The events of 2020 have uncovered a new list of items in my life of which I had not yet fully let go.
Especially during the past five years, I have watched for Jesus’ appearing with much eagerness. The Lord has already used affliction and suffering in my life to loosen my grip on many things in this world. However, this year has brought new meaning in regard to letting go of things in my life, and it has not been easy for me.
Please know I am not advocating a position of giving up or one of just accepting the changes others impose upon us, not at all. What I am learning this year is to loosen my grip on the fleeting things of this life and tighten my grasp on the wondrous promises of eternity found in Scripture.
Here are the areas in which I held on much too tightly before 2020:
In some ways, I took my rights as a United States citizen for granted. Watching some of them rapidly vanish, at least for a while, has led to moments of despair. “Will this loss become permanent?” I have often wondered. This has been a difficult area for me, one in which I have overreacted at times.
Just last week I read two news events that reinforce just how far away we are from the freedoms we enjoyed just seven months ago. In Indiana, the penalty for not wearing a mask in public can result in up to six months in prison. The Supreme Court ruled against a church in Nevada that sued the state so it could have the same freedom in regard to attendance as casinos. By a 5-4 vote, the Court tossed aside the freedom of worship clause in the Constitution and voted against the church.
This does not imply that we remain silent on these matters nor stand up for our rights (as I am doing here); it’s more a matter of recognizing that we live in the last days of history before the trumpet sounds and Jesus takes us to the place He’s preparing for us in His Father’s house (John 14:1-3). It’s learning not to fret but rather trust the Lord (see Psalm 37:7-9).
This could perhaps fall under the previous category, but I think it deserves its own heading. Before this year I could not have imagined that the government could so quickly take away our right to public worship. The governor of California recently made singing in church illegal and then prohibited all church gatherings, even to the point of making home Bible studies illegal. Yes, he did.
I always thought this might happen in America, but I never imagined it would start with such widespread acceptance among believers. I applaud the churches in California that are continuing to meet.
The first blow I endured here came with cancellation of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball tournament and later with the elimination of the entire NCAA March Madness. Before these things happened, I thought that I had kept my love of sports in a proper place, and in some ways I had. However, as I watched all sporting events vanish in the spring, I realized the Lord had more work to do in this area of my life.
For several months, I had no choice but to let go of my love for sports, and that allowed the Lord to further distance my heart from this attachment. I still hope for college sports to return in the fall, but I know this may not happen.
My desire for Jesus’ appearing in the coming months has become greater than that of watching my favorite college team play football.
This may seem like a rather strange area of letting go, but I recently felt sadness at hearing that because of the China virus panic, President Trump had closed many, if not all of public events during the upcoming GOP convention. I did not realize until that moment how much I looked forward to watching some of the speeches and the excitement of the nominating process at a crowded convention. (I have been a political junkie since I was a child.)
I know my future depends solely on the Lord rather than politics or the outcomes of elections. I rest in His sovereignty over all national and world events, especially in the area of politics. Psalm 46:10 has become my “go to” verse as I watch chaos and violence destroy the lives of people of all races. I read Psalms 46-47 at least once a week; someday the Lord will reign in righteousness over this world.
We are not helpless in combating the wickedness we see; until Jesus comes for us, prayer remains a vital part of our arsenal in fighting back the demonic wickedness that has overrun cities across the world. One Satanist who came to Christ recently wrote about how the prayers of the saints limited him in his previous life.
I always expected that lawlessness and violence would reign supreme during the tribulation, but I did not expect to see such anarchy before it even began, while we remained earthbound.
The violence on the streets in the United States this year has led to the loosening of my grip on personal safety. Although no threat currently exists in the area where I live, I know that my future safely is no longer something I can take for granted. If I travel to another city, will I be safe? Is there a threat that Antifa protestors might stop my car and injure my wife or me? When I go out for walks, I sometimes recall the numerous videos I have seen on social media with innocent people attacked and killed by people belonging to the anarchist groups seeking to overthrow the government of the United States.
I am not fearful for my life nor of what lies ahead; it’s just that my awareness of the transitory nature of this life has grown substantially. I no longer take my personal safety for granted and am taking steps to increase the protection of my home and wife should threats arise where I live.
Despite once thinking I already had let go of the things of this life, I find myself continuing to loosen my grip on this world while tightening my grasp on the biblical promises of Jesus’ appearing, my home in heaven, my reign with Jesus during the millennium, and eternal joy on the New Earth and in the New Jerusalem.
I do not believe that enjoying our freedoms, sports, politics, or a trip to our favorite restaurant are sinful activities by themselves. Although many people idolize these things, especially sports, I believe one can enjoy a good football game without stepping outside the will of God.
For me, this year has reinforced the lesson of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, which teaches us to focus on “the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” If nothing else, the events of 2020 demonstrate the fleeting nature of the things in this world; they can vanish in a moment.
As we watch the seven-year tribulation come at us like an out-of-control diesel locomotive, we know the rapture must be ever so close, and it is. Even though I hate what is going on in my country and in the world, I recognize that not only does Scripture tell us these things would happen, but they enable us to loosen our grip on a world headed toward devastation and death amid the outpouring of God’s wrath.
It’s a worthwhile trade-off, is it not? We relax our grip on things that belong to our transitory world system and hold on tightly to the eternal joy ahead for us.
Someday soon we will enjoy the pleasures of a restored world during the millennium and the joys of eternity. Until then we groan at times waiting for our hope to become sight (Romans 8:22-25).
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