Surviving April

This isn’t the April we wanted.

We wanted spring training. We wanted to go to church on Easter Sunday. We wanted a weekend trip to see the spring flowers. We wanted the Masters golf tournament. I love the Masters. I don’t just like it, I love it! I keep pictures of Amen Corner on my computer screen. I love April.

But this April? This isn’t the April we wanted.

But this is the April we’ve been handed: daily reports of disease and death. An economy that’s in freefall. Dwindling supplies. Another 30 days of distance and isolation. And, most of all, a month of fear. We fear for our family. We fear for the health of our health workers. We fear this microscopic, COVID-19 culprit that stalks our streets like a thief.

So we need to brace ourselves. Adjust our expectations. April as we wanted will not happen. God willing, it will reappear in 2021. But the 2020 version? It’s time for a deep breath, a steady resolve and a few decisions. I’m thinking of three essential, emotional tools.

Gratitude. Collect your blessings. Catalog God’s kindnesses. Assemble your reasons for gratitude and recite them. “Always be joyful,” the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians. “Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.”

Look at the totality of those terms. Always be joyful. Pray continually. Give thanks whatever happens.

Gratitude is always an option. Matthew Henry made it his. When the 18th-century British minister and scholar was accosted by thieves and robbed of his purse, he wrote in his diary, “Let me be thankful, first because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my purse they did not take my life, third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and, fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Quarry some gratitude. And, be kind to others. Be the family member who offers to wash the dishes. Be the colleague who reaches out to check on the team. Be the neighbor who mows the grass of the elderly couple.

You’ll be better because of it. Research bears this out. Studies have shown that giving to help others triggers dopamine. (New fundraising slogan, perhaps?) When volunteers wearing a functional MRI scanner were told they would be giving money to charity, the areas of their brains associated with pleasure — like food and sex — lit up like Christmas trees.

Seeking joy? Do good for someone else. It really is better to give than receive.

It’s time for gratitude. It’s time to serve others and it’s time for determination. Good, old-fashioned grit, a resolve that says, “I’m not giving in to fear. I’m not caving in to despair. With God as my helper, I’m going to weather this storm.”

Some years ago, I had the honor of meeting an American hero, Gen. Robbie Risner. For seven and a half years, North Vietnamese soldiers held him and dozens of other soldiers in the Zoo, a POW camp in Hanoi.

Misery came standard issue. Solitary confinement, starvation, tortures and beatings were routine. Interrogators twisted broken legs, sliced skin with bayonets, crammed sticks up nostrils, and paper in mouths. Screams echoed throughout the camp, chilling the blood of other prisoners.

Listen to Risner’s description: “Everything was sad and dismal. It was almost the essence of despair. If you could have squeezed the feeling out of the word despair it would have come out gray, dull and lead-colored, dingy and dirty … ”

How do you survive seven and a half years in such a hole? Cut off from family. No news from the U.S. What do you do?

Here is what Risner did. He stared at a blade of grass. Several days into his incarceration, he wrestled the grate off a floor vent, stretched out on his belly, lowered his head into the opening, and peered through a pencil-sized hole in the brick and mortar at a singular blade of grass. Aside from this stem, his world had no color. So, he began his days, head in vent, heart in prayer, staring at the green blade of grass. He called it a “blood transfusion for the soul.”

You don’t have to go Hanoi to face a “gray, dull and lead-colored, dingy and dirty” existence. A pandemic will do just fine. Do what Risner did. Go on a search. Crowbar the grate from your place of isolation, and stick your head out. Fix your eyes on hope.

Gratitude.

Others.

Determination.

G-O-D.

He is still in charge. He is still Emmanuel, God with us. Heaven still awaits. The tomb of Christ is still vacant. Children still laugh and grass still turns green in April. Find a blade and set your gaze on it.

It’s not the month we wanted, but it is the month we’ve been given. And we will get through it.

© Max Lucado, March 2020

 

 

23 comments on “Surviving April

  1. Thank you Max for always encouraging us and being there for us . Most of all I am so thankful that you are always trusting God and sharing His word with us. God is in control

  2. May God continue to bless you as you have been a blessing to me.
    God has encouraged me, the Holy Spirit has convicted me and the sweet peace of Jesus is setting me free during this pandemic as I “feed my faith and starve my fear”
    Those words sound familiar Max?
    Thank you for serving the King of Kings and Lord if Lords.

  3. A blessing to read and to keep for repeated readings. My prayer life is strong and helps me be calm in this hard season. Thanks for your words that bring peace to hold us up.

  4. Thank you! God is good all the time! God Bless you for your kind and caring words of insight of Gods love for all of us!

  5. Thank you for all the minutes, days, weeks and months that you help us focus on Jesus and his promise of peace and a life without fear. Keep it coming because we still need it!

  6. Thank you Max for all you do and say. Look forward to you every morning, not on the ship in Alaska, but right here in my kitchen, you’re the best. Our love and hope to you and your beautiful family. The Obriens

  7. Thank you Max. I am doing your Bible Study on ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING. I have the book, workbook, and schedules. I am so thankful to have a Pastor like you who makes his sermons and information available.
    I pray for you and your family.
    Blessings & prayers, Jan Jones

  8. Thank you for this meditation. I have always found that starting my day expressing gratitude and contemplating God’s myriad blessings establishes my positive attitude and prepares me for everything the day brings. God. Others. Determination.

  9. To paraphrase Psalm 118:24, “This is the April the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
    Thank you for your article. What a wise perspective. At one point I was reminded of Winston Churchill, who recognized that attitude was a crucial factor in winning a seemingly hopeless war.

    I used to think God was unduly harsh with the children of Israel when he punished them for grumbling and complaining. Then I became a substitute teacher and saw, on a much smaller and less critical scale, how such behavior can affect the attitude of the class as a whole. It really is contagious. Now I see God’s actions as surgical strikes, if you will, cutting out a deadly cancer before it destroys the entire body.

  10. Thank you Max. I have everyone of your books. You are a gifted writer. Thank you for your encouragement today.

  11. Thank you so much for your encouraging words Max,I listen and read your words everyday. I know god will get us through this.

  12. Thank you Max Lucado! You are such a gift!I just love reading your reflections! I hit a low point yesterday when I heard two nurses infected with COVID19 committed suicide. It literally sucked the breath out of me! I cried for 12 hours! Reading the Palm Sunday scriptures and your message, I think I’ll get through it! Peace be with you always!

  13. Thank you Max. I have a Gratitude journal that I write in daily and a 365 Daily acts of kindness that I also do daily. It keeps my heart open, my mind in a peace filled state, and my spirit in harmony with God. I love your post today. GOD – Gratitude, Others, Determination. I determine to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my mind and with all my soul and to love others as myself.
    Blessing to you and yours.
    Windy

  14. Gracias a Dios por esta reflexión. Es verdad no es el abril que esperábamos, toca quedarse en casa y dar gracias a Dios que estamos vivos y que la esperanza es él. Saludos desde Perú

  15. Thank you! A chapter or two from your book “The GIFT for all people” before I fall asleep each night has been a true blessing for me.

  16. Blessing and thankfulness for your writings that reinforce God’s hope for each new day.. May Jesus be present in all of our lives for each new day and guide us with His Love and Grace. judy

  17. Thank you. Max Lucado, for your writing of inspiration and God’s love. May Easter bring us God’s love, guidance and grace for each new day going forward.

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