Our recent trip to the Bahamas was a very different vacation for us. When we originally planned our trip to Freeport last March, we had no idea the obstacles we would face. When hurricane Dorian hit Freeport in full force six months ago, I had seriously considered canceling our reservation. Dorian was a devastating category five hurricane that just parked over the Grand Bahama Island for two days causing much death and destruction. At the resort where we had purchased a timeshare in 2015 nearly half of all their employees lost their homes or living arrangements. As I considered canceling our trip, I was reminded that the best thing that I could do for Freeport was to go there on vacation. Their only industry is tourism. One of the big parts of our decision to go was to support Freeport with our tourist dollars. So, when we decided to go it was with the knowledge that things weren’t going to be the same, because of what had happened in the fall of last year. And then of course the coronavirus came to town, which again put pressure on us to consider canceling our vacation.
It seemed to me that God had been in the whole process of our vacation planning and that had not changed by the fact that there was now great fear in our world regarding this virus. During our vacation I was able to swim in the beautiful pool right outside our room every day and worked out at the fitness center five days. I have no idea when I’ll be able to swim or workout at my gym again. I golfed twice while I was away, which I’m not sure when I’ll have the next chance to do that here. Deb and I immensely enjoyed eating out and supporting the local food economy. Once again, I have no idea when we’ll be able to do that here in Central Jersey. During the week I had a conversation with a lady from Freeport and asked her how the people in the Bahamas live when there under constant threat of hurricanes and other disasters. I think her response and the thoughts it provoked in my own mind are worth sharing with you in my blog.
The woman, who was named Judith, responded by stating, “When you have a proper fear in the living God you don’t need to fear anything else”. She pointed out that in the Bahamas many have a deep faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and that there are many churches that reflect that faith. This is the exact thing Jesus taught in Luke’s gospel when he stated: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:4 – 7 NIV). “Do not be afraid” or some variance of that is one of Jesus’s most common statements. Having faith in the Lord Jesus doesn’t mean that we won’t experience tragedies and disasters, but having a living faith in the God of the universe who has revealed Himself through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be a source of great comfort to us in times of great loss. Having a proper fear of God, because He is the one who controls all the disasters that befall our lives should be part of the foundation that we have in our faith journey. Our taxi driver who took us to the Rent-A-Car place after we arrived at the Freeport airport told us of a friend who lost 17 family members during Dorian. Many of them were never found. I don’t know how anyone could endure such loss, but I know that a person of faith has some great hope that God’s grace can minister and move even in the midst of this tragic loss of life. If they didn’t have faith in the love of God in that situation, what hope would they have?
Having a righteous fear of God is not just something that Jesus taught. One of the passages that I usually share at memorial services or funeral services that I minister at is Proverbs 1:7 which states: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”, (NIV). The fear of the Lord is something that has been very much lost in our culture and so we respond with hysteria over things that may threaten (even a little) our safety and security. We see this every time there’s a snowstorm forecast in our area and how everyone is running out to buy emergency supplies, even if it’s only going to be 1 or 2 inches of snow. I was amazed when I went shopping to see all the empty shelves of all the paper products that people are hoarding out of the fear they may run out of toilet paper. Continuing with this fear of the Lord being a good thing we read in Proverbs 3: 7-8, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones”, (NIV). This Proverb states the possibility that the fear of the Lord will bring health and nourishment to our bodies. When we begin with the fear of the Lord and we understand that He is working in our lives and we can trust Him guide and direct our steps. That doesn’t mean that we should be careless and disregard the current public health warnings, I myself am doing the self-quarantine for the next week or so having traveled internationally. But we should realize and know that it is God who watches over us and nothing will happen in our lives that will be a surprise to Him.
Our travels pretty much went without a hitch until we boarded our plane to come home on Saturday afternoon from Nassau. We were running ahead of schedule and they had announced that they were hoping for an early departure. As the pilot began to taxi our plane towards the runway he announced that there had been a hold placed on all air travel to the Northeast air corridor. He was expecting it to be at least an hour, but 20 minutes later he announced we were ready to go. It seems that one of the air traffic controllers got a case of the coronavirus and they shut down the whole Northeast air corridor. Wow, how’s that for an overreaction. I’m attaching a few pictures of our vacation in Freeport. I’m very thankful God led us to this beautiful place in this time of great upheaval. Please don’t be jealous, but as you look at most of these pictures see if you can figure out what’s missing from them.
Properly fearing the Lord and continuing to walk with Jesus,
Pastor Rich Sivo