Finding Perspective and Refreshment for Our Souls During Unrest

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Well, it's June now! We have officially survived the Coronavirus shutdown and the civil unrest occurring in our nation. Even now that we are free to do more than simply grocery shop, there is still a sense of weariness and exhaustion that seems to settle over many of us in our day-to-day living. I was at work one day, caring for a patient, when the TV in their room suddenly reported tragic, forlorn news; story after story, the media was telling me how horrible the Coronavirus is out there. And certainly it has devastated many families, individuals, countries and economies. But the media has a way of taking the tragedies that happen all over and bring them all to you; creating a strong opportunity for information overload.

Suddenly, we feel the temptation to panic. What will we do about the virus being so communicable? Is there going to be a second wave? How about this civil unrest? How long will mobs and riots continue?

There is a great blessing about being able to access so much information at the tip of our fingers, but with it can come additional opportunities to cave to fear.

Have you been feeling that at all, in your own life? Do you feel more prone to panic? Have you felt chronically exhausted, not sure when you'll ever feel refreshed again?

Here are four questions to ask when you're endlessly weary:

1. Where I am I turning for refreshment?

The age-old saying: "You are what you eat" has some truth to it. What has your mental consumption looked like lately? What are you reading? What apps do you use repeatedly? What shows are you watching? What podcasts are you listening to? Are you setting things before your eyes that lift your heart to the Savior or that cause you to question where He is? Are you taking things to heart that are Biblical?

This culture is post-modern in a number of ways, one being that there is not a belief in hope amidst uncertainty unless we can make a scientific proof for that hope (such as hand hygiene, for example, to give us hope of preventing the transmission of COVID). I'm all for taking safe measures to prevent pandemics. I'm not all for depending on the seen and the felt. I cannot see God, but He is the One I look to for hope. Rest for my soul is not found in hand sanitizer and keeping six feet away from those around me. This is a good practice for preventing the Coronavirus that we should continue for the time being, but it is not where I place my ultimate hope.

When my heart is weary, I do not look to the CDC, WHO and news channels to tell me if I should cling to a shred of hope or not. Even when the worst has come to worst--as we thought might occur at the beginning of the COVID outbreak--my heart does not have to be overwhelmed.

God knew altogether, before the foundation of the world, that we would face the challenges that have presented before us. 

So even while I continue to do my best to keep my hands washed to prevent COVID transmission, I will not look to this world to tell me if I have permission to hope or not. I have a hope that cannot die: Jesus Christ!

Just as it has been true in every other season, now, in the midst of so many challenges, our hope is in the Gospel. Our God is the One who transforms broken souls, brings redemption through the impossible, and revives people from spiritual deadness.

"For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain [...] Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:21, 27a).

While we are beginning to return to normal life as much as possible, may our hearts first and foremost seek God. May we not get caught up in the hype, anger, and confusion around us, but may we set an example as the people of hope that we are. Because of the sacrifice of Christ's life, we no longer look to the events of this world to keep us optimistic or cause us to fall forlornly to the floor. No, our Savior is the One to whom we look.

While Paul was imprisioned, he wrote to Timothy:

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the Gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day" (2 Timothy 1:7-12, emphasis added).

My future hope lies not in this life. So when current events spiral out of control, by and through God's grace, I will be anchored to true hope. I am being cared for and watched over by the God who created the immune system, upholds the universe by His powerful hand, paints the backs of ladybugs and directs each person's life story. He is intricate, He is intentional, and He is incredibly present through the uncertainties before us.

We have this ever-living encouragement for our souls:

"So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable truths, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:17-20, emph. added).

2. Have I prayed about it?

When your heart is weighed down, where is the first place you go? To a friend? To post about it on Twitter? To the scientific studies, as an attempt to disprove your worries?

Scripture tells us where to go when this life feels like too much: "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). 

We are not meant to be self-reliant, but to be utterly dependent upon our mighty God, so don't be terribly surprised when the events of this world remind you how much you're insufficient to handle it all alone. You weren't created to deal with it alone; we are in desperate need of our Savior. "Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belongs deliverances from death" (Psalm 68:19-20).

If something has bothered you enough to worry you, it's definitely time to pray about it. Are you concerned about catching COVID and going on a ventilator? Are you worried about the future of our nation? Are you uncertain about the economy? Then lift it up.

I'd recommend not just praying in passing as you drive or work (though it is great to pray as you perform your daily tasks); make an intentional effort to set your full attention on pouring out your heart before God. We know that as we cast our cares upon Him, He will sustain us; we will not be moved because God is our strength (Ps. 55:22).

Allow these troubled times to cast you more fully upon the Savior. "O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come" (Psalm 65:2).

3. Am I making an effort to serve others?

It's easy to stay in our own little world when risks of illness and unrest are all around us, but what does it look like, in this season, to serve others?

Focusing on your own needs, problems, and challenges is certain to multiply the sense of stress, fear and uncertainty within. Ask yourself a few questions: what are those around me facing? Who can I serve, and what would be an appropriate way to serve them while we attempt to prevent further sickness? Can I write someone a letter? Can I pick up the phone and call a loved one? Can I meet a financial need?

It's convicting how many times I evaluate my own life--especially when I'm feeling anxious--and quickly see how much time I've spent thinking about me, and how little care I tend to truly invest in others. This is a propensity many of us have, and it will not die without intentionality.

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:13-14). 

You will have to make a purposeful decision to look into the needs of others, even while you may feel that your needs have not yet been met. Jesus delights in this kind of faith: "Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And He said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them, for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on'" (Luke 21:1-4).

4. Have I been in the Word? 

In times of highest joy and lowest grief, we need the Word of God. Whether the world seems sweet or sorrowful, our hearts must be steeped in the truth of Scripture, for there we find the guidance, refreshment, perspective and conviction our hearts so deeply need.

If you were to compare the amount of time you spend on social media, news and TV with how much time you spend in the word, which is your greatest investment? We can easily say we love the Word, but what are our lives truly declaring? Have we prioritized pursuing Christ above our daily tasks? If not, don't be shocked when an entire day has come and gone and you haven't read even one verse. Our day-to-day tasks still exist and must be accomplished, and we make sure those get done, but how strongly do we prioritize being in God's Word? Do we hold out and keep reading even when it's challenging, seemingly dry or does not make sense? Or do we quickly give in to distraction and speed-read a favorite passage instead?

Slow down. Open your Bible, and ask God to use it to transform you. Even if you don't yet see any growth or change in your own life, or haven't experienced any specific moments of inspiration in your reading, God is still working. The Bible is not a book like any other:

"For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). "Forever, O Lord, your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89).

You cannot expect to deeply know the Savior to whom you belong if you are not in His Word. Don't first and foremost go to the Facebook page of Christian leaders, looking for an opportunity to refresh your soul and grow in Christ; run to Scripture. "The unfolding of your Word gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple" (Ps. 119:130). It's not the same to read a book about the Bible or a Christian devotional with a few Bible verses in it. You need the real thing, for yourself, with your own two eyes.

What has to change in your life and schedule so you end up in His Word every day?

There are still uncertainties in our world. There are still questions we have not yet answered, but we know where to run with our pains, anxieties, and concerns. By God's grace, may we be people with a faith that endures challenges and grows stronger when difficulties multiply. What if we looked back at 2020 thirty years from now and saw it as a time we turned to God, looked to His Word in all things, and brought every overwhelming situation before His throne? What a testimony that could be of God's endless faithfulness to sustain us! This painful season does not have to be wasted if we will utilize it intentionally for His glory. Pour out your heart before Him and trust His ways as higher than ours. He has not left us, but gives us so many opportunities to know Him more in these post-shutdown days.

No comments:

Post a Comment