I thought I was going to die! After a wave had pushed me underwater I surfaced, gasping for air only to find its partner bearing in on me for the kill. Just moments before, I was laughing and enjoying the day by cooling off at the waterpark. In an instant a muscle cramped and I couldn’t move my leg. When I tried to stretch my leg it felt as if it was being torn apart. Every stroke seemed futile until I felt the sweet sensation of solid ground.
Our world is currently facing this global pandemic with the COVID-19 virus. Many are choosing to respond by buying all the toilet paper they can fit in their shopping basket. Going to the store means returning without some items on your grocery list because you weren’t the first in line. While many are choosing to overreact, others show disregard. Some churches have ignored orders to suspend gatherings and people have died as a result. Jobs have been lost, the economy is uncertain, and hope is a rare commodity. We wonder if this is the new normal or if everything will return to how it was prior to the spread of the virus.
James tells us that we should “think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy (CEB).” That is advice in which we applaud when there is plenty of milk and eggs on the grocery store shelves. It’s great when we are not worried about paying the rent because our company has closed due to the quarantine. When we are going through tests and trials the first thought is not, “How wonderful!” In the thick of the storm we just want to escape. We want to get away. Our prayer is “God remove this from me!” James says, “think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.”
Perhaps the reason joy is so fleeting is that our focus is on the waves instead of Jesus. The gaze we set is firmly on the circumstance of the storm instead of our character in the midst of the crashing waves. Peter was able to do the unimaginable and walk on water as long as he was looking toward Jesus. The storm was still there, but he was able to navigate. The joy we have when the waves are crashing around us is that they do not affect who we are in Christ when our eyes are fixed on him.
“Are we going to make it through this?” That is the question we have when the waves are crashing down. Fear and worry point us to where we are in the storm, but the character we have in Christ shows who we are in the storm. There is no guarantee that we will not lose that job, and it is possible our loved one will succumb to the illness. God never promises to remove the affliction this side of death. Instead of “calm the wave” our prayer ought to be that our character remain pure in Christ so that we are not a wave to others.