By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
The days have become long; one rolling into the next. My children often ask me what day it is and lately I’ve been having to double check to determine what it is myself.
To say that so much in life feels unraveled right now would be a gross understatement. The headlines are heartbreaking, the unrest in our country because of racial tension is gutting, and the fear of uncertainty can be completely overwhelming.
In times of duress we must cling to the Lord more than ever. As we hold fast, we also have the opportunity to learn from this season. We can learn from our experiences with COVID-19 and from the trials our country is enduring.
Here are 5 helpful suggestions to help ensure that as Christ-followers we are the calm in the storm and the example of God’s steadfast peace and love for this world.
Our God is not a God of waste—and so we should not waste our experiences during this time. Even the darkest of days He can and will use for His glory.
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1. Keep an Eternal Perspective
As reports of COVID-19 ravaged the world it was pretty easy to lose heart. The numbers of fatalities mounted and the daily headlines became bleaker and bleaker.
There were several days in the beginning of the outbreak that I felt so hopeless. As so many of us did, I wept and grieved. My body felt heavy and I struggled with the onset of depression as prolonged isolation continued.
These weeks and months have been heavy. The despair our country is feeling is now amplified by racial tensions and a state of unrest. When all feels lost, focusing on the Word of God and setting our gaze upon the eternal can help to bring peace.
I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Understanding that eternity is in the heart of all who follow Christ helps to bring light to the darkness of today’s circumstances. It is only normal for us to want healing for the sick and solutions to our suffering.
It is normal to cry out to God and implore him to move in big and powerful ways. And cry out we should, but in our lamenting and pleading we must also remember to cast our gaze upon the eternal.
As Colossians 3:2 says, “…set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
With problems so immense, we have seen our need for a big and powerful God. Keep your eternal perspective so you don’t lose sight of this constant need.
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2. Acknowledge Your Troubles, but Never Lose Hope
Setting our minds on the eternal in no way negates the struggle and suffering that mankind experiences this side of Heaven. Suffering is synonymous with a fallen world. Where there is sin so too will there be suffering.
Jesus himself warns us that there will be troubles in this world; trouble is the result of our sinful natures. John 16:33 reminds us: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Understanding that there will be trouble prepares us in advance for suffering. We will experience it, as individuals and as a collective.
So many of us are walking through suffering right now. I’ve not met a single person who has escaped it. Having an expectation that we will suffer does not need to translate into a doom and gloom outlook on life, however.
Even within our troubles, we find joy and beauty. Within the dark and heavy headlines of late there have been stories of triumph and mankind showing up for one another.
We have experienced firsthand a collective grief, and should learn to expect suffering as part of being human, even long after this crisis pasts.
We must acknowledge our troubles but, through setting our sights on the eternal, prevail over them. There may be weeping at night, but joy always comes in the morning. We must keep our eyes set on that morning!
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3. Continue Caring for Your Neighbors
Many churches had to close their doors at the beginning of COVID-19; most have yet to reopen. Despite the building being closed the church has shown up for one another and is learning a new way to be the church.
Well, we are learning the original way that the church functioned. At the end of Luke 10:27 we are reminded “…to love your neighbor as yourself.” During life under the restrictions of COVID many members of the church have become more intentional in developing a deeper relationship with their neighbors and community.
The church is still alive and well within the spirits of those who call Jesus Lord, we are just showing up differently.
COVID-19 has forced us to take a good long look at our neighbors, our actual neighbors, and help each other out. Our communities are slowly working towards a new normal and restrictions are being reduced. Though life may be returning to “normal” or some semblance of “new normal” it shouldn’t mean that we stop engaging and helping our neighbors and the people closest to us geographically.
How beautiful could it be if we kept showing up for each other long after the initial wave of COVID-19 has passed? What if we continued to check in on our neighbors, or get to know them for the first time? We can allow our lessons through COVID to guide us to being better neighbors.
Ultimately, connecting in with our communities on the grounds of neighborly love is not only transformative, but an imperative.
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4. Keep Developing Your Contemplative Practice
In times of trouble leaning on the Word of God can be a force of calm in our lives. As believers, the Bible should be our manual for life, its words are alive and convicting, they guide us and grow us spiritually.
But there is something incredible that happens when we hold fast to the Word in times of trouble, there is a calming and quieting that takes place the more we cling to the word and allow our hearts, minds and souls to be changed by it.
I have long since discovered that we, as humans, can manipulate the Bible to fit our agendas and purposes. What if, rather than trying to use God’s holy word to justify our own behaviors we allowed ourselves to be guided and informed by it?
To be informed by the word we must develop a contemplative practice of both reading the word and seeking the Holy Spirit in our lives. This requires quiet, prayer, an open heart and contemplation.
It requires us to do some digging into our own preconceived notions about how life should be. We need to ask, “What does God say about this issue?”
Right now, while the world feels like its spinning off axis, perhaps our time is best spent in deep and contemplative time in the Word and prayer.
I know, on a personal level, I feel strongest on my feet after I’ve been on my knees. If the current circumstances of life have taught me anything, they have taught me to cling to the Word and stay diligently in prayer.
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5. Seek God’s Wisdom over the World’s
The world wants us to react. As widespread panic over COVID-19 ensued the expectation was that we follow suit. “Be afraid,” the headlines prompt, “hide in fear, exhaust yourself with panic.” What if, instead of fear and panic, all believers were a force of calm and serenity?
What if we responded to the rash and risky with wisdom and discernment.
We can absolutely be aware of and prepared for times of trouble, whether it be widespread illness or civil unrest, but rather than giving into fear and responding like everyone else we have an opportunity to seek God’s wisdom over the world’s. God’s ways are higher, His wisdom surpassing of time and space. When we look to the world to solve its own brokenness we are going to be left wanting.
Proverbs 3:5 reminds us that we must “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” It is in our nature to want to make sense of it all.
Often we want to show up to the conversations and contribute to the dialogues of our society. Certainly, there are times where that is absolutely what God calls us to, but before we ever share our voice with this world we must first quiet ourselves before God.
When the world wants us to react, sit first with God. Return to contemplation and as Matthew 6:33 prompts, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
For as much as we all want this season of uncertainty to be behind us let’s make sure this time has not been wasted. The deep work of spiritual growth is at our fingertips, we only need to press in.
And, on those days when our bodies, hearts and souls feel weighted down and heavy with fatigue, then too call on the Lord.
Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Through God’s restfulness and peace let’s take the opportunity to learn from this season.
Let these lessons not be quickly forgotten.
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