Except for Easter, 1986, when my youngest daughter made her grand entrance into the world, Easter 2020 will be the most unusual I’ve ever experienced. In March 1986, we spent all day Saturday moving into our new house. I went to bed exhausted at 11:45, eager to preach on the Super Bowl of Sundays. Amy woke me up thirty minutes later and informed me we had to get to the hospital. This baby was coming!
We excitedly celebrated Ruth’s arrival around 3:56 a.m. I was up all night, so adrenaline and the Lord’s strength carried me through. We had a great service and an unforgettable Easter.

This year is memorable. We won’t worship in a crowded sanctuary or conduct our annual sunrise service. We won’t hug and greet. We’ll shelter at home for the ninth day and continue our social distancing. Even the Easter bunny will wear a mask!
Yet, we’re blessed. As Easter approaches, the pandemic protection protocol brings several unforeseen benefits. Here are ten gifts for which I’m grateful this Easter:

1. The gift of trials

James 1:2, 3 says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (perseverance). The Psalmist viewed afflictions as a learning opportunity (Psalm 119:71). Trials, even a pandemic, teach us great lessons if we’re open.

One lesson reinforced for me is God doesn’t practice social distancing. This time at home has been a good moment to slow down, rest in the Lord and spend more time with Him.

2. The gift of togetherness

I miss seeing my kids and grandkids, but I’m enjoying spending more time with my wife than our normal schedule allows.

3. The gift of kindness

As coronavirus cases and death statistics mount daily, inspirational stories of selflessness inspire. In Marietta, for instance, math teacher, Jennifer McLarty, spent four hours travelling to each of her student’s homes and writing a personalized chalk message of hope on their driveway. After school was cancelled for the remainder of the year, her seniors lost their prom, their graduation and other senior year milestones. Her hand-written message let them know their hard work was not in vein, they will be missed, and they have a great future ahead.

4. The gift of forced patience and flexibility

The virus has a timetable of its own, so we can’t rush it. Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “You don’t make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline.” We don’t know how long we’re sheltered but each must do his part to get beyond the dangers.

5. The gift of humbling

We’ve received a drastic reminder we’re not in charge and that when everything we’re used to is paused, we still have God. In our pre-pandemic lives, taking God for granted was easy. Taking life for granted was easy. We did pretty much what we wanted to do and may or may not have given God any thought. Now we must depend totally on Him.

6. The gift of a deeper appreciation for our church families

I miss our people and will never again take the privilege of corporate worship for granted.

7. The gift of technology

Though we’re not coming to church, we’re being the church and still worshipping together each Sunday morning as we livestream worship.

8. The gift of a wider reach

Each Sunday our internet impact has grown. We now have more people worshiping with us than ever.

9. The gift of humor

Since laughter is great medicine, humor helps to offset the underlying stress we’re living with in our current state. A church member posts something funny every day, just to give us a mental break. Recently, she posted, “It’s like I’m 16 again. Gas is cheap and I’m grounded!” and “Returned from the grocery with the hubby. Took masks off. Turned out it was the wrong hubby. Pay attention!”

10. The gift of a Risen Savior

The greatest gift is the Living Lord. Because Jesus lives, we can face uncertain days with hope and assurance as we place our trust in Him. We choose faith over fear and anticipate tomorrow with confidence. We can know forgiveness and have certainty of eternal life because the grave couldn’t hold Him!

Recently, a reporter supposedly commented that for the first time in our nation’s history, we won’t be celebrating Easter. That’s so wrong! Despite current limitations, the tomb is still empty, and Jesus is alive!

“He is not here; for He is risen . . . come see the place where He lay.”

(David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Georgia. Join them this Sunday on Facebook for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 on www.mcdonoughroad.org. Contact Chancey at davidlchancey@gmail.com).

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Dr. David L. Chancey is the pastor of McDonough Road Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Pastor David grew up in Southwest Atlanta in his early years, then moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, when his father took a job transfer. He graduated from Baldwin County High School, attended Georgia College, graduated from Georgia Southern University with a BS in Journalism, graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity, and then from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary with a Doctor of Ministry. As God's call upon his life evolved, he served in denominational communications, then as a BSU director, and finally in the pastorate, where he served Carmel Baptist Church, Carmel, Indiana; Cool Springs Baptist Church, Tate, Georgia; and currently McDonough Road Baptist Church (MRBC) since 1999. He describes the best thing to ever happen to him outside of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior is marrying Amy, an RN and neonatal intensive care unit nurse. He and Amy have four children (Rebecca, Rachel, Ruth and Jonathan), and, though he says he's not old enough to be a grandfather, six grandchildren. David loves to preach, but also loves pastoring. He enjoys "just hanging out" with his flock, especially if it involves eating. He is thrilled when he sees members "growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," and when people come to Christ. His desire is to lead MRBC to impact as many people as possible with the life-changing power of the Gospel. This desire to impact lives with the Gospel has led him to take an annual mission trip to Santa Catarina, Brazil, in recent years, where he has seen over 2100 persons come to Christ and new churches planted and strengthened. He is also leading MRBC to strive to new levels in missions going, giving, and praying. David enjoys spending time with family as often as possible, getting away with Amy, following the Atlanta Braves and University of Georgia Bulldogs, and writing a regular column for The Citizen, one of our local papers. He also enjoys running. Please visit him on the web or social media at the above links.