Do you know what it’s like when your phone wakes you in the middle of the night, when you’re in a strange bed, in a hotel room, after 24 hours of travel, several time zones away from home, in Madrid? No? I didn’t either until it happened to me at 2:30 am on March 12.
Joy, my wife, said over the phone, “The president just announced no more flights from Europe. I thought you’d want to know sooner rather than later.”
Wow! That was quite a wake-up call! I was traveling in Spain on a tour with my father and my son Teddy. We had arrived in Madrid the previous afternoon. During those first minutes my mind raced through what ifs, what abouts, and worst-case scenarios. A film festival of disaster movies started to take over my brain. Then we stopped and prayed. My focus changed, and God moved into the picture. I went back to sleep. I felt confident that God would provide a path home and would guard our health and safety, or he would have a good reason not to do so.
We learned more details about the restrictions in a few hours. The situation wasn’t as dire as we thought at first. During the next two days, we had the privilege of touring Madrid, Córdoba, and Sevilla, and then Spain’s government started going into lock-down. By Saturday we had tickets to JFK. On Sunday we were on our way home. Monday night my son and I were back in Tennessee sleeping in our own beds.
As we stepped off the plane at JFK airport in New York, we were greeted by people in protective gear. One of them took the form I had filled out about my state of health and our itinerary in Europe. A young man scanned my temperature, and a woman handed me an instruction card. “Stay home for 14 days. Take your temperature twice a day. Call your doctor if you feel sick.” So that’s what we’ve been doing. We show no symptoms seven days later. God is good!
Psalm 40 has come to my mind multiple times over the past several days.
1. I waited patiently for the Lord (v. 1). When you’re waiting on God, you’re not wasting time. Our waiting should be purposeful and expectant. God is going to do something amazing!
2. He inclined to me and heard my cry (v. 1). If you only get to make one call, make it to God. He’ll hear your cry. He leans in, listens to your plea, and comes to help.
3. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog (v. 2).
When you’re up to your ears in mud, feeling hopeless and helpless, raise your hand. God will grab hold and pull you out.
4. And set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure (v. 2). Faith isn’t built on thin air. When you stand on God’s promises, you’re on solid rock.
5. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God (v. 3). Sing and praise God. Your spirit will be renewed whether your circumstances improve or not.
6. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord (v. 3) Your trust in God will be contagious. When fear and insecurity are prevalent, a testimony of confident trust in God will be a beacon of hope.
On Saturday morning March 14, everyone in our tour group was busy trying to make plane reservations. Teddy was on his laptop. After working hard to arrange travel for the three of us, he helped others. He made a great impression on people. Our tour guide said, “He restores my hope for young people.” That made me happy. I think it pleased his heavenly Father too.
I was sitting off by myself on a hotel luggage cart, with head bowed and eyes closed. “Are you sick?” asked one of the other travelers, probably worried that I’d caught the virus.
“No,” I replied, “I’m praying.”
“Oh! Then say a prayer for me!” he laughed.
Like most people, I have a hard time accepting when things happen that I don’t control. When I stop and think about it, I realize that nearly every variable circumstance is beyond my control. I want to think that I’m analyzing, planning, and acting in charge, but in truth I’m wholly dependent on the sovereign God who loves me more than I can imagine. He works all things for my good and for his glory. Why do I often struggle against his will and doubt his good intentions?
I don’t know when this will all be over or how it will turn out, but I’m blessed to be trusting the God who does.
Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.