I had to make a phone call last week that I didn’t want to make. A call that many have had to make over the last several weeks. A call that many have received. The call went a little like this, “I am so sorry to say this, but because the economy is shut down, we’re going to have to furlough you until further notice. We are so thankful for your service and absolutely love having you on the team.” I hang up the call. I take another deep breath. Then I move on to the next one.
See, in addition to pastoral ministry, I manage a local bookstore, and as we all know, these are difficult days for small businesses. I am fortunate that everybody I work with is a believer, and that I was able to pray with them at the end of the call. But what do you say when you’re the one sharing the bad news with somebody else? What kind of encouragement can you give after this? Or where do you receive strength when you are the one on the receiving end of the phone call, and suddenly, tomorrow is more uncertain than ever before?
There are no easy answers. I’ve had had moments of anxiety over the past six weeks. With every new report on “mortality rates, stay at home orders and economic collapse,” I’ve felt my heart pounding just a little harder. I know my anxiety comes less from the fact that tomorrow is unknown, but more because I realize I have absolutely no control over any of it. I’ve had several nights over the last few weeks, where I lay awake and could not fall back asleep. One night, in particular, I laid there for hours, thinking about where we are at this point in the world, hoping to wake up the next morning and hear that this nightmare is over, and praying for God to graciously speak to me and give me a fresh word from His heart. It’s in these moments where all we can do is wait patiently for the Lord to speak and to move. It’s quiet, it’s dark, it’s difficult, and we continue to wait.
The next morning, as I opened my Bible, I happened to be in Psalm 16. As I began to read, the words suddenly became my prayer. The same kinds of words I searched for the night before. “Protect me, Lord, for I take refuge in you. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides you” (Psalm 16:1-2). I stopped and considered how true this is. Anything good I have, anything I have at all, comes from Him.
I continue to read, “Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future” (Psalm 16:5). Wow! So the Lord has all of this in His control. As faithful as He’s been yesterday, He’s going to be faithful tomorrow, and He will be my portion. My future is safe because it is in His hands. It’s true; I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But I know the One who holds tomorrow.
Verse 7 continues, “I will bless the Lord who counsels me, even at night when my thoughts trouble me, I always let the Lord guide me because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” It was here where I immediately knew God was speaking to me and answering my prayer from the night before. Even at night, when my thoughts trouble me and I tremble before the unknown, I have my Helper at my right hand. He will guide me, and even if everything around me gives way, I will not be shaken.
We are not in control and never have been. This idea can bring us great anxiety, or it can bring us great freedom. “Anxiety” is asking what we will do about the things that are out of control. But prayer is asking God what He will do with the things that are within His control. So I can worry for the illusion of control that was never there, to begin with, or I can surrender the reigns of my life to His loving control as He walks me through this pandemic.
I thought of the people I had called on the phone that day. It’s true; there are no easy answers. For all of us, however, this is what it means to walk by faith, not by sight. To trust and take the next step even when we cannot see where it leads. To be assured in our hearts that He is our guide into the unknown. To rest in knowing that because He has me, He will provide when I am lacking, and I will not be shaken.
In the words of dear Corrie Ten Boom, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” And so we trust Him today, and we will trust Him again tomorrow. This is the walk of faith.