When Good Gifts Are Wrapped in Ugly Paper: How We Can Be Bright Lights in Dark Circumstances
When Good Gifts Are Wrapped in Ugly Paper: How We Can Be Bright Lights in Dark Circumstances

By Jerry Harris

Sometimes our greatest gifts and opportunities come wrapped in ugly paper. With our hearts and lives in distress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be easy to cave in to our fears and get lost in this “lower” story.

Consider Joseph in the Old Testament. He had plenty of reasons to give in to selfish emotions, but he instead chose to see his circumstances from a “higher” story point of view. This was Joseph’s attitude:“Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:19, 20).

Not even a famine knocked Joseph from his noble purpose. God used Joseph as his instrument to save many lives during the famine, and God used the famine as the means of bringing Joseph’s family back together. These great gifts were wrapped in ugly wrapping paper. Is it possible God could do the same in our circumstances today?

Romans 8:14-28 reminds us all of our upper story when we’re tempted to wander in the wilderness of the lower story. That section of Scripture concludes with a declaration of truth that raises its voice over the storm of temporary circumstances, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (v. 28).

Might God use this moment to connect independent churches to one another and leverage the power of our unity? I was part of a Zoom meeting sponsored by The Solomon Foundation Tuesday with about 120 churches learning what it means to do their ministry online; the church leaders were trying to get a handle on the technology of online broadcast and online giving. Experts gave practical help and provided tools and support to keep churches operating and enable them to become beacons of light in a dark season.

The light shines brightest in the darkest times, and I’ve read about many expressions of that light coming from our churches. Our leaders are some of the most creative people on the planet and they’re figuring out how to make a difference. I’ve heard about everything from relief fund efforts to free drive-up toilet paper distribution!

Dr. Orpheus Hayward shared this encouragement during that Zoom meeting, “We must relinquish our attempts to control what we cannot control and trust God to control it.” Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God will reveal our opportunities; we just need to walk in them.

Let’s face it, this nation and our world were pretty broken before anyone ever heard of coronavirus. We were divided and angry, focused on the urgent instead of the important, and concentrating on our selfish desires instead of living by the greatest commandment. Deep sickness sometimes calls for strong medicine. I urge you to play your part to deliver that medicine of faith and love that comes from an intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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