April 9, 2020
During COVID-19, Lent and Holy Week have felt different.
The norm would be to hear about people giving up something for Lent….caffeine, dessert, and social media were some popular sacrifices of the last few years. But this year I have not heard anyone talking about what they are giving up…
Perhaps it’s because we have already given up so much during this crisis. And we know that some have had to give up a lot more, even their own lives, to serve others. Considering our current reality, giving up caffeine, dessert, and social media all seem pretty paltry.
Just three weeks ago, giving up those things might have felt like a significant sacrifice.
My guess is that some of us don’t have the bandwidth to think about giving up something extra. Others of us might be practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting from something during Lent, but it feels awkward to talk about such small sacrifices when others are losing so much.
I have not fasted from anything on the outside. In fact, I have done more baking – and enjoyed eating it – than I’ve ever done. But, this crisis has done something in my heart that fasting from caffeine or social media could not do.
COVID-19 has brought me to my knees more than ever.
Following the path of the outbreaks from China to Iran, to Europe to here, has been heart-wrenching. But, when I consider the level of devastation that the virus will cause if it runs rampant in developing nations, I feel as though my heart will tear into pieces. If I stayed in that place, I would be in tears all day long… There is a temptation to harden my heart as a way of coping. But that’s not what I think God wants for me.
A broken spirit, a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise…
This week I was reminded of Psalm 51:16-17
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Prayer is the inward and outward expression of our belief that we have a God who will not despise us as we come to Him with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. This year I didn’t think about giving up a regular part of my life so I can focus on God more. What is happening in the world has kept me much more focused than any of the Lenten fasting I have done in the past.
I find myself praying while I am baking…
Jesus, you are bread of life; whoever comes to you shall not hunger, and whoever believes in you shall never thirst. John 6:35
I thank you that…
I acknowledge that…
I pray for…
I ask that..
Weeding has become a new form of spiritual discipline…
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Matthew 13:22
Father, pull out the weeds of my heart… And I repeat each time as I pull out the weeds from the ground.
Lord, I want good fruit to produce from my heart. Pull out the weeds….
Each day, I begin, I pause in the middle, and I end with the Lord’s Prayer. Each time I pray it, I am deeply moved by how relevant this prayer is.
I am in awe of Jesus’ wisdom in teaching us to pray like this.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13
Meditating on these words that Jesus taught us to pray has brought comfort, strength, and faith in my heart.
My lifeline has been prayer and the Word of God. And, I believe that it is our prayers in the secret that God will hear, see, and answer. God will hear those who are broken and contrite in heart.
On Palm Sunday, the crowd cheered and cried out, “Hosanna, Save Us!” as Jesus went into Jerusalem on a donkey. But they didn’t really want Him to save them from their sins. They wanted Him to save them from external things – the Romans. They didn’t want a savior who would save them from pride and self-will to broken and contrite hearts.
It’s easy to want to be saved from the disruption of COVID-19, but it is harder to stay in that place of brokenness, still coming to God with all our needs. I do not know how He will save us…but He will.
We want to cry, “Hosanna, Save Us, O King!” But we don’t want to do it as the Israelites did on Palm Sunday. They turned on Jesus 5 days later when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to save them from the Romans but instead kept saying uncomfortable things about their sin. We want to do it seeking God to help us keep humble and contrite hearts, and to keep having faith to come to Him, even when we don’t know what the future holds in terms of our work, school, income, freedom, health, or health of our loved ones.
So I want to encourage us to seek God wholeheartedly as we are all home. God wants to meet us. He will not despise those who come to Him with contrite and broken hearts.