Sunday, May 24, 2020

Who will Survive

When the storms of life hit us, who will survive?

We live in a world where storms continue to torment the populous. Our storms are war, disease, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts,  wildfires, etc. All impact the physical, mental, and economic health of everyone in their path. They not only kill and destroy, but they affect our minds and attitudes. Today we faced the deadly COVID 19 pandemic with no geographical boundaries in our modern mobile society.

Lets face it, we live on a dangerous planet with hazard all around us. So how do we live with a major threat hanging over us? How do we keep our sanity when walking through this minefield called life?

In 2018, the number of deaths attributed to various conditions are shown below:
  • Heart disease: 647,457.
  • Cancer: 599,108.
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936.
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201.
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404.
  • Diabetes: 83,564.
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672.

Survival formula

1. Maintain Flexibility

We lived in the state of Mississippi for many years during which we encountered dangerous tornadoes and hurricanes, including the famous names, “Betsy,” “Katrina” and “Camille.” But we survived many lesser and unnamed events. In the aftermath of these destructive storms, we gained insight on some important facts that can help us navigate the current pandemic.

Surveying the damage after the storm reveals a pattern of total destruction and repairable damage. They topple immense trees with their roots pulled right out of the ground, while nearby trees lost a few limbs and leaves. Earthquakes tear up highways and their bridges and viaducts while leaving some roads free from damage. 

What is the difference? Flexibility!

Flexible trees, roadbeds and buildings survive because they move with the wind while more rigid structures break or pull away. If we are rigid in our attitudes, lifestyles, or theologies, we are heading for a fall which could be disastrous. 

In the Old Testament, The Lord refers to the disobedient Jews as a “Stiff-necked people.” The Still-necked” are the ones who seem to receive the most trials.

In his famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle.” Mohamed Ali defeated George Foreman by using the “Rope a Dope,” technique. Rather than coming out fighting as his regular boxing plan, Ali took a defensive position, with his back against the ropes, allowing Foreman to tire himself out by landing many ineffective punches. When Foreman became tired, it was easy for Ali to land the decisive blows. When we are hit by the storms of life, a new strategy might be to take up a protective stance, ride out the storm, and then when it abates, be victorious.

In November 2010, a biopsy revealed Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancerous tumor had wrapped itself around a saliva gland. A simple thirty minute outpatient surgery lasted nine hours. The doctors followed this with several months of Chemo. We took up our defensive posture. Following the advice of doctors and cancer survivors, we changed much of our lifestyle and the foods we ate. And we maintained a positive attitude about the whole process. Two years later, Dr Bobby Graham declared me cured.

Today we are in the vulnerable class. So Rita and I are “Rope a Doping.” We have taken up a defensive position at home and only go out occasionally to pick up our on-line order at Walmart, or med.’s at the local drugstore.

2. Be Teachable

Maintaining flexibility requires that we be teachable. One of the things that has frustrated the many during the current pandemic is that the rules keep changing. What the more rigid of us fail to realize is that this virus is new and even the virologists are still learning things about it.

The Old Testament prophet Jonah was running away from God’s call. He got on a ship heading in the opposite direction - to Tarsus. A terrible storm came up that threatened the entire ship - its passengers, crew, and cargo. When Jonah realized his disobedience caused the storm, he told the crew, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”[ Jonah 1:12 (NKJV)] Jonah became teachable.
After every major event, pandemic, hurricane, or other disaster there is a time for asking how did this happen, why did it happen, and how do we avoid a repeat? When you travel the coast after a major hurricane, you can see the changes being made. There are normally two distinct forms of remediation. The first is the “brute force” method which requires a redesign of buildings to withstand the forces of wind and surf expected in a hundred years. The second action which is even more effective is avoidance. Don’t build in the affected areas, and build on stilts, etc.

With COVID 19, there will be vaccines to prevent outbreaks, treatments, and social recommendations. Since all this is new, we have to remain teachable as the science develops.

3. Be Humble

Humility is a heavenly sanctuary to shield us from looking upon our accomplishments. Humility is a depth of self-effacement, which no robber can attain. Humility is a mighty tower in the face of the foe.[Climacus, John. The Ladder of Divine Ascent]

Humility is the cure for depression, judging our neighbor, undue envy, hardness of heart, lust, greed, gluttony, ill-will, hypocrisy, and stubbornness.
Stiff-necked people will not survive.

4. Trust God:

Jesus was with His disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a storm arose causing the boat to take on water and they were in danger and Jesus was asleep. They came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”[Luke 8:24-25 (NKJV)]

Trusting God does not mean that He will always keep you from harm. Faith in God means you can trust Him because of His unfailing love for us. God is love and nothing can separate us from that love. This does not mean that you will not suffer or eventually die. There is an end to our life on this Earth, but then there is resurrection. Jesus died on the cross and rose again thereby defeating death.

Our faith is believing that God exists and that He loves and cares for those who ardently seek Him.[Hebrews 11:6]

As we go through life, don’t expect it to be free of storms, but always remember what Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. [[John 16;33]

Trust Him, there is no way we can be in control of all things. We can take precautions, but cannot completely control our environment.

Who will survive?

You will if you remain flexible, teachable, humble, and you trust in God.

May the Lord bless you and protect you through this difficult time. 

Bill Johnson

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