My wife and I enjoy feeding birds in our backyard. One of their favorite foods is black sunflower seeds. They attract numerous different birds, who sometimes seem to spill as much as they eat. What they spill or drop out of the various feeders, the squirrels and chipmunks get on the ground. The various creatures are thorough in devouring the seeds, so we were surprised when one seed sprouted and we had a sunflower growing. I told Cheryl we’d let it grow and then see if the birds would eat the seeds once the flower had matured.
I was disappointed one morning to see that the sunflower stem had been knocked or blown over. There went my plans as at that time, there was only a small bud, and no flower. Imagine my surprise to see the flower emerge from the bud and begin to grow.
I thought of Paul’s statement to the church in Corinth.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)
The bent stem didn’t stop the growth process of the sunflower. There was enough stem left to give the flower the nourishment it needed to survive.
Covid has knocked a lot of people down. Like many others, I have struggled with feelings of depression and despair as I’ve been prevented from visiting pastors and churches. I’m fortunate that I have family near, but many haven’t hugged kids, parents, grandchildren and grandparents for months. Those who are high risk have barely ventured outside their homes. Many of us have lost family and friends to Covid. It’s easy to feel abandoned and struck down. Jesus understands this. That’s one of the reasons he inspired Paul to write these words. Because we do carry around in our body the death of Jesus (he died and we died), we also carry the life of Jesus. He is our hope, he is our strength.
It is because of Jesus that we can be pressed, but not crushed. We can be perplexed as to why things happen, but because we know Jesus is never surprised, he is never caught off guard, he never loses control, we have hope in despair. We can be persecuted, but he promises we are never abandoned. We can be struck down, but he assures us we cannot be destroyed because he achieved victory over the destroyer.
We are sometimes knocked down, like my sunflower. Jesus allows that. We might wish he wouldn’t, but then we’d miss out on so many learning opportunities, so many chances to be encouraged by Jesus and by others, so many chances to encourage others by our faith. I like what theologian Cherith Fee Nordling, recently said about Jesus. “I’m not always running in to make it all better,” Jesus tells us, “sometimes I’m just present.” How have you felt his presence during the season of Covid? How are you feeling his presence today?
Prayer: Father, Son and Spirit, make your presence known to me. Help me to see your hand in my life. Help me to be comforted by your presence. Help me to share your presence with others, so they, too, may be encouraged. In your powerful name, Amen.”
By Rick Shallenberger
Regional Director US, North Central