Giving Thanks at COVID House

Feeling my husband’s warm, feverish back at midnight quickly translated into my own chills and anxiety. Was this the virus? A physical response swept over me, reminding me of a panic I experienced last summer with an episode of vertigo. Yet hours earlier, I’d looked up the verse telling Joshua to be “strong and courageous,” (Joshua 1:9) and I prayed in bed that God would fill me with faith instead of fear.

That was weeks ago, when my natural response to our immediate circumstance was concern and fear; when I wanted and asked God to do something supernatural in giving me faith. The hard situation was real: my husband, Scott, did test positive for COVID-19, and our family spent several weeks in quarantine at home. But God’s grace was also real, and for that I give testimony and thanks.

Grace to Fit Our Need

For as many months as the virus has posed a threat, our family has wondered what its impacts on us might be. With several in our home having underlying medical conditions, it seemed wise and loving to protect our loved ones the best way we knew how, including limiting social interactions significantly. Since March, God graciously answered our prayers and kept the virus out of our periphery; nevertheless, now that it was in our home, we needed a new form of grace to fit our need.

I’ve heard it said many times that God gives grace when we need it. As L. B. Cowman quotes J.R.M.,

“God does not open paths for us before we come to them, or provide help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are at our point of need, God’s hand is outstretched.”[1]

Streams in the Desert

At our point of need, God’s outstretched hand supplied abundantly.

God Prepared Me

Several days after Scott tested positive, I looked back in my journal and read what I had written two days before that feverish night. My daily Scripture reading had led me to John 11, and I copied out verse 6 with these notes:

“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (emphasis mine)

The reader expects John to say, “Jesus loved them, so he went to them immediately,” but it doesn’t. Love waited. It delayed.

In this situation, Jesus loved, therefore he waited. And this speaks to the many times we pray and God doesn’t answer the way we expect or want, on the timetable we hope. We sometimes draw the false conclusion that true love acts quickly, or the reverse, when God doesn’t act quickly, it means he doesn’t love us. Both are faulty ways of thinking and according to this text, unbiblical. What is clear in these verses is that Jesus loved this family, so the proper conclusion is that in love, he did what was most loving, in this case, delaying. We can draw a parallel conclusion that God, who repeatedly declares and demonstrates his love through Christ for his children, acts in our circumstances in the way that is most loving, even when it doesn’t make sense or seem to agree with our definition, understanding, or interpretation of love.

Also note God’s patience in this text. Again, he shows that he is not like us—he is patient, wanting all to come to repentance, using a variety of means to call us (2 Peter 3:9).

When I wrote those words, I had no idea what trial was on the horizon, but God graciously used his Word to prepare my heart for what we were about to face. He reassured me of his love not only for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, but for my family. I could trust his love for us even in “COVID House.”

God Reassured Me

Panic coursed throughout my body, my hands shaking and my pulse racing, that first night as I prayed. But God. (How I love that phrase!) A Scripture song based on Psalm 46, one we used to sing with our children, came to mind:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling!”

Psalm 46:1-3

As the song repeated itself a second time, and a third, even a fourth, its words penetrated. God is our refuge. God is our strength. He is present with us, right now, in our trouble, and we do not have to fear…no matter what.

Peace settled over me, relaxing my racing mind and pulse, and I remembered something else. Earlier that evening I’d been reading a commentary on Genesis in preparation to write some Advent devotionals for my church, and the phrase “God remembered Noah” from Genesis 8:1 stood out. After waiting through 150 days of rain, cooped up in the safety of the ark, the text says that God remembered Noah: “He made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided…the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded” (Genesis 8:1-3). We shouldn’t be surprised by this because it’s consistent with God’s faithful character. What is surprising is that Noah also remembered God, sacrificing offerings to him on the altar after exiting the ark. This is remarkable because it’s in our nature, as humans, to forget.[2]

Lying in bed, this seemed a timely word. While our “storm” of illness was much different from Noah’s experience of salvation from global judgment in the flood, nevertheless, God would remember us as he did Noah and so many others who faced trials throughout the Bible. He does not forget his own children. And should the worst—death—come to our home, our hope was and is in Jesus, a better Savior than the ark, and the one whom it foreshadowed.[3] So the question wasn’t would God remember us, but would we remember him?

God Encouraged Me

Scott got tested the next morning, and the positive results appeared in his email inbox from the laboratory two days later. Two specific encouragements from God’s Word ministered to my heart the day we learned of his COVID-19 diagnosis. I’ll copy them directly from my journal.

Here is the first:

“ʻNow is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name’” (John 12:27).

Scott received his positive COVID-19 test minutes ago, and before the rush of plans and contacting people, I needed a few minutes to read and pray. As I read Jesus’ words, may my heart be aligned with his! Some thoughts:

-I’m so glad God didn’t save him “from this hour”—it won my salvation!

-He took his concern to his Father.

-He remembered his purpose, obedience and glory to his Father.

Lord, we don’t know what “this hour holds for us,” but You do, and we trust ourselves to You in it. We commit ourselves to Your mercy. Please keep away fear and anxiety, fill our hearts with faith and wisdom, and accomplish Your purposes in the days ahead. Glorify Your name! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And the second, written the next day in reflection:

Yesterday afternoon, while I rested, the Lord encouraged me from Corinthians: “And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, and when you are tempted, he will provide a way out.”[4] I prayed and asked, “Lord, what’s the ‘way out’ this time?” And the thought that immediately came to mind was, “Others praying for you.” It touched on so many realities:

-Despite my tendency to self-sufficiency and independence, God reminded me that I am part of a body, a church.

-Inviting others to pray invites them to be part of the testimony.

-Not only is asking for help, whether prayer or practical, humbling, but it is an encouraging reminder that we aren’t meant to fight our battles alone but with “one another.”

Embracing God’s Sovereignty

On the day after Scott’s diagnosis, I received a text from one of his colleagues saying, “I honestly can’t believe that of all of the guys on staff, Scott ended up with COVID.” It’s true. My husband wore a mask with diligence; he was conscientious to wash his hands and follow protocols at work as best he could. And, in future days, we would learn that the rest of the church staff tested negative. As one who believes in the sovereignty of God, this begged the question, did God ordain COVID-19 for our family right now? Can we say that he chose this suffering for us, for our joy and his glory?

While we naturally rebel against the thought that a loving God would ordain any form of suffering or pain for his children, we also depend on the same doctrine of his sovereignty to establish its boundaries in our lives. If we agree that God is sovereign, then he both ordains our pain and sets limits it cannot cross in our bodies. God is the One who says yes and no—the virus may go in my nose and not my lungs, in my ears but not my heart. If we believe this, then we can also believe that God is able to work the good he so graciously promises us as his children, the good of using even this virus (or other trials) to make us more like Jesus and open our hearts to a deeper relationship with him—one in which he is glorified in and through us.[5]

We Remember and Give Thanks

Today our family gives thanks to God for showing us grace in COVID House. Scott has fully recovered, and all other family members with symptoms are doing well. But while we are grateful for the gift of health, we give thanks for so much more. I’ve asked myself several times during the past month, would I embrace God’s grace if the outcomes were different, if his love expressed itself in a set of circumstances that didn’t match my definition of loving? And I’ve been keenly aware that others have experienced different outcomes related to this virus, and for them, grief mingles with gratitude. I can’t answer “what if,” but I remember that God gives his children grace for whatever he calls them to, and I both testify and give thanks that he gave us grace at our recent point of need.

We also give thanks to each person who prayed for us, brought us a meal, sent a text or email asking how we were doing, and showed care in other meaningful ways. There were many times when we felt like Moses who needed the help of Aaron and Hur to hold his arms up during battle:

“Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (Exodus 17:11-12).

When the weariness was real, our family and friends held us steady in body and soul, and we are grateful.

Yes, this Thanksgiving looks much different from any our family has ever experienced. But it is also one of our most meaningful. God remembered us. And as we give thanks, we remember him.

*Note: During our family’s quarantine period, The Gospel Coalition published two articles that I wrote. Isn’t it interesting that both, although written months earlier, related to suffering and trials? You can read them by following these links:

Motherhood Is a Call to Suffer (in Hope)

8 Ways Trials Help Us

[1] L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, January 6 (Zondervan, 1997), p. 20.

[2] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis Volume 1: Creation and Fall, Genesis 1-11 (Baker Books, 2002), pp. 372-373.

[3] Matthew 24:37-44 and 1 Peter 3:18-22

[4] 1 Corinthians 10:13

[5] Romans 8:28-29