by Liz Mangels
If you are at all like me, we spend a lot of time making plans! Meal plans, vacation plans, kid schedule plans, work plans. We put hope in those plans—we feel excitement towards those plans. The plans themselves might not be bad things.
Some of the plans I had for the Spring included a three-part intensive therapy session for our daughter who has mild cerebral palsy. Therapy is a good thing for her and it took months of planning to coordinate. Our other plans included a family vacation, and a few nights to celebrate our 9th anniversary while our kids had their favorite annual “2 night Gigi sleepover.” Vacations aren’t a bad thing, right!? Our son was signed up for his first season of T-ball and if you know him, he loves sports and was SO excited.
None of those things are happening now.
Just this morning I read Psalm 77:1, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.” I am so thankful we serve a God who hears us and who invites us to cry out in honesty. I think I cried more than my kids that first week.
I now realize partially I was sad at the loss of fun plans and partially at the stark realization of the idols I was looking toward for fulfillment. I love Jesus and pray for my hope to only be found in Him, but upon further examination, or conviction, I think that this time without all of those things has made it very obvious how much hope I was placing in some of those things above God. God, in His perfect grace, reveals our idols; yet He also cleanses us of them and blesses us (see Ezekiel 36:25). I see God’s faithfulness as He is stripping me of idols, and I am grateful. He has equipped me right now to help my daughter in the way that He sees fit. We do trampoline and bike rides for physical therapy, and we cut paper for art as occupational therapy! He is faithful in slowing our family down and allowing us the free time to sit down with our kids studying entire books of the Bible together. That wouldn’t happen if we were off on vacation! It can be hard to identify idols. My plans become idols when they are placed above God.
He is working in our pain, in our waiting, in job loss, in pandemics.
In early March Pastor Matt shared an amazing sermon on the Sabbath and resting in the Lord. He said “Sabbath is spiritual detox for worldly addicts.” I found myself praying about it and discussing with our community group the following questions: How do we implement Sabbath? How can we slow down? How can we cancel all those plans we committed to?
Enter COVID-19 to the equation. I know a virus cannot erase the idols of my heart, as that is something that only the Lord can do. Thankfully, God can use awful circumstances to do good and bring about heart change. I wrestle feeling grateful while so many others are suffering. However, I can see glimpses of the good He is doing in my heart, in my family, even in the “taking away” of my carefully laid plans. I see grace in this hard situation.
I love in the book of Job when Job is wrestling with God and he says in 23:9a “On the left hand when he is working I do not behold him”. Job is admitting that even in the times we think that God is absent or that we don’t see him, God is working. He is working in our pain, in our waiting, in job loss, in pandemics. Where have you seen God’s grace and His work in your life during this time? One of our favorite verses to recite as a family is Proverbs 3:5-6. We learned it when my son was 3 and he still says it almost every night. I think about this when I look at my very organized paper planner that I order every year. It has a different section for each family member per week, and it was full of all my plans. Funny enough, the planner is about empty now. God isn’t laughing though—He is busy at work making my paths straight as I submit them all to Him.
Liz Mangels, her husband Kevin, and their family have attended Outward Church since 2018. She serves on our Communication & Outward Kids Teams.
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