KEEPING THE FAITH | How to face the uncertainty of our days




By: Rev. Lewis Macklin

As an occasional substitute home school instructor for my grandchildren, I admit tutoring them in “new math” is not my strong suit.

I’d rather demonstrate how to diagram a sentence, discuss world history or explain the differences between a base and acid – anything but “new math.”

If given a choice, I might seriously consider the option of going bear hunting with a switch rather than tackle some of these computations.

It is frustrating for both of us as I want to present it the way I was taught! Meanwhile, the resident scholar is correcting the master teacher lamenting, “No Poppy that’s not how it’s done!” In my mind, I am thinking, “Since you know how to do it then you don’t need my help.”

Like a step in a math equation, I had to “regroup.” If all else fails, revert to my makeshift teacher’s guide which says, “Go ask Nana!”

It is my nature to observe a life application in everything. While the math class was in session, my 6-year-old grandson did not disappoint me. I discovered that he quickly mastered the concepts of percentages, ratios and fractions based on the battery life of his tablet. He applied knowledge as he feverishly scrambled to find his charging cord because 24 percent was too low!

Interestingly, we maintain multiple electronic devices with charging systems close at hand. We want to ensure they are fully powered whenever needed. We reboot and even periodically shut down those devices to reset the internal systems. Sadly, we understand and recognize the need for these devices to recharge while often neglecting or deferring our own personal needs.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, many of us were literally draining ourselves mentally and physically. We gave more deliberate thought of the battery life of our mobile device than ensuring we were connected to a power source to recharge and refresh ourselves.

Although we are human beings, we have become a culture of humans doing! We have mastered working at our play and then playing at our work. However, in mid-March, our fast-paced life came to a screeching halt. The devastating effects of the insidious coronavirus undeniably have caused communities to constantly evaluate and adjust because of its opportunistic nature. Daily routines abruptly modified, anticipated events canceled, wardrobes became simplified and living spaces were converted to shared school and home offices.

In the initial installment of “Keeping the Faith,” I shared the desire to use this platform to be transparent. With openness and transparency, there inherently comes a degree of vulnerability. As a self-proclaimed introvert who needs a sense of control at all times, I have been cautiously testing the waters the last several weeks. It was once stated that “Fear does not stop death, it stops life.” Don’t let your emotions paralyze you. I will proceed with caution and exercise due diligence while resolving that I will not be defined or limited by a pandemic. Personally, I am exhausted by the phrase, “the new normal!”

As we emerge from the imposed stay-at-home directives, I have been careful not to quarantine my feelings and emotions. Knowing individuals who were afflicted and even succumbed to this virus continues to rest on my mind and heart.

They are more than the statistics reported daily through press briefings. I have been weighed by the mental images of people whom I love suffering in isolation or limited contact. It remains a blessing to acknowledge these kind, loving and gentle souls as family and friends.

I continue to turn to God for hope and encouragement. I find strength in His Word which attacks the lies presented to discourage my mind while proclaiming the Truth of His love which emboldens my heart.

The uncertainty of the days can produce frequent episodes of anxiety, overthinking, anger, worry, and sadness. These emotions, which can be overwhelming, are not unnatural or unusual. Having feelings and emotions doesn’t make you fragile. It is really OK to admit when you really are not OK! Having emotions and feelings is what makes you human.

I find activities such as meditation and reflection, walking, reading God’s Word, prayer, and listening to music such as gospel and jazz puts me in a better space. My all-time favorite stress buster to reduce pressure is simply to observe fish schooling in a large aquarium. This aquatic relief valve is a wonderful distraction.

What have you done for your own spiritual and emotional well-being during this season of transition? Everyone is different. What works for me may be ineffective for you.

I want to challenge you to not be held hostage by your qualms and fears which only rob you from fully appreciating the gift of another day. Randy Armstrong, a contemporary Christian musician, once shared “Worry does not take away tomorrow’s trouble, it takes away today’s peace!”

Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and now the passages speak to me with enhanced appreciation. Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic saga His appeal is clear, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. ” (Matthew 6: 25-27)

I have concluded His message in Matthew 6:34 with the directive “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ”

Ohio native Helen Steiner Rice found peace in her storms as an inspirational writer. She suffered the loss of her father who was a victim of the 1918 Influenza pandemic. She married a banker who lost his livelihood and ultimately his will to live during the Great Depression.

From these personal pains, she found comfort and ultimate success writing poems for American Greetings Co. She credited her trust in God at the most fragile times in her life for the ability to express deep emotions.

Like Armstrong and Jesus ’Sermon on the Mount, Helen shares a similar message in the first stanza of one of her classic works that redirect our anxiety:

Don’t borrow sorrow from tomorrow
For to meet tomorrow’s troubles
Before they are even ours
Is to anticipate the Savior
And to doubt His all-wise powers

Don’t become part of the disgruntled chorus lamenting what else will happen in 2020. Stop waiting for the next shoe to drop. Make the best use of every day! Imagine how much time has been lost worrying and fretting over things we cannot control. God never promised life without struggle. However, He does promise those who trust Him will never struggle alone. He will be with us.

So resolve, despite what the circumstances look like, to embrace this day with a sense of hope, seek to fulfill your purpose and appreciate the unmerited favor of God while pressing forward to keep the faith

– Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II is the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department and serves as the coordinator of the Mahoning Valley African American Male Wellness Initiative. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of 5 children and 6 grandchildren.