Wylie, Texas, is a town of fifty thousand people twenty-eight miles northeast of Dallas. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, none of the students graduating from Wylie High School will have a traditional graduation ceremony or other end-of-year events.
Since they could not come to the school, the school’s principal came to them. All 612 of them.
Virdie Montgomery spent 80 hours driving 800 miles over 12 days to visit each high school senior at their home. He explained, “The most valuable gift any of us can give anyone that isn’t replaceable is time. Where one spends one’s time says a lot about what they value.”
One of the seniors told CNN, “It kind of shows people that somebody does care for you out there. Most principals wouldn’t do that.”
Hiker posing for photo falls to her death
COVID-19 is affecting everyone, even those it does not infect. Some responses are positive, as Principal Montgomery shows. Others are tragic.
A hiker celebrating the end of her area’s coronavirus pandemic posed for a cliffside photo in Antalya, Turkey. She climbed over a safety fence to take the picture on the edge of a cliff in front of its scenic waterfalls. She then slipped on grass and fell roughly 115 feet to her death.
The US aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman began its deployment last November before the coronavirus outbreak began. Its 4,500 crew members are thus free of infection. As a paradoxical result, they cannot go home to their families because their ship is too valuable to end its deployment.
The hope is that once the Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group is up and running, the crew of the Truman can finally come home. But no one knows when that day will come.
I often say that God redeems all he allows. How could he redeem not only the suffering produced by COVID-19 but also the longevity of this pandemic?
“Suffering produces endurance”
Paul testified: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5).
This is Paul’s description of his personal experience in suffering, not a guarantee that we will have the same experience in our own pain. Not everyone who suffers endures through it. And not everyone who endures suffering experiences character that produces hope.
To experience God’s hope produced by character through suffering, it is vital that we reframe the depth of this pandemic as an opportunity to experience God in greater depth than ever before.
“Make me understand the way of your precepts”
We tend to think that spiritual growth is like other kinds of growth: the harder we work, the more progress we make.
We build our physical strength through regular exercise and a healthy diet. We build our intellectual capacities through disciplined study and mental exertion. We build our financial resources through hard work and wise investing.
However, fallen humans cannot know the perfect God of the universe unless he enables us to do so. It’s not a matter of trying harder to do better.
The psalmist prayed, “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works” (Psalm 119:27). Note the order: God must act before we can act.
Lest we think that we are merely passive until God is active, however, note this testimony: “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me” (v. 30). The psalmist took the initiative in setting God’s words before him, then he prayed for God to empower him to keep them.
Three steps to meeting God
Here’s how I understand the divine-human relationship in spiritual growth.
First, I commit myself to the practice of Bible study, prayer, worship, and other spiritual disciplines. For me, this requires a time every morning to be alone with my Lord and a regular, systematic approach to reading his word and praying.
Second, I pray for God to speak as I listen. I ask him to move in my mind and heart as I am yielded to his Spirit. I seek from him what I could never achieve without him.
Third, I act on what he reveals. I put into practice in my life the truth and wisdom his Spirit gives me through my time with him.
I do not believe we have truly met God in his word and worship unless our lives are changed as a result. How could we encounter the holy King of the universe and remain the same?
John Calvin’s prayer
Before reading Scripture, the great theologian John Calvin would pray: “O Lord, heavenly Father, in whom is the fullness of light and wisdom, enlighten our minds by your Holy Spirit, and give us grace to receive your word with reverence and humility, without which no one can understand your truth. For Christ’s sake, Amen.”
Will you make his words your prayer today?