Shalom Like a River

As I watched the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee’s Covid-19 press conference a couple of weeks ago, I was deeply sobered by the reality that is currently transpiring. He eloquently articulated the details of the mental and emotional health crisis that looms largely in our horizon. The governor said that one one day this month, there were nine deaths by suicide, in Knox County alone.  Because of a fear of sickness, economic uncertainty, relational challenges and overwhelming grief, we will continue to see these types of tragedies. To think about such a thought is suffocating. As I reflected on the Tennessee Governor’s words, I thought about the widespread sadness that is being experienced because of the coronavirus global pandemic. All humanity is being ravaged by a common threat that is no respecter of persons. It does not give preference to race, age, religion, educational degrees, socioeconomic levels, etc. This virus Tsunami is vast and wide. It doesn’t yield to national borders, nor is it confined only to highly populated regions.  In a matter of weeks, our world has abruptly screeched to a halt, leaving a wake of carnage behind.  

As you know, Jerry & Tracey Lowery, among others, recently traveled to the Holy Land.  There, they were impacted by the modern and ancient usage of the Hebrew word, shalom. During the same week that I watched the governor’s press conference, I watched Jerry’s vlog on “shalom.” In the video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBaV1Wa7hAQ&feature=youtu.be ), he reminded his audience of the beauty encapsulated in the word, shalom.  In ancient Hebrew, shalom means wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity, carrying with it the implication of permanence. Ancient Jewish culture understood what this concept of shalom meant, as have Christians throughout the ages. It means peace with God, fellow man, and self. Ultimately, righteousness brings peace and sin brings strife and unrest. Shalom can be translated to the word, peace, but the fullness of shalom is only partially realized when doing so.   

 Not having shalom means that people without it are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Not only do we need the “shalom that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) for ourselves, as Christ followers, but our world needs the church to be the light of Shalom, in these days of COVID 19 horror.  We need the shalom of Christ when “all around our souls give way,” because in this season, people are losing their jobs, retirement, fortunes, and family members to this awful disease. 

I am 4 weeks removed from a chemotherapy infusion treatment called Lemtrada, which is used as a treatment for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, a chronic disorder that I happen to have. Due to this therapy, I have no immunity. My doctor has ordered me and my family to be restricted to what I call, “bubble quarantine.”  Bubble is an added, made-up descriptor (that I borrowed from the 70’s Cher movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble) that denotes complete separation from the outside world. It’s a bit like the Hotel California for my wife, four boys, our black labradoodle, Reggie and myself. We checked in four weeks ago and can never leave, or at least not for 8 weeks. My parents bring supplies and food to place on our front porch daily. When they leave, Elicia goes out and wipes everything down before bringing it inside.  This is an incredibly strange way to live as we were created for close community with others and to express our love for family and loved ones with physical affection.  

Social distancing has changed the normal means of caring for others drastically!  Perhaps the most devastating instances are those of individuals quarantined to a death bed alone.  While a necessary social distancing requirement, it strips the normal means of caring for and grieving with others in end of life situations. Furthermore, funerals are beneficial for both grieving the loss of a loved one and for receiving comfort for others. Now, in the days of coronavirus, there are no funerals, only harsh, abrupt endings.  This pandemic has provided great opportunity for dark clouds of the soul to overwhelm us. Without shalom, in times like this, people will lean on other means of being comforted. They will look to sources like substance abuse, addiction, and soul-crushing, sinful relationships to numb the grief they bear. We need shalom. Our world needs shalom, right now. The only true shalom comes from repentance and faith in the Prince of Shalom. He alone lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death, and rose again.  If you do not have shalom, call out to the One who can give it freely. If you are without hope, please reach out to me or someone you know that has a relationship with Jesus. The same Savior who called out to the raging storm at the Sea of Galilee by saying, “shalom, be still” and made it submit, is the same One who can calm our restless hearts. Jesus is the One in whom even the wind and the waves obey. He’s the same One who can heal any disease by tossing it into the abyss, and He’s the same One who will one day return to make all things right. Jesus will set up His eternal kingdom, where peace will reign forever and His enemies will be crushed under foot. So in the time between times, may we look expectantly to the hope of eternal peace.  When we truly know the shalom of Christ, we will be able to say in a triumphant voice, “when peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say: it is well, it is well with my soul.”

Let’s seek and savor Christ, FBC family! He will never fail us. I love you, and it is a joy to be one of your pastors!

In Christ,

Pastor Brad

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