“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Hebrews 10:23(ESV)
(Today I’m sharing the conclusion of the story that started last week with a predawn phone call that shook our world. There was reason to believe that our daughter and her family had been exposed to a deadly parasite through a baby squirrel their oldest daughter had brought home and played with. The squirrel had died, followed by three of their four guinea pigs. The parasite in question is incurable and, more often than not, fatal to humans.)
Joanna’s husband Sean contacted a friend who was the head of Metro Animal Services. He validated their concern and offered to pay for the dead guinea pigs to be sent away for autopsy. They could have the results Monday.
This was going to be a rough weekend for all of us.
I wanted to rush down to Louisville to be with the family, but when I suggested it, she told me they already had plans for the weekend. So I packed and headed across Michigan for my scheduled speaking engagement.
But as I drove, my mind was consumed with the crisis. When I wasn’t talking to Joanna, I was praying. A part of my regular prayers took on special significance that day. It was the part where I gave my heart to the Lord for the day and spoke out loud (so I could hear myself saying it) the truth about emotions:
Lord, thank You for emotions that confirm the Truth, but I also thank You that Your truth stands on its own and needs no confirmation from me or anybody else.
Thank You for emotions that motivate me to serve and obey You, and thank You for enabling me to serve You, whether I feel like it or not.
I thank You that my emotions don’t get to define me. They don’t get to dictate what I say, do, focus on, believe, or choose. Lord, I choose You as my Lord, my Savior, my King, my Counselor, my Shepherd, my Bridegroom – my everything!
After reminding myself that God was God and Truth was Truth, no matter how I feel, I decided to purposefully worship Him, stress or no stress.
I popped in a CD of worship music and sang God’s praises at the top of my lungs, continuing to give thanks for His promises. Hearing myself sing God’s Word gave me courage.
As strange as it may seem, Joanna’s family spent the weekend camping. It was the wisest thing to do, since all they could do about the crisis was wait, anyway. Out in the beauty of nature she and Sean took each child aside to make sure that child knew the gospel and was assured of eternal life. One by one, they made sure their children understood that their sins had separated them from God, but that He loved them so much He had sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay for those sins. They were reminded that by believing in Him they were forgiven, washed clean, and “born again” into eternal life. Each child gave his/her life to Jesus (again), and the whole family was assured that whatever happened, they were all going to live forever in heaven with the God who loved them so much. The rest of the weekend was spent just “being together and enjoying being alive,” according to Joanna’s text.
Meanwhile, I changed my topic for the author event. Whatever I had planned to say, I felt compelled to share honestly with the attendees what my family was going through. It turned out I was speaking not once to the whole group, but multiple times, to smaller groups throughout the event.
I told each group that God is good, that I trusted Him completely, and that no matter what, I would praise Him for the rest of my life. My daughter, her husband, and all three of their children were in God’s hands, and if He chose to take them from us, I knew they would be in a much better place, where someday I would see them and be with them again, forever. I didn’t particularly like that plan [understatement!], but this wasn’t about me. God is God, and He knows best, whether I agree or not. From the response I received, I knew there were people there who needed to hear it, who were undergoing their own crises.
I have long been a teller of “God stories,” but this was the first time in my life I was telling a story as it was unfolding. I didn’t yet have the part where “God worked it all out!” – the happy ending, tied up in a neat little bow.
Like physical exercise, this spiritual exercise made me stronger. Each time I told my story I found myself speaking with more confidence and certainty, even though I didn’t yet know how the story would end.
I didn’t know that while squirrels can get the parasite from raccoons, they can’t transmit it to humans, only raccoons can. I don’t understand why, and we still don’t know what killed the rodents, but we don’t need to. The important thing is that the tests came out negative, and that Joanna’s family was fine.
Just like today’s pandemic has done on a mass scale, this crisis of faith caused my family to face (again) the fact that our lives are finite. Like it or not, “We’re all gonna die,” sometime, somehow. If a crisis causes us to face this reality and prepare for the inevitable (which we should have been doing all along), then I say, “God bless the crisis.”
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the priceless gift of life. Forgive us for so often taking it for granted. Thank You for the “wake-up calls,” as unpleasant as they are, that turn our minds and hearts toward You, toward eternity – that give us “divine perspective.” In Jesus’ name, amen.