For the entire month of August, my family has been dealing with COVID.

First, my son and daughter-in-law got it.

Then my daughter, who lives at home with us.

Then my wife.

Then me.

And, finally, my other son, who also lives at home.

Praise God all are well and mended. We threw the kitchen sink at it, getting into the doctor, taking medicines, taking vitamins, getting the rest needed. Everyone in the family had some rough days but came through – except me.

The virus got into my lungs. COVID pneumonia. It hit me hard.

God brought me down, so I can be reminded to look up.

I have wondered why I got so sick: I take care of my body and eat well, I’m am a fit and strong guy, and I do my practices of prayer and bible study.

There really is no explanation. But I will tell you what I have concluded.

I was running too hard. 2021 has been a brutal year for me. It has been challenging, personally. It has been hard leading the Mount Carmel Christian Church. But I believed I was doing ok. I kept pushing by my own strength. I was relying on my own resources. I was rushing through those self-care habits that should not be rushed. Get them done and move on to work! The body keeps the score. I believe COVID got me because I was running on empty.

God brought me down, so I can look up.

C.S.Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Let me share with you some things that I believe God wants us to hear.

Let go of our idols. The apostle John ended his letter with these precise words: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21 (NIV). We have made safety, comfort, and being “productive” idols. We sacrifice truth to live by lies so that we can have want we want, when we want, in the manner we want it, with no pain, inconvenience, or effort. COVID has shown me that Jesus is both our forgiver and leader. Accepting Jesus as our forgiver is easy. Living with Jesus as our leader is difficult. But to have the life that comes from following Jesus, we must keep ourselves from idols by committing to follow Jesus as Lord.

God brought me down so that I can look up.

When I look up, this is what I have seen: I have seen what God intended marriage to be all about. My wife has been a testimony of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Marriage is God’s gift for a man and a woman to come together, committed to living life in the same direction. As Jesus followers, that direction is determined by a shared commitment to Jesus as our leader. Shannon has been at my side throughout this ordeal. There is a 21 Pilots song called “My Blood” that has this line: “If you find yourself in a lion’s den, I’ll jump right in and pull my pin, and go with you.” That is my Shannon.

“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18 (NIV). This scripture has come alive for me in ways I would never have imagined.

God brought me down so that I can live looking up.

Looking up, I have seen the church be the church as Jesus intended. My first community of faith has been my family. My immediate family has prayed, cried, and loved me throughout.

My second community of faith has been my church. The elders and staff of Mount Carmel are incredible. They have been constant sources of support and love. The people of our church have been fantastic. Thank you, thank you for the notes of love and encouragement. Thank you for the meals dropped off. Thank you for the gifts. Thank you for the constant prayer. I can tell you that I felt carried by your love during those dark hours.

God is moving in Mount Carmel.

We are living out the biblical mandates to love God and to love our neighbors.

Jesus followers are making Jesus followers who are making Jesus followers.

The good news is spreading – yes, I am going to say it – like a virus! Person to person in the small, person to person in the strong of God’s Word, person to person in the slow pace that relationships must go. I am so grateful for my church.

God brought me down so that I can look up.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10 NIV