Encouragement,  The Modern Pilgrim's Journey

Comfort and Encouragement for 2020’s Turbulent Waters

The Modern Pilgrim- The Final Chapter- In which Pilgrim rejoins the Good Shepherd and the faithful pilgrims on top of Joy Mountain. There, she discovers that some travelers have gone on to the Celestial City beyond the mountains, to live with the Father Shepherd. The Good Shepherd comforts the pilgrims remaining, who are weeping and confused. All are separated from a friend or loved one. He assures the remaining group that someday they too will make the journey to the Celestial City to reunite with their missing pilgrims and live together forever with Father Shepherd. For now, their journey continues with the Good Shepherd and a new companion he introduces as The Guide.

We are not designed for separation. The ability to cope with it is a default setting our Creator installed in us.  God fashioned Adam and Eve for the purpose of fellowship and unity. Sin exploded that relationship like an earthquake breaks open the earth, dividing, destroying. Separation and loss became human norm. Some years it dominates the norms.

2020 has been historical from that aspect. At least from a surface view.

Students separated from friends and teachers.

Elderly separated from their families, isolated in care facilities.

Workers separated from jobs and paychecks.

Pastors and their flocks separated from in-person worship.

Families and friends separated over opposing political views.

And some of the worst losses of all, were for those of us separated by death from loved ones and friends this year. Pile onto that the agony of delayed or postponed funerals due to state restrictions.

That is why we feel collective, societal weariness. For many of us, 2020 felt like a tsunami of losses, disappointments, and separations. In the public marketplaces, I’ve noticed tempers short and words sharp. The problem is, I’m often tempted to drift along with our culture’s moods and behaviors. You?  Jesus calls and equips me and you to ride above society’s floodwaters. We don’t need to be flailing about in the churning stew of trials and sorrows, only popping our heads out periodically to gasp for breath. Remember this verse?

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33 ESV.

Based on this verse, I like to picture 2020 as miles of whitewater rapids. So many unexpected twists and turns plus massive rocks that suddenly loom up out of the water. I see myself in one of those inflatables people use on the Colorado River with Jesus as my river guide. He’s experienced, calm and assures me that no matter what happens, he’s going to safely take me through to calm waters. The ride will be rough, scary, wet, even dangerous, but he’s never going to leave me alone in the raft, nor does he expect me to steer. Most of the time he keeps our raft skimming along on top of the foaming water. The only times I run into trouble are when I take my eyes of him and I’m not prepared for a dip or a turn. At those moments, when I nearly fall out, he effortlessly hauls me back in. He’s such a masterful river guide, when I keep my eyes on him and see him laughing and smiling, I stay calm and even enjoy the ride myself sometimes.

Has 2020 been a whitewater ride for you like it has been for me and my family? Do you believe he understands the losses and separations you’ve endured? Not just as a fact in your head, but as a reality in your heart?

Jesus understands separation intimately. He experienced a lot of it.

First, he separated himself from the glory of heaven to come here in the first place. That’s huge.

His siblings separated themselves from him and told people he was crazy.

The organized church of his day separated themselves from him and called him a heretic.

Every day, wherever he traveled, for every soul who believed he was the Messiah, many more separated themselves from him and rejected his message of love.

Judas separated himself from Jesus, choosing to align instead with his murderers.

The disciples separated themselves from Jesus during his trial and execution, except for John.

Jesus separated himself from his dearest earthly friends to return to heaven.

So, yes, Jesus intimately understands the pain of separation.

With all the loss he experienced, how did Jesus remain joyful, loving, peaceful and effective in his ministry? He stuck with the basics. He spent many quiet hours alone with his Father. When life became truly horrible, like the night of his arrest, what was he doing? Praying.

If you were hoping for “Five Fresh Ideas to Overcome the Losses of 2020,” then you’re probably disappointed about now. But I’m telling you the truth. The worse life gets, the more time you need with your Father, in his Word, talking to him and listening to him. That’s it. There’s lots of creative ideas for the particulars of that. I’ve shared many with you in previous blogs. But the basic premise is the same.

If you want to be one of those people who cheers others on when your own heart is breaking, then prayer and Bible study must be a lifestyle, not a hobby.

If you want your words to be Spirit-controlled instead of circumstance-driven, if you want true comfort and joy, then you’ve got to get quiet enough, long enough, to hear what the Spirit is trying to guide and teach you.

If you want to look back on 2020 as a year when you experienced profound spiritual growth, and be able to see God’s beauty amidst the ashes of your disappointments, then you must leave behind other time-burning activities to walk and talk with Jesus more. It’s not too late! There’s a whole month of 2020 left.

A simple cry to Jesus and he will pluck you up out of those circumstances you’ve been drowning in and put you right behind him his raft. You can ride above challenges with him. You can weep together about losses. And you can laugh with Jesus about the funny things that happen on the way to calmer waters, things you start to notice when you’re not flailing around in the rapids. Jesus brings joy to everything.

Until we are safely home in heaven, we will contend with losses and separations. With Jesus, we can rise above those sorrows with peace and joy, instead of being dragged under by unending fear, sorrow, depression, or grief. All those emotions are normal and healthy to pass through when we experience loss. But that’s they key- we should pass through them, not make them our permanent address.  

In this week when we focus on thankfulness, I’m grateful I don’t need to drown in life’s sorrows because I belong to an overcoming Savior who knows the way through the rapids. I must still ride through them, but I can do it with Jesus on top of the waters instead of under them. How has God lifted you above your challenging circumstances this year?

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One Comment

  • Sharyn Deuel

    Such an encouraging word. I would add Ps 16:8 as verse to keep us in the boat. When I choose to keep my eyes on Jesus, I am not shaken by circumstances. It has helped me through many trials.

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