12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints,
those who keep the commandments of God
and the faith of Jesus. ~ Revelation 14:12 (RSV)
By Bro. John L. Cash
I saw an interesting social media post yesterday written by a young man, probably in his early 20s. In it he explained why the people in his generation aren’t worried about the coronavirus. I’m greatly condensing it, but basically he said that for his entire life the media has been hyping situations. But nothing as serious as predicted had ever panned out. Also, whenever anything bad did happen, it never lasted more than a short time. The experts always made some sort of plan, and then it was back to business as usual.
Although the post was phrased a bit crudely (and I disagreed with his point that COVID-19 isn’t worth being concerned about), I understood where he was coming from. Even though I’m 58 years old, the world I’ve lived in (except for a few exceptions) has pegged along pretty smoothly. You may say I’m crazy for thinking that. But the thing that brings it home for me is the fact that I grew up with my grandmother in my house. Compared with her life, we haven’t seen much.
My maternal grandmother, Winifred Catherine Massey Nutter Davis, was born in 1910. Her 4-year-old brother, Horace Massey, died of diphtheria that year. When she was four, World War I broke out in Europe. People referred to it as The Great War. It caused about 16 million deaths. In 1916, when she was 6, her 2-year-old sister Bernice passed away, also from diphtheria.
In 1918, as The First World War was ending, there was a worldwide pandemic of influenza; 500 million were infected. The death estimates for this “Spanish Flu” range from 17 million to 50-million people — with some estimates going as high as 100 million.
My grandmother contracted this deadly virus. There was no vaccine for it, no real treatments, and penicillin hadn’t been developed yet to fight flu-caused-pneumonia. She told me, “John, it was a terrible sickness. There was nothing they could really do for you. Either your body was able to fight it off, or it wasn’t. It killed so many people. But I survived. I guess the Lord had a purpose for my life.”
In the late 1920s, the stock market crashed. When my grandmother was a high school senior, her school closed down, and she was not able to graduate that year. (I’ll try to tell you the rest of that story next week.) The Great Depression was to last for 10 years. My grandmother survived that, too.
Shortly thereafter, my grandmother lived through World War II. The government offered her a stimulus package — a box of seed packets so was supposed to use for planting a “Victory Garden.” She picked up a shovel and began to dig up the backyard. My mother told me she watched her mother study the chart that came with the packets, so she’d know how to lay out her rows of vegetables.
In the meantime, an estimated 60 million people died as the result of that war. Six million of them were Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. In 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, killing more than 100,000 people. The war came to an end.
And all this happened by the time my grandmother was 35 years old.
What I’m saying is this: Bad things that take a long time are unusual to us. Clearly, we’ve all been wonderfully blessed for most of our lives. But bad things that take a long time aren’t unusual for most of the people in the world. And they aren’t unusual in the scope of things.
We all need to take a wider view of our history. And we all need to learn the lessons that our strong, godly ancestors have left for us.
Now, I haven’t written this story to depress you. In fact, my intention is very much the opposite. As I said, this all happened by the time my grandmother was 35. Granny Davis was going to live another sixty years.
During that time, she experienced some more trials and heartaches. (I’ll tell you more later.) But, I think she would tell you that she had many more joys and blessings than sadness. She lived a long life of service, love, and of being loved.
She was famous for the best chicken and dressing known to mankind. When she was 93, she called me on the phone. She said, “John, if you’ll come home to see me for Thanksgiving, I’ll make you a pan of dressing.” I did, and she did.
My mother told me that even though my grandmother was suffering from compression fractures in her spine, she really did make the dressing for me. She did every bit of the chopping, and measuring, and tasting. She just had to have a little bit of help with the heavy duty stirring.
I’ve always wanted to grow up to be like my grandmother. She taught me that sometimes very difficult things happen to us, and some of them take a long time. But she also taught me to work hard, have perseverance, and to fully put my trust in the Lord Our God.
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints….” (Revelation 14:12)
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 34 ½ years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He’s currently on a sabbatical from the preaching ministry, and is an English teacher at the Choctaw Tribal School. He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in a brick house in town (in rural Newton County, Mississippi, which had its first case of COVID-19 this week.) You can send him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.