By Elizabeth Prata
Yesterday I wrote on my various social media platforms,
The Savior who conquered the grave can handle your budget. The God who sustains the universe every moment by a single word can help your anxiety. Focus on how powerful and perfect Jesus is, not how minuscule your budget is or how empty the streets are. Lift your eyes to see a heavenly scene of Jesus interceding for us, providing for us, rejoicing over us with singing, preparing a place for us. The future is bright.
And a little while later I wrote,
“Then sings my soul, my savior God to me, How great Thou art…”
Does your soul sing? Don’t let the weeds of fear claim your joy. Don’t let current circumstances shift your focus. God IS great! He IS Savior, with all that means. He is good to us, He is Father who watches for His children. He will never change and His hand holds us securely. Let your soul sing with joy for our salvation. We among all the world’s people have the most security, the most opportunity, the brightest future, the deepest satisfactions. Let your soul sing with these truths!
I don’t come by those feelings easily. In fact, optimism doesn’t come naturally to me. Let me share how I got there.
We had a Zoom staff meeting in which the Governor’s recent warnings were reiterated: Georgia will suffer a 14 million dollar education cut this coming year. Gov. Kemp said that the cuts will most likely come from payroll, so that means staffing cuts and furlough days. Furloughs are mandatory time off from work with no pay. The most we’d been cut in recent memory was over a decade ago in the crash of ’08. The cut then was 10%. This percentage was a lot more than anyone expected. Fourteen percent education budget cut will decimate many Georgia schools’ programs and sadly, probably progress. About $361 million needs to be cut by June 30.
I work in a rural school in a rural county. Families here don’t have a lot of advantages. A decade ago in the crash, we had furlough days and that sent my salary backward. It’s taken until about now to recover. Educationally, the progress the staff has made reaching students has been remarkable. With the help of grants and volunteers, hard work and dedication, and over time, we have climbed the mountain.
On March 12, the day before the National Emergency was declared and everything stopped, we were at the peak of success, wringing out every last bit of what we had been given budgetwise, all to the students’ benefit. Students across the board making gains, according to state testing, statistics, our professional estimation, and our hearts. We are a happy, collaborative, effective school. With the Governor’s news, it felt not only like we were tumbling down the mountain, but that the mountain was blown up and we were starting from a smoldering crater. It was really defeating.
With the Governor’s news I was first fearful for my job. I have 9.778 years in and only a tiny bit more to get vested at 10. That was my first, selfish, thought. Then I worried about furlough days. I worried about teachers near retirement. I was sad that already prettypared budget had to to be slashed even further. I thought about getting a second job, hard to consider of when you’re 60. I made some decisions about what amenities I enjoy that I have to ditch, and I canceled Amazon Prime. Other personal budgetary decisions will come soon. I thought about the potential for decrease overall in giving to my church and worried about our pastor’s support. I worried about my church friends’ jobs. I thought about the many couples who are recently married in my church, and their futures. And I worried about the small business owners here in the county and the families that depend on business income. The reality of COVID-19 shutdown impacts didn’t take long to hit home.
That was a lot of worry.
Grieving over losses is OK. Lost professional progress, lost staff (friends), lost personal amenities, for-certain upcoming changes…all mourned. It’s natural to mourn and grieve. But I had some decisions to make. I did not want sadness and anger to overtake me. Momentary pause to acknowledge impacts to my life is warranted. But if I let it go on, it could easily turn into worry, fretting, and then grumbling and murmuring. I must not sit there are worry and fret.
I took a nap so as not to dwell. My goal is to take my fears and concerns to the Lord. When I awoke, I prayed. I prayed again. I went on with my evening and then I went to bed, fortified with a vow not to worry.
Arising next morning, I turned on a Youtube channel “Two hours of worship music”.
I sang the lyrics.
I prayed the lyrics.
I sought out the Bible verses the lyrics were based on.
I wrote in my gratitude journal.
I counted my blessings.
I reassured myself that at this moment, all was well. Take it day by day.
I reminded myself of God’s promises to take care of me.
I recounted all the times in the past He did take care of me.
Gradually, with all this oil poured on the locked wheel, it began to move. I started to feel lifted. I wrote the above messages. I felt lighter, literally as if the Lord had taken my burden. As I posted the notes above, other people said they were cheered by them. That in turn cheered me. Higher and higher.
It takes work to rest in Him. It sounds counter-intuitive. I have to work at resting in His promises. But the threat of sinning is a haunting one, and I never want to tread too close to that abyss. As my sinful nature already inside me battles with the Spirit, the sinful nature wants supremacy. Fretting, anxiety, mumbling, complaining are all sins. Let not my tongue or my heart steer me in a wayward direction.
Resting in Jesus is contagious. So is grumbling. We get to choose which path to take. It is to His glory when we choose to rest in Him.
I don’t enjoy writing about myself, but I thought it might encourage others to know that my joy isn’t instant, it’s hard won. I also will follow up tomorrow with a part 2 focused more on the Bible and Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.