Estimated reading time: 5 minutes:-)
Yesterday, I was tired.
Recently, my school had a shift in its Corona Virus policy, and a good chunk of our student body was sent home to quarantine because they had been exposed to sick kids in the last two weeks. Even some teachers have stayed home, and in many of my classes, half of the students are now on Zoom. It seems like every day, the student body I see on a daily basis is shrinking smaller and smaller. I joke to myself, pretending those “selected” for Zoom are kind of like those who disappeared when Thanos snapped his finger (though that’s far too dramatic of an analogy).
But truthfully, it feels weird. I’m used to making announcements to 700 students on chapel mornings, but now I’m making announcements to less than 100. I’m used to saying hello to almost everyone I pass, but now I hardly pass anyone I know anymore. I’m used to honoring veterans every year at my school with a special program on Veteran’s Day, but this year, no veterans could visit. I’m used to sitting next to my friends in class, and now most of my friends aren’t even in school, and the ones that remain are forced to sit at least six feet away.
I am thankful, so thankful, that Lutheran has still protected the option to come to school in person, because I really struggle with online learning. And I’m not complaining; there is joy every day even while things feel strange.
But that’s just it: they feel strange.
And maybe it was a part of that strangeness that contributed to my exhaustion yesterday, I don’t know. But I was tired.
I don’t think I’m alone in having this strange feeling. This year and last year are almost incomparable, they’re so different. And I suppose I don’t despise the changes, as I used to in the Spring. No, I know God’s plan is better and bigger than my own, and I trust that. But it still feels weird…to all of us.
As the holidays approach, I wonder what community and fellowship and family gatherings will look like for my family and other families. Will we be able to have Thanksgiving together, all eat at the same table even though my great-grandma is high risk? Or will we be separated, as we have been for months, and bring her a lonely, luke-warm plate of food once we’ve all finished?
And what about Christmas? Will we all be able to gather together and open presents, or will we have to deal with a number of Facetime calls during Christmas day from cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles?
Is anyone else nervous about this change, this strangeness?
It’s exhausting, trying to figure it out. Trying to get through days that don’t feel right. Trying to make it through weeks and months you don’t get to hug your loved ones because they aren’t comfortable yet. That’s hard.
So what should we do when things are hard? Weird? Strange?
I’ve been reading Hebrews lately, a letter written to persecuted Christians. Paul has quite a bit to say about persecution (and sort of that feeling of strangeness) in the latter chapters.
Hebrews 10:34-36 says, “You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
Now, I know we aren’t suffering in prison and losing our private property. The persecutions the early church faced were much different and far more extreme than the persecution we face now, at least in the United States. But the Christians Paul is speaking to probably felt a strangeness in their own lives, too. They had just been thrown into an entirely different lifestyle than what they were used to, and the world treated them harshly because of it. Don’t you think it felt strange sometimes?
A theme I’ve noticed in Hebrews is that perseverance is often accompanied with confidence. In times of tribulation and persecution, perseverance and confidence is called for.
And I think this is a profound detail.
Perseverance is steadfastness. It is like roots lacing into the dirt and grounding themselves there, holding fast. It is unfading trust in God in times of uncertainty or difficulty. It is persistence despite cancellation or delay.
But confidence. Confidence is beautiful perseverance. Colorful perseverance. It is firm trust in God’s goodness, but in action. It is the vibrant, unfading heart posture of assurance in God’s plan.
Perseverance charges the storm head-on, trusting in God’s protection.
Confidence smiles on the way.
So I implore you, if you feel the same strangeness I feel, the same tiredness, to have perseverance and confidence.
We are not persecuted in the same way the early Christians were. We do not suffer in the same way. But we are called to thank God in all situations, to trust God’s goodness in times of plenty and in times of want. In times of normality and in times of strangeness.
So persevere. This too will pass. God’s purpose prevails. And God’s love rules this.
But also be confident. Trust God with joy. Refuse to let your smile fade when trials come. Hold firm to his promises every day, because he is faithful.
And when life feels strange; when the holidays look different this year and you’ve never missed your annoying cousins so much; when you just want to hug your grandma but you can’t; when sitting in class feels almost as lonely as if you were to stay at home, know that you have a savior that never leaves you nor forsakes you. And you can have confidence in that.
James 1:2 – “My brothers and sisters, when you face trials of any kinds, consider it nothing but joy.”
Jeremiah 17:7 – “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.”
Psalm 27:3 – “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I am confident.”