He decides to allow someone I love to die? (Job 1:21)
Am I prepared to find my strength in Jesus to be content in literally all circumstances? (Phil 4:12)
Am I prepared to use the opportunity of uncertain times to boldly proclaim the One who can give us peace? (Eph 6:19-20)
Am I prepared to look to Him for my comfort, stability, and provision when it's hard to find something I need in barren stores? (Psalm 91:4)
Am I prepared to walk whatever halls - sing whatever hymns - speak whatever words - endure whatever hardship if He calls me to that frontline? (Rom 5:3-5)
Am I prepared to reflect more on how my life and actions can count for Jesus in the days ahead than how I can keep myself safe, secure, and well-stocked? (Phil 1:21-24)
Am I prepared to already count my life - and the lives of those Christians I love around me - lost for the sake of His Kingdom, relying on the promise that whosoever loses his life for Jesus's sake will find it? (Matt 16:25)
And how can I possibly answer a truthful "yes" to any of these questions in my own strength? I can't.
But I know whose name to call on to give me strength to do so! I know the name of the One to whom I can pray and admit my weakness and fear, and yet find unceasing joy in the fact that my God chooses over and over and over again in His redemption story to use those who are weak.
So Lord, I pray for mercy. I pray for strength, and I pray for wisdom. And when everything inside of me cries out in fear and dread of losing my life or the lives of those around me, or for the stock market crashing, or me losing my job and home, or whatever else may befall me... I pray that you would remind me again of what a privilege it is to serve you. Help me to walk in your light, casting out the darkness around me wherever I am because I am fighting for you. Help me to remember that my very presence somehow mysteriously ushers in your Kingdom here on earth, so that wherever you call me to be, I can be prepared to glorify you. Help me to find my peace and joy in whatever ways you choose to use me or my family in the days ahead. Because I cannot do it alone. Lord, help me to prepare. Amen.
Ideas for preparation:
- Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in small pieces at mealtimes with your family and soak in the life of Jesus
- Read Ephesians to reflect on spiritual battle and the promises of who we are in Christ
- Spend homeschool time memorizing Scripture (start with some of the verses cited above!)
- Read biographies of men and women who gave their lives to serve the Lord
- Keep Jesus-centered music going in your home so you can subconsciously take it in
- Spend time in the shower listening to one song over and over again to help you memorize it
- Visualize yourself in some of the above scenarios and prayerfully think through how the Lord would want you to handle it
- Research the Names of God and get to know His character based on the names people in the Bible used for Him
- Use Zoom or FaceTime to continue meeting with the Body of Christ to encourage one another and discuss with each other how you're preparing spiritually
- Pray continually and admit your fears to the Lord and ask for His peace
- Boldly rebuke the spirits and feelings of fear, doubt, anxiety, anger, and hoarding
Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.