Yesterday was such a beautiful Spring day in the Pacific Northwest. The sky was blue, the birds were singing, the thermometer topped 70 degrees for the first time in a long while, and my magnolia tree burst into glorious bloom. At my house in the country, surrounded by all that “rightness,” it was hard to believe anything could be very wrong in the world. Yet I knew that when I turned on the TV, there would be a new, shockingly high COVID-19 death count. There would be more heart-wrenching stories of loved ones lost, incredible hardships, and financial devastation.
What a strange and unexpected turn our world has taken! Just a few months ago, we couldn’t have imagined that most of us would now be indefinitely confined to our homes, with schools and businesses closed, waiting out a pandemic that’s like nothing any of us has ever seen before.
I’m trying to do what little I can. I’m obeying the ‘stay at home’ order to avoid adding to the problem. I’ve sewn and donated a few dozen masks and given some money. But I wish I could to do more to help. Unfortunately, I don’t have the training to save lives on the front lines. I’m not a scientist researching a cure. I’m not even a grocery worker or someone else providing an essential service. I’m a writer.
Yes, readers do often say how much simple enjoyment books can give. And that’s important. I even received a touching note from a woman who told me how having the positive distraction of one of my novels helped her get through a really dark time in her life. That warmed my heart tremendously!
A novel is still just a novel, though. In these troubled times, what do I have to offer that’s more substantial?
Like many other authors, I’ve decided to offer one of my books at rock-bottom prices. Not one of my novels this time, but something that I hope will give more help and comfort than a mere “good read.” Whether you’re a person of faith or not, I hope you will be blessed by the encouraging messages in Prayer & Praise: a Jane Austen Devotional.
During the current crisis, I’m pleased to be basically giving it away to anybody who wants it – as close to free as I can make it, that is. For a limited time, it is available at Amazon for $.99 on Kindle and $5.99 in paperback – at cost. Or it’s free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.
The 50 uplifting messages it contains are inspired by the prayers that Jane Austen wrote, and they use familiar situations and characters from her novels as illustrations.
We marvel at Jane Austen’s insights into people and relationships, as seen in her novels. Similarly, we can take courage from her faith as revealed through her prayers and the way she faced the trials of life.
In one prayer, she prays, May the sick and afflicted, be now & ever [in] thy care… – an especially timely sentiment for today. Here’s the first part of the devotional segment from Prayer & Praise that line inspired:
When in Persuasion Louisa Musgrove fell and hit her head at the shore in Lyme, she was not the only one to suffer. She may have been the one sick in body, but all her friends and family were instantly afflicted as well. Mary became hysterical; Henrietta fainted from the shock; Captain Wentworth despaired and agonized; and Charles sobbed, crying out, “What, in heaven’s name, is to be done next?” Anne, who felt the horror of the moment just as much, suffered the added pressure of having everybody turn to her for direction.
Today, if this kind of accident occurred, things would go quite differently. Six to twelve people would instantly whip out their cell phones to call 911, and soon the victim would be whisked off to the nearest hospital for the most advanced medical care available. But that’s not always enough. Even today, so many afflictions of body, mind, and spirit remain completely beyond human know-how to mend. So, in our helplessness and desperation, we still cry out to God. We beg for his intervention. We pray for him to guide human efforts toward healing and add to them his miraculous power so that our loved one may be restored.
This is as it should be. God invites us to bring all our needs and heartaches to him in prayer. Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you (Psalms 55:22).
We are now more aware than usual that many circumstances are out of our control and beyond human ability to remedy. Even if you aren’t personally sick or have lost a loved one or a business, we are all ‘afflicted’ in some way by this viral outbreak.
Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorated Jesus Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Despite the horror of the event, it’s appropriate to call it ‘Good Friday’ because of the good Jesus achieved through it – his willing sacrifice out of love making our salvation possible. He did for us what we had no power to do for ourselves.
The darkness of that Friday long ago didn’t last forever, though; it turned to rejoicing with Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.
God willing, we will have brighter days ahead. Whatever your situation, I hope you will take a few minutes each day (using Prayer & Praise or some other means) to reflect on God’s love for you and the hope of the resurrection ours in Jesus Christ. Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you through this and every other crisis.
[Read more about Prayer & Praise and a full sample segment here.]