Groundhog Day just passed on February 2nd. Did you celebrate it? Probably not.
It’s a holiday recognised in North America and it is based on the silly superstition that, if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, winter will last for six more weeks. But if it does not, spring will arrive early.
I bring that up because there’s an old movie called Groundhog Day. It’s about a weatherman on location to see if the groundhog will emerge to see its shadow. For some strange reason, the main character gets stuck in a seemingly endless loop of the same day. Every time he goes to bed, he wakes up and the same day has started over: Groundhog Day.
For many who have seen this movie, they have compared the pandemic to “groundhog day.” Every day seems to be on a loop and many have even lost track of time. In fact, we are experiencing some significant “anniversaries” for Covid-19 in Hong Kong, and thinking about this past year, I’m sure many of us have grumbled about what we’ve lost.
When the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years, there were times they wanted for things to go back to the way things were:
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death. Exodus 16:2-3
Even though they were enslaved in Egypt, they would rather have gone back because they weren’t as hungry or weary as they were in the desert. They were so tired of enduring the journey that they just wanted to return to bondage.
I don’t think we have reached such a bleak outlook for the pandemic but many of us are weary. Still, I fully believe that God is calling us to something better when this is all said and done. I believe that when we look back on Covid-19 in 10 years, there will be a before and after. We will be able to see how we have changed. So don’t waste this “loop” that we’re on. Embrace it! Rejoice in it!
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4
The phrase “gives me pause” is a common English idiom people say when something causes them to need a moment to stop and consider something carefully. If you “give pause” you might either be hesitating and even reflecting about something important. For example, “I’d love to buy a house, but the fact that I’d have to go into debt for years gives me pause.” Or, there are many of us who would love to travel right now, but the risks that come along with it and the reality of being quarantined might give us pause.
This idiom is used in reference to the significance of outside factors that require us to think more fully on weighty, or perhaps even frustrating, matters. It emphasises that pausing is an important part of decision-making. Simply pausing can be really helpful when making major life choices or purchases. Pausing can also refresh our thinking process. Coca-Cola has successfully used this for decades with their famous slogan that says drinking a can of Coke is “the pause that refreshes”.
While taking time to pause is beneficial, many of us neglect this principle – and this is especially true in our spiritual lives. We neglect pausing and connecting with God in refreshing ways. Too often we believe our schedules are too frantic to push pause to get in touch with God. While studying the Bible, doing devotions, meditating on Scripture, and intentional times of prayer are all worthy disciplines in our Christian discipleship, these should never be replaced for simply pausing to connect with God. As Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
I have found it helpful to pause regularly at three specific times in the day. Once is in the morning while on my way to work, then another at around lunchtime, and finally in the evening. These occasions are not lengthy – they last only around five minutes. Yet, they help me clear my cluttered mind, simply connect with God and become open to anything He wants to share. It amazes me how refreshing these can be and what these precious minutes can give to me.
Here is a simple fact you should take some time to pause and consider: Our amazing God, who is often beyond our comprehension, loves us personally and has allowed us the gracious privilege of knowing His son Jesus Christ and having His Spirit’s presence. That simple fact gives me pause.
Love must be sincere. Romans 12:9
We have all experienced rejection and those experiences could have left us deeply wounded, even years after the experience. According the US Surgeon General’s 2001 report, it has been shown “Rejection is a greater risk for adolescent violence than drugs, poverty, and gang membership combined.” Rejection, and experiencing rejection, has a substantive impact on our lives, so we have to be careful and be aware of it.
With that, let us now go through three ways that we encounter rejection, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Rejection Encounter 1: Conscious Stonewalling
This happens when we feel that we have a legitimate request. We go to our boss, parent, spouse, or colleague with that request, but they reject us outright. We pray and search our hearts—was our request somehow unjustified? Yet, we know our conscience is clear before God and we are left to conclude: we have been rejected.
Rejection Encounter 2: Conscious Deception
In this situation, we want to share what’s going on in our lives, and we especially want the support of our loved ones. Yet, as we are talking to them, they are actively on the phone “handling urgent work issues” (or perhaps just reading social media!). When we try to get their attention, they simply reply, “Yup, I am listening.” When this happens, we can’t help but feel a tinge of rejection.
Rejection Encounter 3: Unconscious Intentional Rejection
Here, our supervisor claims that they love the team and values all members of the team; yet it seems they only often go out for lunch with the few who are closest to them. Our supervisor is trustworthy and we believe they are not intentionally doing this, but we can’t help but feel a little rejected.
What’s going on in these three encounters? In all of them, we see that there is a clear lack of one thing: attention. Indeed, rejection is inevitably communicated when people don’t give attention to one another. When attention is denied, it some sometimes feel like our legitimacy – or even our existence – is being denied. And of course, when this lasts for an extended period of time, something deep inside of us dies.
Is it so surprising then that rejection is so destructive? Let us then work to be even more aware since rejection is that much more dangerous because it can be done without intention or thought. We can reject those we love simply by being too busy or too distracted by other things.
Because of this, especially with so much going on in relation to the pandemic, allow me to challenge us to ask: Am I also guilty of rejecting others? What is the one thing I can do to give my attention to those I love?
What a year it has been! During these last days of the year 2020, if I were to ask you “Where are you in your joy index?” What would you say? And… what is "joy" to you?
As Christians we can enjoy the absence of fear and doubt — a joy that is always available because we trust in God’s love and faithfulness and the joyfulness being our natural state when we are relating well with our Maker!
John 10:10 says the enemy comes only to “kill”, “steal” and “destroy”, he is here to kill-joy, steal-joy and destroy-joy!
The enemy is here to cause doubt and fear, distance and disconnection so that he can rob us of the joy that is already given to us as God’s children.
It is helpful for me to remember that this God-given gift of “joy” already resides within me! I can access this joyful state of being when I intentionally choose to abide in The Lord.
Jesus says in John 16,
“In this world you will have trouble”. But you can take heart. You can still receive joy. You are not dependent on anyone or anything other than God and yourself to know, live in and live out joy.
The choices we make in life... The thoughts we choose to dwell on or cast away in the name of Jesus contribute to the joy we will experience in life.
As I reflect on most of the bible stories, almost all the men and women of God were in tricky, sticky, messy, troublesome situations (Abraham, Joseph, David, Esther, Hannah just to name a few), they chose God and encountered deep joy despite their situations!
We too can develop that inner joy; by nourishing our relationship with Christ, daily.
We celebrated Christmas just a few days ago! Jesus is “a joy to the world” that’s what He is famous for! Bringing true joy to us as He lives deep within us.
As 2020 comes to a close, let us continue to remind each other that true joy comes from knowing Jesus as our Saviour and ultimate leader. When the rubber meets the road, choose God; He always comes through, in His perfect timing. Amen.