A Word from Elizabeth Porter

Much of the time, I dislike Facebook, as many people use it for bragging. However I haven’t deleted it because my Kuyper colleagues post beautiful photos, wise comments and sometimes poetry. Unsolicited advertisements pop up, and the quilt in the picture caught my eye recently.

Life in lockdown is not fun for most of us. I could write a long list of the events my family has been forced to cancel, activities my students have had to miss, and even harder experiences for several friends, but I doubt there would be much edification to my readers in doing that; we all have our own lists of disappointments and cancellations. Whether it’s a wedding, a birthday party, a holiday or a visit. Perhaps its something not even for recreation; elective surgery, a cancer-research fundraiser, or planning work for one’s business. There is no certainty that anything will actually be allowed to go ahead. It seems risky to dare to look forward to anything, as our hopes might be dashed.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow… Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

Some may say that we shouldn’t have taken for granted all the activities that we had planned before COVID. As the apostle James says, we shouldn’t boast about our plans, as we do not know what will happen tomorrow. How often has that been affirmed in the past 18 months! Does this mean we shouldn’t try to plan ahead? I don’t think so, as the Bible also calls us to be wise and discerning and to have a Kingdom-of-God perspective. James’ warning is set in the context of boasting about our plans to go somewhere, make money and pursue “arrogant schemes”. The message is that we must not be arrogant nor selfish in our plans, but humbly acknowledge that everything is under God’s sovereign control. We are able to plan, but under His Sovereignty. He “works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28), even though particular times involve disappointment and suffering. Remember that He holds the BIG picture, while we can only see a little piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and He cares about what we are going through (1 Peter 5:7), so we can tell Him about our worries and take heart.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:6-7

So how should we respond in these difficult, and often lonely, times? We don’t have to feel strong all the time (but remember that He is strong). There are times when it’s okay not to be okay, and have a good cry. The Facebook quilt advertisement challenged me though, to “remember whose daughter you are”, and to fight on. I’d like to consider whose daughter I am on two levels.

My Dad is a (retired) world-class Scientist. Though not a household name in Australia, he is well-respected internationally in his field of expertise. He has led Christian ministries and he was Mayor of Parramatta. Should these attributes give me confidence to stand before life’s challenges? Perhaps, and I’m proud of him, but from another perspective, my Dad is as valuable as any other human being. We have all been created by God, in His image. I take just as much inspiration from my Mum, who was a Primary School Teacher. She is the reason I dislike the spelling of “Mom” on the quilt. I annoy people by correcting their grammar and I understand the irony of “you cannot use a preposition to end a sentence with!” However the real reason I am inspired by my Mum is her quiet faithfulness to Jesus, her diligence in prayer and her life of humble service to others. Yes, I should remember whose daughter I am and follow this example.

It shouldn’t be too hard for all of us to find things to respect in our parents. Of course, all have their failings, but all also have their strengths and all love their children more than their own lives and have made sacrifices for them. A good challenge might be to look at whose daughter or son each of us is, and imitate their strengths, taking courage in the tough times.

However, on another level, we should remember that God has called us to be His children. What a privilege! Our Heavenly Father is the Lord Almighty. Our Father owns the “cattle on a thousand hills” and knows “every bird in the mountains” (from Psalm 50:10-11). He provides all our needs and loves us so much that he sent His Son to die for us. His power is demonstrated in so many ways, but especially in Jesus’ Resurrection. Yes, we should remember that we are children of the King, and as the writing on the quilt says, “straighten your crown”. You actually need to do this with humility, because it’s for His glory, and we will be receiving our crowns a bit later. Take courage from remembering that our Father, the King, is in control, whatever the circumstances.

At the Olympics in Tokyo, it is sad to see the empty seats arranged for thousands of spectators. The athletes must be so disappointed to be competing without family, friends and fans to cheer them on, yet grateful that the Games have gone ahead. I’m told that the Japanese have a saying, “knocked down seven times, get up eight”. Let’s be inspired to remember whose children we are, remember who our Father is and get up again in His strength.

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