We are almost seven months into restrictive living due to COVID-19. No one expected this pandemic to endure this long and we all have felt the effects from it in some manner. As it is back to school season, many parents and children face difficult decisions on the format for school, safety measures, and realistic expectations. Already, not even a full month into school, we have seen classes or even universities return to online learning after attempting to hold class in person. This has marked a shift in the learning process that was unexpected and generally unwelcome.
In times of uncertainty it is easy to feel overcome by fear and failure. We are afraid of the unknown, angry that we don’t have enough information to make confident decisions, and we worry that in one way or another we will fail our children and their educational pursuits. We spend hours second-guessing our decisions and change our minds each day. The unrest we feel in our hearts mirrors the unrest in the streets over racial injustice and political tensions, which is another area in which we fear for our children and their future. Through the pressures of the present and the uncertainty of the future, let us meditate on the words of Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
As we move forward into the new school year, parents have to determine the right way for their children. Would in person be best emotionally? Would fully virtual be best physically? Am I capable of equipping them mentally? How does a hybrid schedule work into our family dynamic? It can feel frustrating to start school not knowing if we chose the right way or method, but through it all we can have peace because Jesus told us, “I am the way.” In John 10, Jesus tells His followers that He is the Good Shepherd. Think of the language used in Psalm 23. The Lord is our Shepherd (v. 1) who leads us beside still waters (v. 2), leads us in paths of righteousness (v.3), and when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death He remains with us (v. 4). The Good Shepherd leads us and guides us because He knows the way. We may not feel confident in our decisions, but we can remain confident in our unchanging God. In the same way that God showed the Israelites the way through the desert to the Promised Land, so also He will show us the way forward through this pandemic. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) When making our decisions, let us rest in the knowledge that none of this surprised our God and He already knows which path for schooling our children will tread this year.
There is so much noise surrounding this pandemic. There are different health recommendations that seem to change hourly. The added racial tensions and political campaigns add to the chaos and confusion. It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish the truth from error. “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Proverbs 30:5) When falsehood threatens to overcome us, then we are able to hold fast to the truth of God’s Word. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” How do we know this truth so we are not swayed by the opinions or opposition of this world? Jesus tells us that as well, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Less social media, more Scripture. Less newscasts, more good news. Less arguing, more abiding. We study the Word to know God. When we know God, His Holy Spirit calls truth to mind when deceit surrounds us. This truth quiets our hearts and minds allowing us to walk forward in faith in our good God.
During a global health pandemic, we realize how frail the human body can be. We fear for our lives, the lives of our loved ones, and the pain or suffering or death that may come. As we read of symptoms and the painful process of both recovery and death, we understand how little control we have over our own health. We can wear a mask, wash our hands thoroughly, and limit exposure to others; but ultimately there is little we can do to preserve our lives or those of our loved ones. Jesus proclaims, “I am the life.” What life does He provide for His people? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) When faced with our mortality we desire nothing more than the power and strength of immortality. Jesus promises us just that! Though not in our physical bodies while on this earth. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) In the face of the death of His friend, Lazarus, Jesus comforted his sister by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) He speaks truth and life to her in her grief, then asks, “Do you believe this?” The hope we have in Jesus is eternal life. We will face viruses, sickness, pandemics, and death in this world, but Jesus has overcome the world and if we believe in Him then we know that eternity awaits.
As the pandemic panic threatens to overwhelm your heart, mind, and body turn to Jesus and rest in Him. With your eyes focused on the Savior, the effects of this sinful world will appear temporary and your eternal focus will be strengthened. The difficulties we face in this life will hasten our heart’s cry of “come, Lord Jesus” and embolden our prayer of “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth and it is in heaven.”