Last year our trip to Michigan was unlike any vacation we’ve ever experienced. We stay at a house that has been gifted to us at Timberlake in Mancelona, Michigan. The house is located on a 20-acre private lake that is completely off the grid. Where we stay, we have no cell phone service, no Internet access, and no TV. For a pastor who is on call 24/7, it is a wonderful place to go for quietness and reflection and committed family time. It’s the only place that I go where I can actually sleep past 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning. But on Monday morning August 9, my son Matt, who was there with his son Ethan and my other grandson Tyler, received two texts asking him to call Tyler’s aunt or his dad’s girlfriend. Those were the only texts we received while we were at Timberlake. What Matt found out when he drove to Mancelona to call these two ladies is that Tyler’s dad Bill had been killed by a hit-and-run driver the night before. This was very tragic news and as it was shared with Tyler, it was a very good thing that we could all be there to support him as his heart was breaking.
Later that evening we had a huge electrical storm that knocked out our power until Friday morning. Mind you, we already are without any Internet access or cell phones, so now we didn’t have any electricity in the house, which meant no lights, showers, or laundry, all things that are very significant when you’re on vacation. Talk about a rustic vacation, but Scripture tells us, “gives thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thes.5:18 NIV). Paul also writes to the Philippians and tells them, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God,”(Phil.4:4,6 NIV). How does Paul’s instruction apply when we are going through the most difficult circumstances that we could possibly experience? There were definitely some things that I found to give thanks to God for in the midst of our trials last summer.
First, I was very thankful that the Lord allowed Matt to receive the text that instructed him to get in touch with Bill’s family. It was also far better for us to be there with Tyler than for Tyler to have been here with us in New Jersey (as he was just the week before) when his dad died or for us to have been here in New Jersey and Tyler to have been in Michigan. Being there in Michigan we were able to readjust our return trip so that we could all go together to be at Bill’s (Tyler’s dad) funeral. Dealing with tragedy is never easy, but I thank God that we were there to help Tyler and my daughter Lisa in their time of great need.
Being without power was another challenge that resulted in us drawing much closer to our friends (former church missionaries) Dave and Ev Southwell, who live a mile or two from where we were staying and had not lost their electricity. They became a source of showers and laundry, which was truly a great blessing to us. We very much enjoyed our time visiting and sharing with them and our relationship was enhanced by our need that they cared for. We enjoyed sweet fellowship in our time together.
I’m sharing all this story as I’m reflecting on my experience of having had Covid over the last week. Once again there are many things that I am thankful for even in the midst of my illness. First, I’m thankful that my administrative assistant Tracy, who had Covid just a couple of weeks before me, was able to guide me through the whole process, including providing the initial Covid tests for Deb and I. I’m thankful that my wife Debbie did not contract the sickness from me, as she has had three negative tests over the last week. I’m also very grateful for God’s protection of my mom who would have been with us for Mother’s Day and who I was with on Monday of the previous week. I am thankful that my case hasn’t been very serious, and I have been able to continue to minister and serve the church family through various zoom meetings and telephone calls, following up with other people who were going through difficult times. Finally, I’m especially thankful that I had Covid on Mother’s Day weekend and not on the weekend of our 90th-anniversary celebration on June 5.
I think if we are to apply Paul’s challenge from Scripture to our situation when we go through difficulties, it is very important for us to remember that God is at work and in every challenge God provides opportunities for us to know Him and to declare His goodness even in the midst of our brokenness. In the Philippian passage that we looked at earlier, Paul tells us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always”. He doesn’t tell us to rejoice in the bad things that may happen in our lives, but rather to rejoice in the Lord who is always with us. Life is filled with difficulties and challenges, but when we know the Lord Jesus Christ and that He is there to sustain us and direct us we can always find things to be thankful for even in the face of difficult challenges. What are you rejoicing in the Lord for today? Know that the Lord Jesus wants to move and work in your life and in any circumstances that you may be encountering.
In the King’s Service,
Pastor Rich Sivo