Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Relate: I just have to say that I hate masks. I really, really hate them. Every day when I leave my room and head out into the hall I am required to put it on. Once I make it out the front door I can take it off. Since it is miserable cold around here, I use it as a chin warmer for my walk up to the bus stop. Once I get close, the mask goes back on for the 20ish minute ride. It then doubles as a chin warmer until I am almost in the building then it goes back on.
This wouldn’t be so bad in and of itself, but I wear glasses. Between the hot air that I am full of and the extreme cold of the weather around me, every single time I exhale my glasses are fogged up beyond and reasonable functionality. So when I am on the bus, I can never quite tell when it is time for my stop. If I am wearing the glasses, they are too foggy to see. If I take them off, my vision is too blurry to see. If I try to lower the mask below my nose, the driver will kick me off the bus. (It’s never happened to me but I’ve seen him do it to others.) So we are in a lose, lose, lose situation, and about once every three days I find myself walking an extra couple blocks because I didn’t quite time my blind stop request right.
What is worse, the things aren’t even effective. They say that the mask isn’t to keep you from getting infected but rather to keep you from spreading your infection to others. In theory, that’s great. But how many times have you seen someone pull their mask down or off when they are about to sneeze? And how many times when wearing the mask do you adjust it? I can guarantee your hands are up near your face easily three times as often when wearing the mask than when you are not. Do you wash your hands every time you touch your mask? Even if you do, aren’t you using an antibacterial lotion? Isn’t Corona a virus, not a bacteria? How effective is an antibacterial at eliminating viruses?
Don’t get me wrong. I will wear the mask. Both the laws and the cultural expectations in the society I am a part of dictate that I do so. Since wearing the mask is in no way breaking the commands of God then I am obligated to do so. I will be a good citizen and I will not put a stumbling block in the way of my witness. But I don’t believe that the mask is anything but a placebo and a nuisance. It doesn’t do anything except make people think something is being done. If you disagree feel free to tell me why in the comments section. This isn’t a hill I will die on, so I am more than willing to change my mind if given a convincing argument.
React: Mask or no, I firmly believe that our world has been walking through the “valley of the shadow of death” over the past ten months. I know people who have died. I know others who have come close and I know plenty of people who have tested positive. Because of his sickle cell and his past history with pneumonia, I have a brother who is extremely high risk. I delayed seeing my family for Christmas until the 27’th because I wanted to be sure that my little stomach bug wasn’t anything worse and that I didn’t pass it on to someone who could pass it on to him. For both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners we had a laptop at the table so that those who didn’t want to suffer Cuomo’s 2-week quarantine rules could join in. That is my story and I am sure that each and every one of you has your own. The masks might be bogus, but the reason for them is a very real and present trial.
But even though we have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death does not mean we have any cause to give in to fear. Yes, there will be some who die because of Covid. But if God is with us, then we will end up with Him. Yes, there will be some who get sick and suffer horribly because of Covid. But if God is with us, then it will become an opportunity to learn to rely less on ourselves and more on Him. It will also be a chance for us to “share in the fellowship of His suffering.” (Phil 3:10) Yes, some will lose their jobs or suffer economically. I’m with you. Outside of some ridiculously small book royalties, I haven’t had a paycheck since September 1st thanks to Covid. But if God is with us, then this is just an opportunity to see how He will provide. We can learn to say like Paul, “I have known what it is to have plenty, and I have known what it is to be in need. I have learned the secret of being content in any situation. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:12-13) By the way, there’s that little button to the right for those of you who want to help support The River Walk. I don’t normally, ever, ask for money but if you want to be a blessing I wouldn’t refuse it. For those who have given in the past, thank you.
So the question is not, will Covid negatively impact us? For all of us, to varying degrees, it has. The question is not, will we walk through the valley of the shadow of death? We are. The whole world, to one level or another, is doing so for the past ten months. The question is, will God be with us? The answer to that is wrapped up in our response to the gospel. Each and every one of us has sinned and separated ourselves from God. Because God is perfectly holy, sin cannot stand in his presence, and we are sinners. (Romans 3:23, 6:23) But because of His love for us, God set aside the pleasures and privilege of heaven and took on humanity so that he might come and live with us. (John 1:1-14, Philippians 2:5-11) Jesus willingly went to the cross to take upon himself the consequences of our sins. (Colossians 2:9-15) As a result, if we surrender ourselves to Him and accept the sacrifice He made at the cross, that relationship can be restored. (Colossians 1:19-23, Romans 8) This is the gospel. God has restored our relationship with Him. Anyone who accepts this gospel can once again be “with Christ.” And if we are with Him, then we will have no reason to fear no matter what life might throw at us.
You have promised in Your word that if we are with You, then we have no cause to fear. I want to be with You. I recognize that because of my sin, I have been separated from Your presence. I also recognize that because of Your love for me, You came, You died on the cross, and You rose again to reconcile my relationship with You. I acknowledge and accept the free gift of grace You have offered. Now help me to live and walk with You even when that road we take together leads through the valley of the shadow of death.
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To read previous devotionals taken from the January 28th The River Walk devotionals click below: