The Coronavirus Chronicles—Grace and Love in a Time of Irritability

“Love is like an echo, it returns what it receives.”  –Thomas Manton
     Do you just want to get out of the house? Are you tired and a little cranky after being cooped up indoors? Has the typical April weather in Missouri—sporadic sun followed by persistent sleet followed by a brief warmup with occasional overnight freezes—been of little comfort to you? You are not alone. We all, well, most of us, want this “stay-at-home” period to be over and for our normal schedules to resume. And when things do not appear to be resuming fast enough, we are susceptible to…irritability. There I said it. Maybe just my mentioning that word is causing you to feel irritable. If so, this devotional is written just for you.
     Love, true love, (please pronounce that phrase with the minister’s voice from the movie, The Princess Bride) is able to confront and overcome irritability. The apostle Paul both experienced irritability and prescribed its cure. On the apostle Paul’s second missionary journey, he traveled to Athens. Here is the description of Paul’s spirit as he waited to be reunited with Silas and Timothy: “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17:16-17 ESV) The Greek word sometimes translated ‘irritated’ is rendered ‘was provoked’ in this passage. Paul’s spirit was deeply moved or irritated. He was motivated by a godly jealously and this provocation or ‘holy irritation’ led him into the synagogue and marketplace to preach the gospel.  
     You might be saying, ‘Dale, there is nothing holy about my irritation. I am provoked by my spouse’s leaving the top off the ketchup bottle or my inability to stick to my normal routines.’ Perhaps, you feel irritated with Rob Gronkowski’s going to Tampa Bay to be reunited with Tom Brady. Yes, some times our emotions are deeply out of touch with reality. We should feel joy but instead, we feel frustration. The apostle Paul writes about irritability in a famous passage: 
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)
The New International Version translates the phrase “it is not irritable” as “it is not easily angered.” The J. B. Phillips New Testament translates it as “it is not touchy.” Wow! Do you feel irritable, easily angered, or touchy? Paul offers the solution. Walk in love. Double down on love. Be filled with the Holy Spirit who in turn sheds abroad into our hearts the love of God. Love, all we need is love. Okay, putting aside the Beatles’ lyrics, let’s get down to business. Run to the love of God found in Christ when touchiness robs you of your tranquility. Run to Jesus Christ and lean into his grace when provocation threatens the household’s peace. Make the conscious decision to pursue fellowship with Christ. When Martha was distracted, irritated, and feeling provoked by Mary, her sister, the Lord Jesus pointed Martha to himself. (Luke 10:38-42) Mary’s choice to learn at the feet of Christ would never be taken from her. If you pursue Christ today, God will renew your love and help you overcome irritability.
Have a blessed week and we will be reunited for corporate worship soon and it will be most glorious. 
Love in Christ,
Pastor Dale