Proverbs 16:1-9, 16, 32 We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. . . We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
Like everyone, literally, around the world, Dave and I have been caught off guard by the sudden changes to our plans: events canceled, travel disrupted, churches, schools, libraries and businesses closed . . . with no certainty of how long this will last, or what the final costs will be in terms of lives and livelihoods.
So, chapter 16 of Proverbs, scheduled for today in the Anglican lectionary, feels timely, especially coming as it does in the middle of Lent. The Message translates verse 1 this way: Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Dave usually makes his schedule a year ahead of time. He had no idea, of course, that COVID-19 would be part of the picture for 2020. But God knew, and I can imagine him smiling as we innocently (“pure in our own eyes”) made our “elaborate plans” for this year.
I’m NOT saying God made the coronavirus and unleashed it on the world! But I do think God has purposes he wants to accomplish in me, in us as a couple, during this time. He can use the frustrations and limitations to focus our attention and help us to hear him. Curious, I’m thinking about other proverbs in this chapter, asking God to show me where he wants me to grow. The one that stands out to me today is verse 20, Those who trust the Lord will be joyful.
If you’ve tracked with me for a while, you know that trust is not easy for me. Where the rubber hits the road for me today is the difficulty of trusting God with the lives of the people I love in Venezuela. Here in Pittsburgh, I’ve seen friends become anxious about the coronavirus. But we have food, clean water, warm houses, medical care, gas for our cars, electricity, internet . . . Imagine facing into the virus being able to count on none of these things. Imagine a population that has been in survival mode for years already being hit with yet this.
Yesterday, when President Duque of Colombia took the logical step of closing his border with Venezuela to protect his own people, I felt panic. That sense of fear is right below the surface for me. I face a huge temptation to give in to anxiety, rather than learning to trust the Lord in this situation. The fear fritzes my mind. I don’t know yet how to pray for Venezuela and specifically, for our dear ones there, with faith. That’s what I’ll be asking God to show me as I walk through this day. “Help, Lord!” is as far as I’ve gotten.
Though I’ll celebrate with my husband his 67th birthday (also my dear Venezuelan friend Idagly’s 40th birthday), thanking God for his faithfulness to us, another part of me will be listening, trying to understand how to grow in trust, and in joy.
And though I don’t have words of my own to pray, I can turn to the great prayer book of the Psalms and use those ancient prayers to be my own:
Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer. Answer [the prayers of those who love you in Venezuela] for they need your help. Protect them, for they are devoted to you. Save them, for they serve and trust you. You are their God. Be merciful to them, O Lord, for they are calling on you constantly. Give [Idagly] happiness [today on her birthday], for she gives herself to you. . . Listen closely to my prayer O Lord; hear my urgent cry. . . For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God (Psalm 86:1-6, 10).