[Note: the following is taken from a devotional I wrote to Wildwood College Students in the wake of COVID-19. I include it here as its principles apply to us all]
Are you anxious right now? Feeling unsettled or uptight? Don’t know for sure how to label it, but right now you are just “off”?
Yeah . . . me too.
Why? Well, our lives have just taken a disorienting turn. In two weeks an invisible virus has gone from a punchline to a monster devouring lives, plans, and economies. Gone is graduation, spring break trips, and March Madness. Gone are jobs and “in person” classes and time in the dorms or sorority house.
Let’s be honest . . . it stinks. You may be frustrated, afraid, or mad. You may be anxious, nervous, or bored. Whatever it is you call it . . . it does not feel like “it is well” with us.
So what do we do? When the virus is “after us,” the world against us, and our plans crashing down around us, where do we turn?
Well, I turn to the Psalms. And in the Psalms I see real and honest emotion. I see people (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) tell God that things stink. I see people cry out about the enemies they see thriving around them. I see people afraid and anxious and raw and real. In the midst of it all, they are turning to God.
And guess what? God can take it. God listens and loves . . . and encourages through a proper perspective and His presence. We can go to God and be honest with Him about how we are really doing.
Many Psalms begin with honest confession, but end with praise and adoration. It is as if the Psalmist approaches God with the particulars of their ever-changing case, but are comforted by the presence of their never-changing God.
In Psalm 30, the Psalmist (in this case David – whose life had plenty of hardship), makes a remarkable statement. He says – “Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:4-5)” David was able to worship God even in the darkness of struggle, because He knew that joy would come in the morning. David praised God in hard times because he knew the sun would rise soon — that the goodness of God is always greater than our struggle . . . so we can praise Him no matter what struggles we are going through.
In this unsettling season of COVID-19, I encourage you to praise God even when you are anxious, afraid, or uneven. So how do we do that? Well, I have found it is helpful to do so with music. I think David found that to be true as well . . . that is why he encourages us to “SING” praises. In songs we take words that someone else has written, infuse them with the emotion that only music can bring, and as we proclaim them . . . something magical happens. Our souls are lifted up. I think the sweetest times of worship are actually when times are hard. We are just a little more present, real, raw . . . and in that state, the borrowed words of a song writer just mean a bit more. We are reminded that even in the darkness, joy comes in the morning.
So, I encourage you to sing. That’s right, sing. Fill your apartment (or your parent’s basement, or wherever you are) with the songs of the Lord. Be reminded of who He is and be encouraged by His presence and the perspective that a joyous morning is soon coming when the Son rises again.
Three specifics I might encourage you with to listen to today . . . go to YouTube and search for North Point Music. This worship team out of Atlanta, Georgia is producing “house worship” sessions every couple of days. They are phenomenal. Listen and sing along. Or make a Spotify or Apple Music playlist of songs that are encouraging you right now and share that list here so we can worship along together in this season. Or third, join us for our livestream on Sundays at wildwoodchurch.org/live and SING (not just watch) with us from wherever you are.
We love you all, and can’t wait to sing with you again very soon.
In Christ, Pastor Mark