I think one of the hardest lessons we have to learn as followers of Jesus is how to actually live our faith out when extreme adversity comes.
And the reality is, to some degree of another we all are being faced with adversity right now. For some of us, this quarantine and health crisis has us face to face with things we never thought we’d have to directly confront. Some of us have directly stared death in the face. Feelings of fear, unease, and uncertainty are very normal right now.
I’m reminded of introducing Boston to ditches on cross country courses. For those of you that don’t know, Boston and I used to do lower level Eventing (like the triathlon of horse sports). Cross Country is the phase at which you gallop across an open field and take jumps out of stride. It takes a tremendous amount of mutual trust and bravery. He LOVED it… except when it came to jumping ditches. With the dramatic style of a reining horse coming to a sliding stop, he would come to a dead halt from a gallop. Most of the time I stayed on and sometimes I took the leap for both of us while he planted his feet. It took a methodical approach of approaching and re-approaching at a walk, allowing him to explore surroundings and the perceived death threat that awaited him in that ditch. All at once he would seem to gather his courage and LEAP in deer-like fashion to the other side. We would re-approach and take it again, in slightly less dramatic fashion, and after abundant opportunities to explore it and learn that there weren’t horse eating monsters in the gap, he would gallop over it like a well schooled horse….. only to have the same series of events the next time we went out to school the course. However, each time out, it took slightly less time to get to the other side and I hit the ground less and less. I can confidently say over a decade later that he now crosses ditches with the ease of a seasoned pro… even though we’re not showing anymore ;) I feel like in a way, we humans approach extreme adversity in the same way. We are confidently going through life, all of the sudden the ditch is there, and we put the breaks on HARD and feel bewildered at this strange thing in front of us…. even though we know all along it is a part of the course sometimes the magnitude of what it looks like when it’s right in front of us seems impossible to get over, or there are added elements of complication (see the jump next to the “novice” ditch we went over? that’s a log suspended over a wider ditch and takes a higher level of skill and trust), and sometimes we’re faced with one that is far above our skill and competency level to approach right now: to safely and successfully do so, we need more experience. The thing is, the only way to get that experience to be able to accomplish those Advanced complexes is by schooling the lower ones over and over. Trusting the One directing us and telling us that we can conquer it and that it won’t indeed lead to our demise. Sometimes things don’t go as planned: we react out of fear, plant our feet and refuse to deal with what’s in front of us, and when we eventually get the courage (even if it’s because we literally have no other choice) we leap out of control trying to get away as fast as we can, or even stumble and fall, but we find that the One who promised to never leave us is still there and is ready, willing, and able to give us the support we need to keep going forward. Questions to ponder: What is your “ditch” in this current Covid “crisis”? Is it one or are there multiple ditches in a row? What part of the element are you in? Do you see it off in the distance? Are you planting your feet? In mid-leap? On the other side of one only to realize another is coming up? Are you a seasoned pro at ditches and nonchalantly tackle this one? Do you wonder how many more ditches there are and how complicated they’ll get? How big does this particular ditch seem in comparison to other ditches you’ve experienced? What level of trust do you need to have in God to successfully navigate this one? What ways do you feel like you need comfort and reassurance that you can make it over it? I’d encourage you to spend some time hearing what God has to speak to your heart during this time. Be honest (and unashamed!) with your fears, and let Him show you His perspective. Verses to consider: Romans 15:13, Psalm 119:105, Isaiah 43, Psalm 56:3, Psalm 29:11, Psalm 118:13-14, Joshua 1:9