A bit of personal testimony: Like many of you, back in September, 2021, our family got COVID. I recovered pretty quickly and went back to work after my time of quarantine. In fact, during COVID I was mostly concerned for my pregnant wife and unborn baby. But strangely for me, after I “recovered” from COVID, very difficult and new symptoms kept appearing. On two occasions, even a month after my sickness, I ended up in the ER for different symptoms. My health kept declining and my body was telling me I needed to stop. I had no choice, really. As my symptoms progressed I developed cardiovascular problems, extreme fatigue, pain, insomnia, and was barely mobile/functional.
The church where I serve as pastor (Trinity Reformed Church) was very gracious towards me in allowing me time off to get well and recover. During this time God did a lot of work on me. He improved my prayer habits and Bible reading. He caused me to cry out to Him daily. He showed me my need for His word. I had the lowest of low times where I felt it would be easy to slip away from this life, but also times of comfort and mercy where He showed me that even in my suffering He was a tender, loving Father.
Not able to do much, I read when I had strength, prayed, and wrote down my thoughts as Psalm-like prayers to God. When I look back over some of what I’ve written I am reminded of how low He had brought me.
Some of the things I felt most acutely was my absence from worship, from God’s people, from teaching the youth, and leading His people in worship. I longed to have all those blessings back again and learned to appreciate them more. But being in God’s training course, I was unsure if I would ever take part in these things again, in this life at least. God took me through the valley, showed me the grave, and being one who was fearful of death, He taught me to trust in Him more fully with my life.
One of the mercies of God during this time was that I could still hold a guitar or sometimes sit at the piano. So I made attempts at writing music again. I was able to finish a yet unreleased collaborative work with lyricist Brandon Chasteen on Psalm 35. But after that, in my darkest of times, I found myself relating more than ever to Psalm 42 and wanted to set it to music.
What resonated with me in Psalm 42 was the Psalmists longing for God (v2), his constant tears (v3), and his memory of the things that used to be (v4), particularly being with and leading God’s people in joy and thanksgiving.
And as you read Psalm 42 you get insight into the seemingly schizophrenic nature of the Psalmist at this dark time of his life. But it isn’t schizophrenic at all. It was just raw and real. It was expressing a reality. One moment he was comforted with words of hope and the next he was despairing again. Isn’t that so true of the Christian life?
Yet, though the Psalmist was conflicted, hope is the prevailing thought. As the refrain of the Psalm goes, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” And these words were a comfort for me. The things I was longing for would again be true, either on earth or in heaven. “I will praise Him again. Though I am far off now, isolated, and away from God’s people, I shall once again join the throng and praise Him.” So that became my prayer, that God would give me strength to do those things again.
Several months later God was answering those prayers and what a joy it has been to worship with God’s people and eventually to be leading in worship again. It hasn’t been easy, but it has most definitely been a tremendous answer to prayer and a gift from God. And I know many of you have prayed for me as well. I’m so grateful for the prayers and encouragement of God’s people!
About 8 months into this sickness now, I am not fully recovered or doing many of the things I was able to do before getting sick, but I am slowly regaining strength. And to add to our joy we have been given a wonderful gift in our newborn son, Gideon, who is now a month and a half old and doing well. God has been so kind and merciful.
Be encouraged brothers and sisters. At times things are pretty grim, but we have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”