There’s this icebreaker game that groups play called Never Have I Ever. (I’ve heard that it’s also been used at social gatherings for various purposes, but that’s not the point here, folks. Try to focus, please.) Players sit in a circle facing inward, with one fewer chair than there are people. The standing person declares something he or she has never done, such as, “Never have I ever been to the Grand Canyon.” Anybody who has visited the Grand Canyon must then jump up and scramble to sit on an empty seat, left vacant by another person who has also done that thing. The standing person left without a chair to sit upon then makes another declaration, like, “Never have I ever worn earrings,” and the game continues. Because my brain makes some very weird connections, I was thinking about this declaration as I was preparing to write this devo.
You see, I have known heartache and loss. I’ve been taken off guard, betrayed by someone I’ve trusted, and left with an emotional gash in me that took years to heal. I know what it’s like to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I hunkered down there for months, barely able to move, my mind a fuzzy mess, just surviving. I’ve also betrayed myself, acted completely outside my character, and committed the unthinkable. I shoved the guilt and shame way, way down and worked hard to avoid all memory of my own sin, until it bubbled up to the surface and refused to be ignored any longer. I left an emotional wound in myself that took very intense therapy to heal. I’ve been through the proverbial wringer. I bet many of you reading this know how gut-wrenching the wringer can be.
I’ve been through a lot, but there are some experiences that, because of Christ, I have never had. Never have I ever walked through the valley alone. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). On the cross Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He felt the pain of abandonment so that I would never have to bear it.
Never have I ever been without hope. Because of God’s great mercy, I have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:3—6). Although I am sometimes grieved by trials, they are not without meaning. They test the genuineness of my faith, and they result in praise and increasing trust in God.
Never have I ever been without value. Even at my worst, the truth about me remains true. I have been saved by grace through faith, a priceless gift from God. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8—10).
Fellow believers, the various trials caused by the spread of COVID–19 are real. But we will not lose heart. “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16—18).
When you feel close to losing heart, stop and pray an expectant prayer. God will give you supernatural power through the Holy Spirit to trust God. Ask God to remind you of times in the past that God has brought your through a storm, and let those memories bolster your courage to face what lies ahead. Precious child of God, never have you ever been alone. Never have you ever been without hope. Never have you ever been without value. God is present, active, and in control. Never will He ever leave or forsake you. Never, never ever.