Reflections of an Unexpected Year

The lives of most people on this planet have been changed by events of this past year – a pandemic, repeated lockdowns and isolations, businesses opening and closing (some permanently), schools conducting classes online, then in person, then back online and back in person, but with restrictions. Holidays were allowed to be celebrated with immediate family only, then larger groups were allowed to meet again. Congregations conducted services online, then in person with restricted numbers. You name it and somehow, in some manner, our lives concerning it were affected

We are used to making decisions and plans based on what we are doing or expect to be doing, where, how, when and with whom. We plan not just for tomorrow, but for next month, next year and even further in the future, in anticipation of the expectations of our lives. In 2020, all of our plans and short-term goals changed. Some paused and reflected on the truth of the statement in James 4:13-15 – “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” The past year gave us a hard taste of that reality. Yet, despite grasping the wisdom available to us in the Scriptures we rely on our own understanding and try to carry on with our lives. Instead of being thankful for what we have been given, we get weighed down by the cares and concerns of this world often forget to say “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that“.

Many times we do pause to see what the Lord desires for us to and we take a step in one direction or another, based on His leading. But then, questions often creep in causing us to conclude that what we planned doesn’t seem possible. I know what it is like trying to figure out the next step, the when, the how, the where, while wanting all my questions to be answered immediately, so I won’t have to worry about them later. During the past two years, I chose to focus entirely on my soap and candle business, along with translation work, and it all was going well. Then, along came the Covid pandemic and many things seemed to come to an abrupt halt. I prayed again about going into teaching, as I had my teaching certificate from a few years ago, but never formally pursued teaching at a school. There were too many unanswered questions about what such a change in direction would require from me. I applied to one school I that I had previously considered and was accepted. I was also offered to be a homeroom teacher, which I agreed to. But, this job required me to move cities, find an apartment, attend a different fellowship, as well as many other decisions. Even though I didn’t have all the answers, I firmly believed this is what God wanted me to do. So I knew He would work out the details. And He did. Everything started to come into place in its own time. This doesn’t mean there weren’t hard moments in teaching, in relocating, in changing day-to-day involvements. Things I expected to go one way and went the other way. But I knew that despite it all, I was and I am where God wants me to be.

It is an almost incredible comfort to have this assurance of being where God wants you to be and doing what He wants you to do. As I talk with believers about this past year, most of them also express that their lives are different today from what they expected it to be. I always try to encourage others to walk through the door that God opened for them. He doesn’t make mistakes. They may not see how it will work out, but we serve a God Who sees the end from the beginning, Who opens doors no one can close, and closes doors no one can open. We can rest in Him and be confident that He sovereignly guides us through all the changes we experience in this life.

There is a nice saying I heard from a movie called “Overcomer”, which says: “Your identity will be tied to whatever you give your heart to”. It is true. Our identity is in Messiah, no matter where we are, what work we do, where we serve at or the things we have a talent for. If our heart is on a certain job we are hoping for, a person, a skill we have or a place we are in, and those things change, will who we are change as well? If we give our heart to God, Who never changes, not even in a pandemic, we will stand firm when the world is shaking, because He is the source and the place of our identity. There is always much for which to be thankful. Are we?

© Hannah Kramer

Look Up

“and My people who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14

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We are living through extraordinary times. Nearly every corner of the globe has been affected by the coronavirus, with multitudes getting sick and many dying. Reactions to this pandemic have been varied. Some see it as no more than a conspiracy of sorts, a way for more government control and intervention in every day life. Others see it as a very serious plague, often panicking and buying as much food and supplies as they can in order to be ready for prolonged quarantine. Still others are somewhere in between, seeing the severity of the situation, but still trying to maintain a cheerful and positive outlook. After all, “A joyful heart is good medicine. But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22).

There is no doubt that many are suffering because of the situation. For some, even though they are healthy, they cannot risk visiting elderly parents or have the parents stay with them for fear of putting the parents at risk of getting sick. Social distancing is affecting many who want to see friends and family. So it is not just the illness itself that is causing pain, it is its social consequences of it as well. 

Much can be said about the implications of this virus on society. I am sure researchers of many fields will study it for years to come, be it the effects on economy, politics, social life, family dynamics (hey, many parents are learning to enjoy family time, while others don’t know how to cope with long-term, constant contacts with spouse and children) and so forth. But one thing I doubt will be the subject of many studies in the future is how people relate to God during this time.

There are several instances of plagues described in scripture. Most notable are the plagues with which God smote Egypt while Israel was enslaved there. Another, when God punished Israel after King David numbered the nation without receiving God’s command to do so. King David, when asked to choose which punishment to receive for his actions, chose a plague, because he said “Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14).  

We don’t know why this pandemic is occurring now, and I certainly am not saying God sent it. An important application for us though, is that when such events happened throughout Israel’s history, people turned back to God, The people’s repentance brought about healing. God gave His Word in the passage above, that if people call upon Him, He will heal their land. But there are a few things the people need to do first: (1) They need to humble themselves. How difficult that is these days, when people and nations fall into the trap of “me, myself and I”, giving themselves the glory and praise. (2) They need to seek His face – This comes only after realising we don’t have the power or the capability to deal with a situation and the answer is not found with us, but with Him. (3) They need to turn from their wicked ways. This is even harder to do. What are these wicked ways? Hurting others, mocking, stepping on others for personal gain, lying, cheating, pride and thinking we know better than God, killing innocents babies (a/k/a abortion), distorting God’s truth (also about his plan for marriage and families). The list goes on and on.      

In today’s world, it is difficult to change one’s ways, admitting they are evil and contrary to God’s will. How can we expect God to help us if we continue to do what He hates? If our nation, if our world, would only realise how far we have drifted from God, how we have insulted Him, turned our backs on Him and even denied He even exists. Despite all that, if the world would now turn back to Him – He is faithful and just to answer and forgive, and if He so chooses, to heal our lands. 

No human being has the power to stop this pandemic and we know the Lord’s “…mercies are great…”. Let us respond differently from all the incorrect responses above. Towards God, let us humble ourselves, seek His face, turn from our wicked ways and call upon Him. The results will follow, and healing will come, because God is not a man that He should lie. And towards man – this is the time to lend a helping hand, open our eyes to those in need and show grace and compassion. There is no restriction on those – even from a distance. 

Stay safe.

© Hannah Kramer

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation

Hi,

I am sharing something my brother wrote regarding the coronavirus. Translated from Hebrew and shared originally in the young adults group.

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-16 at 19.21.21

Sadly, this past weekend’s hard storm in Eilat left massive destruction in the coral reef. Not only did it damage scientific projects, but it damaged the beauty and richness of the animals dependent on the reefs for their lives. 

“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). This is a harsh and painful reminder of the consequences of sin that has entered the world. Like creation, we too, await the day when we will be free from destruction, illnesses and death in the world.

“…’Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:41). The Lord Yeshua is in control over everything, over natural and super natural forces, including coronavirus 😷. He has the power to restrain and stop and on the other hand, do nothing if He chooses so. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.” (Psalm 33:11), and as Job said: “‘I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted’ (Job 42:2).

We love to be in control and know what is going on. I think that somewhere the coronavirus shattered this illusion and reveals to us the reality that we aren’t really in control…We can’t go wherever we want, for some of us, work and studies are stopped, there is a lot of sadness, anxiety and so forth. No doubt that the year 2020 is a very interesting and challenging one! I believe the coronavirus is teaching us to look at life with proportion, at things that really matter.

How interesting that at the first young adults’ meeting this year, we spoke about how our faith is exercised in the most challenging and difficult times of our lives. Is it not during difficult times that we should place our trust in the Lord Yeshua? As you noticed, we don’t have fellowship gatherings now and we have heard countless times how the Body is not a building. We don’t need a special place to gather, pray, read or even worship! Let’s remember to be a light in this dark time: to allow others to pass us in line at the supermarket, to be with self restraint and patience with everyone, to ask others in the faith (and not only in the faith) how they are doing and to seek opportunities to show God’s love.

Have a blessed week and remember: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners” (James 4:8)  🧼 🙌🏼

© Nati Kramer

Picture by Nati