I've discovered there are actually two Manhattans. One, the madness and mayhem on the street. Two, the breathtaking view from the top of a Manhattan skyscraper. One just stresses you out. The other "peaces" you out. The perspective from that observation deck is a whole other vibe!
In a way, there are two views of this coronavirus crisis. One, the compounding stress when you're in the thick of the breaking news and fearful possibilities. The other, the view from higher up. Where many people go up with stress and come back down with peace.
Peace is pretty hard to come by these days. But that's when it's good to take the "elevator" to a place above the fray and fear. The elevator's called prayer. The "higher up" is God's presence - which you enter when you pray.
During a little corona-worry time, this Bible verse transported me "upstairs." "The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace" (Psalm 29:11).
And God's not just occupying that throne from which the galaxies are governed. He's inviting us to come in to trade our burdens for His enabling grace. "Come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most" (Hebrews 4:16). Like now.
Some of the things we'll bring to Him are obvious. We'll pray about health and healing. Needs and fears. Money and people we love. But there are deeper things I find myself praying for, too. Decisive factors, not so much in my situation - but in me. They are the focus of four prayers I've found are keys to inner peace in the middle of a storm.
The first one surfaced four years ago in the brokenhearted days following my wife's sudden passing. I wrote my prayer in my journal...
"Lord, help me to not waste this grief."
You can fill in your own battle where I said grief. I had no choice about the loss. Just like this coronavirus blow. But I did have a choice as to how it affected me in the long run. I would either emerge with a harder heart or a softer heart. Closer to my family or farther from them. Closer to God or farther from Him. More about my hurts and needs or those of others.
God answered that prayer, growing a more compassionate, more caring, closer to God guy. Demonstrating again that "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God..." (Romans 8:28). So there's something bigger going on than the disturbing circumstances we see. He's weaving a tapestry. These are threads. I keep telling myself - "If you're going to get the pain, get the point!" - right now, in this crisis. Because I've seen some of the greatest gains in my heart and life come from my greatest loss.
I've also learned to pray... "Lord, help me to do just one day at a time."
When our kids were little, we used to make their meat manageable by cutting it into bite-size chunks. With a monster like this Covid19 thing, those "chunks" are called days. Which is how God meant for us to do life. That's why the Bible talks about daily bread, "strength equal to your day," being "renewed day by day," and God's mercies "new every morning." We sink when we let worry drag tomorrow's burdens into our today. We're wired by our Creator to do life as days - not what might happen tomorrow, next week, next year. That's His department. Doing life as days makes the daunting manageable.
"Lord, help me see who needs me today."
Another peace-yielding prayer. It gets your eyes off yourself and onto others. And right now we're surrounded by needy people. People who need a call, a text, a smile, a financial helping hand, a delivery, a prayer. If I dwell on my needs, my world shrinks and I reinforce the clouds of anxiety and discouragement. But if I force myself out of myself to bring sunshine to someone else, it ends up shining on me, too. "Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).
I think it's this last prayer that promises the most peace. For now - and for the rest of our life.
"Jesus, take the wheel."
That's a prayer most of us wouldn't even consider until we hit something that reveals how needy we really are. Suddenly I realize the wrong person's driving my life. Because, in the Bible's words, we were "created by Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16). But things got all messed up. Because I - and all my fellow humans - changed it to "created by Him, living for me." I told my Creator, "I'll drive, thank You." And that sin of spiritual hijacking put a wall between me and God. Separating me from the only One who has the love, the meaning, the heaven I need.
But God's love was bigger than my sin. Big enough for Jesus to die for my sin. So I would never have to live another day away from God. I came to the place where I knew I wasn't supposed to be driving me. Ever since I said, "Jesus, You take the wheel" - well, there's been this unshakeable peace in my soul. And this love I could never deserve, but I'll never lose.
This resurrected, death-crushing Jesus is driving me through the worries and the wreckage of these fearful times. It's bigger than I am. But He's bigger than it is. And I know, with Jesus driving, I'll make it safely Home.