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Sage Advice from a 40-Year Quarantine Survivor

By Dennis Rainey

Okay, I have a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for you … are you ready?

What if I could set you up to read the reflections of a leader who had been quarantined in a place equivalent of Death Valley for not 40 days, not 40 weeks or months, but for 40 years?

What if you knew that this seasoned leader was chosen by God to lead a nation out of captivity? Described by Almighty God as “a man of God?” And then quarantined by God to live in the desert and ultimately perish there?

Would you give him 5-10 minutes for his big reveal ... the essence of what he learned? What would he say to us in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic that could help us not only weather the storm but lean into the storm and press forward with a vision for the future?

And what if I told you that this leader wrote only one Psalm in the Bible … would you like to read it?

You can.

It’s found in your Old Testament: Psalm 90. And it was written by Moses.

Stop right now and read the entire Psalm and look carefully at what he said. It’s a mere 17 verses. Go ahead and read it before I unpack a portion of what he said. And after you finish, please re-read verses 10-17:

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish of the work of our hands!

I’ve now been reading and re-reading Psalm 90:10-17 for a solid month. In the midst of all the questions, fears and unknowns about the future, I need to absorb these words today and apply them to my life as never before.

Questions like:

  • Will there be another surge of Covid-19?

  • Will my wife, Barbara, my family, and I get sick?

  • Could I die from this stuff?

  • What about the financial impact on our six married children and their families? And on us?

  • Are we headed for a depression?

  • As a father of adult children, what’s my responsibility to lead, love, and care for them?

  • In light of the coming new normal, what does God want me to do with the remaining years of my life?

Moses faced fears. Doubts and disappointments. The same food, manna, day after day for 40 years. Disasters. Conflicts. Uncertainty. As a result he wrote Psalm 90, which passes on some key lessons that he learned when life is hard. Let’s take a look at three of those lessons :

1. Get God's wisdom!

Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may present a heart of wisdom to Thee.”

So how many days do you have left? Actuaries tell us if you are 30, then, on average, your life expectancy is 78 years old. How many days do you have left? Do the math and forget leap years! Over 17,500 days! It sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Scripture warns that years are like a roll of toilet paper … the closer you get to the end, the faster it gets, and we fly away!

Jump ahead to the true mid-lifers, 50-year-olds. Your days are down to 3,333.

If you are 72? You may have a little more than a decade left, (13 years according to statisticians).

So why do we need to reflect on the brevity of our lives? The answer from Moses answer is: So that you don’t waste the life you have left, get “wisdom.”

What is wisdom? It’s godly skill in everyday living. It’s not just punching the clock, and coasting to the finish line. It’s being purposeful about living life the way God designed it to be lived. It’s taking the raw, turbulent elements of life that come your way and applying what God says in the Bible about how to live. Although Moses didn’t have a Bible as we know it, he knew that wisdom came from God’s Words.

Back in May of 2017, a friend at Crossway Publishers sent me their newly published “Devotional Psalter.” I enjoyed it so much that I gave Barbara a copy for Christmas. For a number of reasons, the past five years have been some of the most challenging in our lives. We’ve found comfort, reminders, and direction as we have both been through our Psalters four times each.

I’m going to copy a page from Psalm 90:10-16 here and let you get a peek at some of my notes. Notice that I have three words in the margin of verse 12, “Stewardship of Life.” God wants us to be wise stewards of the lives that He has given us.

Wisdom gives us the courage to trust God and how to live in turbulent times.

2. Remember God's love.

I am amazed at how quickly I forget the truth about God, especially during those seasons when tough times seem relentless. The Psalms remind me of the truth about God.

  • When circumstances threaten to crush me, I’m reminded that God has not abandoned me … He’s here and He loves me.

  • When prayers seemingly go unanswered, I’m reminded that God hears me … He loves me.

  • When things seem hopeless and there’s no way out, I’m reminded that God understands my weak faith … He loves me.

  • When I’m afraid and fear is gripping my heart, He is my Good Shepherd Who comforts me … He loves me.

Yesterday, Barbara and I were talking again at how our expectations of God and life are unreal. Practically speaking, we do not expect to suffer. Suffering seems abnormal, like an obstacle in our pursuit of happiness, when in fact, suffering re-directs our paths to the One who is the Giver of true life.

Amy Carmichael reminds us of the truth about suffering in her poem, “No wound? No scar?":

Yet as the Master is,

so shall the servant be …

can he have followed far,

who has no wound, no scar?”

So what about you? As you continue your journey, are you embracing the truth about God? Are you seeking the One who can turn your wound into a “holy scar?” Maybe it’s time for a spiritual wheel alignment, to think rightly about who God is by reading two or three Psalms a day for one month.

3. Be on God's mission.

Like you, my heart goes out to those who have lost a family member, friends, or co-workers due to Covid-19. Then there are millions who have lost their jobs, their businesses, and their ability to support their families. They are out of work. And as a result they’ve lost their vision for their future and hope.

Moses speaks to all of us as he closes his Psalm with a prayer that seems fitting as America faces the current financial crisis and whatever looms in the future:

Let your work be shown to your servants and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

My takeaway from his conclusion is three-fold:

If you are out of work, you and your family need to beseech God to “let your work be shown to your servants …” There is no shame in praying that prayer and asking God to help. He may not answer your prayer immediately, but He will ultimately answer.

We also need to pray that our children will see God’s glorious power in the midst of this pandemic and financial crisis. Don’t miss what God may be up to in your children’s lives. This is a once-in-a-lifetime teaching moment. Teach your kids that God He is good, He is worthy of our trust, and He allows things to happen to us for His purposes and our good (Romans 8:28).

How are you using your dinner table to talk about the lessons God is teaching you in trusting Him in fresh ways? You may want to confess some of your failures to trust God in the midst of the unexpected. These are great opportunities to equip your children in how broken people exercise faith and trust in the God Who loves them.

And finally, Moses concludes Psalm 90 and his prayer by asking God for His favor. He asks God twice to establish the work of his hands. This passage teaches us the importance of our lives being focused upwards in prayer (toward God) and outward through our work (to help others).

So, what is God’s work for you in these days? What are His unique assignments for you? For your marriage? (If you are married). And, importantly, for your family? There are a plethora of needs that surround us … what’s your part? Remember Moses’ counsel:

When life is hard …

Get God’s wisdom.

Remember God’s love.

Be on God’s mission.

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