Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

It was the Worst of Times, but can it also be the Best of Times?

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Feeling Down? Count Your Blessings!  How’s that for a trite little “Happy Clappy” phrase? But stay with me please. Have you been feeling down with how things have been going thus far in 2020? It’s really hard not to get down. Let’s see, so far, we’ve been through an impeachment, pandemic, economic crisis, and police brutality, the latter of which has led to both peaceful protests and rioting/looting, some of which has taken place in my relatively small community.
I live in central Illinois, the state with the third highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases. It is a state that has had some of the longest and most stringent COVID-19 stay at home orders in place from our governor. The order began on March 21, and continues at this time, with the state on track to move to Phase 4, of the 5-phase plan, at the end of June. During this time, wearing a mask has become the norm. We have watched our church worship services online, attended church leadership meetings and small group meetings on Zoom, and used a lot of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. We’ve enjoyed socially distanced time with family, but had vacations, conferences, concerts and baseball games cancelled. I’ve talked to people who are doing fine,
but also to those who are sad, isolated and lonely. A friend of mine lost his mother to COVID-19. She was in a nursing home and later a hospital, and he couldn’t visit her in either place. Frankly, at times, I’ve felt like this social media post from pastor Scott Sauls.
It’s easy to focus on all of the bad things that are going on in our lives, country (and world). I admit that I can tend to gravitate to what is wrong, rather than focusing on the blessings in my life that I often take for granted. James tells us that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (1:17).   Like in Psalm 42, David laments his current circumstances instead of just trying to keep a stiff upper lip.  But then he intentionally speaks to himself and reminds himself of God, His character and His blessings.  This is where his hope comes from.  As I gave it some thought, I came up with a number of blessings that I’ve enjoyed during these days and also a soundtrack for this article:

  • Celebrating 40 years of marriage to Tammy.
  • Celebrating my brother’s retirement with family.
  • Enjoying long phone conversations with my Dad and listening to a teaching series from Ligonier Ministries while taking my afternoon walks.
  • Spending time with our niece and her 16-month-old triplets.
  • Enjoying a good meal.
  • Binge-watching a good television series.
  • Reading a good book.
  • Enjoying a visit with my mother in law and Tammy’s family.
  • Meeting with our small group, even if it is via Zoom. (And yes, even Zoom has been an unexpected blessing during this time).
  • Taking a walk with Tammy in the evenings.
  • Walking with my friend Neil on Wednesday mornings.
  • And so much more.

My point is that even in very difficult times, there is much to be thankful for. I’m sure that you could easily come up with your own blessings list.  For example, Tammy’s older friend broke her ankle and was placed in a nursing home.  She grieved this for about 6 months and then decided, “You know what?  I can’t get to the bathroom by myself anymore, but I can offer a smile to everyone that comes in the room.”  She then really bloomed where she was planted – she became a representative for all of the patients in the nursing home, etc. and finished her earthly journey well.  Well done, good and faithful servant!
And now I want to talk to Christians in particular. I know that many of you are struggling during this time. Perhaps your business has had to close because you just couldn’t make it during this period. Perhaps you are lonely. Perhaps the depression or anxiety that you had has gotten much worse. Don’t forget this promise (you would never guess that it’s from the book of Lamentations 3:22-23):
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I want you to remember that there is much to look forward to. This world, as good as it often is, is the worst you will experience. As a follower of Jesus, you know the best is yet to come. God will not give you everything you want, but he will provide everything you need:
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
So yes, it’s easy to be down these days, as one day rolls into another and there are times you don’t even know what day it is. When that happens, think of all you have been blessed with in your life and look forward to future grace.
I’d like to end with this benediction from Ephesians 3: 20-22:
Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


Soundtrack:

Carpenters – Rainy Days And Mondays

Count Your Blessings

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

Walkin’ In Jerusalem (Just Like John)

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 40 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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