How to Flourish in Times of Despair

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
”  Isaiah 40:31…

I was praying recently and The Lord said to me, “Oh my goodness, Greg, I didn’t see this coronavirus pandemic coming.  I don’t know what to do.”  Obviously I’m being very facetious, as God is never caught off guard.  But that’s how many folk are acting.  I can understand those who don’t believe in Christ.  But we as Christ followers must think and act in faith so those who don’t believe will see the difference and desire to know The Source of our faith, hope, strength and love…Christ!

One more thing…and it’s related.  I have a routine of working out and walking every morning along with my time in The Word and prayer…none of that’s changed except that it’s maybe gotten better!  However, I have noticed and am very excited about the following…as I walk with my wife in the evenings (as we’ve done often over the years), in the past there have been maybe 4 or 5 people out walking.  Every nice day since the pandemic and isolation began we’ve seen literally dozens and on some days nearly a hundred people out walking and usually as couples and families!  Need I say more?

I hope you’ll see the connection as I continue by mentioning 5 things we can do to flourish during tough times from a great article on Public Discourse about the Human Flourishing Project from Harvard University:

  1. Helping Others;
  2. Strengthening Relationships;
  3. Finding Happiness;
  4. Facing Suffering and Hardships – which we’re doing now and as they said in Fried Green Tomatoes, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”;
  5. Reflecting on Life.

It’s the second one that we’re going to reflect on today…Strengthening Relationships.  As we shared last week, God’s making it really clear which relationships He wants us to focus on with the TIME He’s giving us and the “space” that we can do it in…our homes and families!

TIME – you can have all the time in the world, which it feels like we have right now but don’t know what to do with it because all our focus, at least priority focus, has been on other things.  But I believe The Lord is giving us this TIME for a specific reason…He is aware of everything that is going on and doesn’t want us to waste any of it.  He is calling us to be intentional with our TIME with Him, in our marriage, with our spouse, children and families… Intentional acts and intentional investments in the lives of others is LOVE.

I believe He is calling us to be intentional with what He has told us is the most important of relationships…marriage and family!  If we will follow through then I know that He will strengthen our homes as we continue to prioritize our relationships according to His Word.  This will ultimately strengthen His Church Family and advance His Kingdom, as He has always desired, through loving relationships…the currency of His Kingdom! 

This is the incredible gift that He is putting right in front of us with this pandemic!  Let’s be faithful to build our marriages and families so we can love and lead in His Church and then in this culture for His Kingdom and Glory!

How do we do this?  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from last week’s L&L LIVE reminds us of what it looks like and what we are to be growing in during this time and beyond for our marriages, family and for His Church and Kingdom.

OK, how do we practically and intentionally (remember that’s LOVE) make this happen?  I’m going to share with you seven ways to be intentional (loving as you do so according to 1 Corinthians 13 traits) in building your relationships that may have been ignored or given lesser priority status when work and money and other things of the world crowded them out.

Keep or Develop Good Routine in Your Life – this is crucial to discipline and ultimately to discipleship in our lives and relationships which means it is of great importance to building and strengthening your marriage, family and His Church!  He’s giving you the TIME to make it happen so find a way in His strength to make it happen…a few minutes each day, one day at a time and don’t miss a day!  It’s that important!

If you have some or all of these routines in place then use this TIME to enjoy and grow in them even more.  If not, God’s giving you the TIME to make it happen and build what is most important…loving relationships!

1) Devotions – Set aside some time each day (if you have not been doing so, start small – 5-10 minutes – even though you may have much more time you need to not overwhelm yourself and give up…disciplines require manageability so you can keep the commitment).  I would recommend first thing in the morning but that doesn’t always work for everyone…just be diligent and committed to making it happen every day – 2 Timothy 2:15 states, Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, but rightly handles the word of truth.”

2) Prayer – not only follow up your devotional time with Prayer but begin to pray about all things with and to God…Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Prayer in everything with gratitude!)  1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing.”  This is not just about getting on your knees at bedtime or praying before meals (good things)…it is about developing an ongoing relationship with your Creator, Savior and Lord God and getting to know Him!  Oswald Chambers says, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.”  And again, Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished. Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look on prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”

3) Reflection – an extension of Bible Study/Devotion and Prayer.  Many know the first part of Psalm 46:10, “Be still (or cease striving) and know that I am God…(so many of us are anxiously “striving” because that’s what we always have done).  God is giving us this TIME and great opportunity to build our relationship with Him!  And that is to His glory as the last part of Ps. 46:10 states, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  God’s at work in and through us even and especially in this crisis if we will trust in Him and follow His Word!

Now we transition to using this TIME to LOVE those closest to us…

4) Conversation – Spend some quality and quantity TIME daily with your spouse and children in meaningful and heartfelt conversation.  If you’ve forgotten or not done this in a long time…this it your gift from God to rekindle the lines of communication and grow your relationship.  Don’t be flippant or just engage in small talk…challenge yourself to use this TIME (LOVE) wisely and graciously. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:1-7

5) Meals together – no specific Scripture here but a great principle of seeing LOVE as intentionally spending time together.  Research continually backs this up! I can tell you that for our family and children some of the deepest discussions, toughest tears and greatest times of laughter were during devotional times together that we did every evening and at meal times!

6) Games – extending the togetherness theme to enjoying your favorite games together and learning new ones!  Again, some great conversation and laughter during these times!

7) Good movies – many streaming services are offering free series and movies during this time.  Be wise in your choices to include both wholesome movies that reinforce Biblical values and those that may challenge to spark conversation and learning!  Don’t be afraid just because there may be things included that you don’t agree with.  Great opportunities to discuss and strengthen everyone’s faith!  Avoid all forms of porn and gratuitous violence, etc.!

8) Others – be creative!  Here’s an article to help get you started…

I hope and pray this encourages you to use the one thing that God is giving you…TIME which is LOVE…in the one area that’s most important – your marriage, spouse and family!

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – To those in our most intimate relationships…God, spouse and children/families…Love is spelled T-I-M-E.  What does your use of the time you’ve been given in this crisis say to those closest to you?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – 1) Set aside time each day for God – Bible reading/study, prayer, reflection; 2) Spend time in meaningful conversation every day with your spouse and children; 3) Plan and eat at least one meal together each day; 4) Play at least one game or watch one movie/series daily with your family (don’t make it movie night every night!)