I share with you today a letter I wrote to one of my students. Months of lockdown, isolation, and uncertainty, is finally getting her down. A few days ago I wrote her a note hoping to remind her of what I know she believes in her heart of hearts. Unexpectedly, I found myself also reminded of what I believe and encouraged thereby. Perhaps it will remind you as well.
Dear Jody [Not her real name]:
I’ve been thinking over our recent conversation about the mood of discouragement that has come upon you in this time of isolation and uncertainty. I want to give you a word of encouragement. As our problems clamor for attention, it is easy to forget life’s most important issue the resolution of which will pronounce the verdict on our whole lives: will we remain faithful, do we really love God above all things, and do we trust him in life and in death. In all circumstances, this is the most important decision we must make. We have expectations and plans for our lives, and when they do not unfold as we had hoped, we feel abandoned by God. Jesus, the apostles, and all the saints of the Bible and Christian history tell us, however, that should not expect to have easy lives, with worldly success after success coming our way. Christ-formed souls cannot be mass produced on the broad way of comfort; they are forged in the furnace of testing, purified in the wilderness of loneliness, and made strong through bearing the cross.
We can be certain that God will give us what we need to win the real war and achieve true success. We need to get clear on this: no matter what happens to us, God has not and never will abandon us! Suffering, loss, and pain are not signs of God’s abandonment. Not at all! If we embrace these things as from the hand of our Father in heaven, they will remind us that the real battle is for our souls, not for our bodies, reputations, possessions, and successes. Even if you “lose” all these worldly things, you lose nothing of lasting value if you hold on to God. So, my word to you is this: determine now that you will trust him whatever the circumstances and that you will follow him to whatever end. Nothing in all creation can take from you the most precious thing you have: you are loved by your Father in heaven and by Jesus your Savior more than you can imagine.
May his Spirit pour his love into your heart so that you are lifted above all your troubles and look down on them as “light and momentary” (2 Cor 4:17) and as “not worth comparing” (Rom 8:18) to what we have and are promised. And remember Jesus’s words: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 12:32). Imagine him standing before you and saying those words to you in your circumstances. Well…he is alive, and he is saying them to you and to me. Let us receive them into our hearts and minds.