Last January when I chose my word for the year, I had no inkling that in the coming months the world would be turned upside down by a microscopic virus. The word bountiful seems incongruous with the restrictions, isolation and other deprivations forced upon us by COVID-19. Yet I am thankful it is the word God laid on my heart, because it helps me to be intentional in noticing God’s bountiful gifts in the midst of a pandemic.
The world began to shut down in the middle of March while I was three provinces away visiting family. I was there for a niece’s wedding and my daughter’s surgery, which both went ahead as planned, a day before cancellations came into effect. I recognized God’s timely provision in these two important events happening as scheduled.
Originally I was to spend the following week caring for my daughter during her recovery while her husband worked and my granddaughter was at school. Instead, we were all home in isolation, so God gave me abundant time to care for my daughter, go for walks with my granddaughter and enjoy conversations with my son-in-law, such gifts when we normally have so little time together.
While in isolation for two weeks after coming home, I had time to consider and pray about where God wanted me to focus my priorities. He gave me peace of mind about choosing to work less, thus freeing up more time and energy for writing. At last I had bountiful, uninterrupted days to give myself wholly to God’s call to write for Him.
The pandemic restrictions brought about a slower pace of life and as I relaxed into it’s gentler rhythms, I found myself noticing more of God’s bounteous gifts. The long summer evenings spent in easy conversation with my husband in our peaceful backyard, the satisfaction of sinking my hands into fragrant dough as I took up bread-making again, recalling happy times spent with loved ones while I sorted and organized old photos. Such simple activities, yet because of the looming threat of the pandemic, they took on new value.
When our normal way of life is restricted or altered for whatever reason, our first reaction is often to complain or push against the boundaries. What if instead we look for the good within the difficult?
Not that we view the horror of this global health crisis in a light way, but rather we look for the activity of God at work in the everyday details. How His love shows up in the weary eyes of overworked healthcare staff still able to comfort patients through a plastic face shield. The way His provision arrives in cheques from the government to help small businesses survive through shutdowns. How His creativity is displayed in technology giving family and friends ways to see each other’s faces and stay connected while in isolation.
When the news tells of rising death reports from COVID-19, I imagine a face for every number; an empty chair at a dinner table, a family in mourning. Although I want to stay informed, I find the constant bombardment of bad news difficult to filter without it affecting me. So I limit my media time, choosing instead to focus on recognizing God’s bountiful blessings in the midst of disaster. It is a paradox how the jewels of God’s gifts shine brightest against a dark backdrop.
In the beginning of Psalm 13, David cries out to God because of his trials, yet by the end he has chosen to refocus on God’s eternal blessings.
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (vs. 1-2)
But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me. (vs. 5-6)
Choosing the word bountiful as my focus for 2020 has helped me see that God’s abundant blessings are not always about the temporal. His best gifts do not inhabit our physical world. They are heaped within our souls in bountiful measure, where even during this world-shattering epoch we can rest in the surety of God’s care for us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Eph. 1:3 NIV)
Valerie's devotionals can be read on her blog https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com