Our goal at by design ministries is to encourage you and to strengthen your trust in the Lord during these uncertain and unprecedented times. Over the next few weeks we will be reprising articles from our archive that we hope will inspire you and lead you to look to the one who has our times in His hands.
By Gail MacDonald
This article was originally published in by design’s hard copy newsletter just after 9-11. Gordon and Gail MacDonald, serving with the Salvation Army, had an opportunity to minister at Ground Zero after the September 11th attacks. Gail’s reflections on this experience will be an encouragement to your walk of faith, especially as we face the current challenges of COVID-19.
“This is a practical working faith; First, it is man’s business to do the will of God. Second, God takes on Himself the special care of that man. Third, therefore that man should be afraid of nothing.” – George MacDonald
Being at Ground Zero for a week changes one’s life. Someone recently said “Only two things pierce the heart — beauty and affliction.” This is true. As Gordon and I walked through the smoldering ruins of the “pit” we were cut to the heart by these two extremes: the beauty of people giving of themselves without thought of cost, and the indescribable loss and agony surrounding us. The latter of these two has perhaps won the greater focus for most of us these days.
We who follow Christ as Lord however, recognize especially in these times that we have a family badge. It’s called suffering. In our suffering, we identify with Christ. We return to the cross where Jesus willingly endured unrelenting pain, isolation and helplessness for us. In that we discover a way to cope with our own suffering. We can never say, “He doesn’t understand.” For, He went there first. Jesus graciously comes with each distress. This brings profound comfort to my soul.
How can we practically take hold of this? It requires recognition of my need for God’s empowering, His sustaining. When I fall into a fearful mood, or find trusting God difficult, I repeat a certain phrase, verse or song meditatively. I take a Scripture that becomes my straightedge and perspective for the day, such as: “But I trust in you, O Lord; You are my God. My times are in your hands …” Ps. 31:14-15. Or I remind myself over and over, “For this you have Jesus, Gail.” In speaking Truth to my heart, fear loses its power over me; I am at rest inwardly.
Receiving these Truths requires a relinquishing. For it is far more challenging to live on the edge of eternity than to be blasé about life. Rehearsing Truth reminds me that all of life is a gift (John 3:27), God owes me nothing. When I lay aside my fear over what “might” happen, I no longer forfeit the enjoyment of now for the sake of worry. And therefore, I can enjoy each minute to the fullest. When I go through times of struggling with fear, God provides His comfort, and insistently reminds me that I do not “own” people or stuff. Rather, I am God’s very own. He is enough.
Just this week, I experienced this truth again while talking with a friend who due to illness has lived on the edge of eternity for several months. It was a “severe mercy” for she and her husband. They came out of it grounded in what’s truly important: relationships mean everything; things and image pale by comparison. They are content simply living another day with those they love, resting in God. Those surviving the terror in New York City similarly understand this conviction as well. And by God’s grace, many are discovering His rest in the process.
Believers in the two-thirds world have lived with uncertainty and suffering for years. Christ followers there have much to teach us about embracing pain and holding loosely to everything except God’s love and power. C. S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s greatest writers, tells how when his wife Joy was dying, she encouraged him to face her death head-on. One day she told him, “The pain of today is part of the joy of tomorrow. That’s the deal.” This insight from Joy greatly helped Lewis in the days following her death.
Friends, we can get through anything if we call on God for His help. If he can turn an ugly cross into an instrument of redemption, He can redeem anything and everything in our lives. That’s the deal.
Mortal pride and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray our trust;
Though with care and toil we build them,
Tower and temple fall to dust.
But God’s power, hour by hour,
Is my temple and my tower.
– Joachim Neander (1650-1680)
Gail MacDonald is first a wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She is also an author, a speaker, and a counselor of Christian women leaders seeking encouragement and spiritual direction. She speaks on Scriptural teaching about human relationships, spiritual disciplines, and leadership dynamics.
Gail has spent more than 50 years alongside her husband who was the pastor of four congregations, ranging from the prairies of Kansas ranching country (seven miles from a paved road and twenty-five miles from the nearest town) to two suburban churches and finally to the heart of New York City.
They now live in New Hampshire, and their greatest enjoyment is spending time with their two married children and their families. Beyond this, they love to walk and bike, and are voracious readers.
Her books are: In His Everlasting Arms (Regal), The Heart of the Master (co-authored with Gordon, Servant), High Call; High Privilege (Hendrickson), and A Step Farther and Higher, (Multnomah; presently out of print).