What Upheaval Teaches
When all of this quarantine business began, I purposed to be brave and learn something. The first day I was working from home, I went through about six different emotions, from frustration to excitement to panic, finally crash-landing on a commitment to take things step by step, day by day, out of sheer necessity.
I felt the Spirit remind me that I had seen God turn unprecedented situations around before and if I would be willing to engage with Him in this season rather than resist Him, He would be faithful to sustain me and teach me “great and marvelous things which I did not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
I never expected to still be here in June, with more questions than answers, an array of scattered plans littering my calendar, and a nagging sensation of inertia suspending me in some kind of open-ended existence. To be sure, God’s been faithful, shepherding me with His sweet Presence daily, sharpening my gaze, always responding to my cries and settling my torrential emotions. He’s surprised me with wonderful gifts and worked through me in this season in ways I never expected. He continually reminds me that my future is bright because I’m His (Psalm 16:5-6; Colossians 3:3).
But I think my growing dissatisfaction is connected to a mistaken mindset. I’ve been waiting for things to “go back to normal”—a goal that inspires resentment as more and more “normalcy” is disrupted. There’s a part of me that feels l am “owed” a certain lifestyle, for certain things to work out. I would say it’s because I’m an American, but I believe this tendency exists in every human being, however pronounced or dormant it might be. It’s the humorous, albeit disturbing tendency that Jonah exhibited in Scripture when he insisted that his anger over the withering of his favorite vine was justified (Jonah 4).
I’m starting to think that most of life is about expecting change, rather than trying to resist it or manipulate life to avoid it. The life in the Spirit isn’t about clawing our way back to the way we want things, but moving forward with Him.
However, this perspective doesn’t remove the reality of the pain that change can bring.
The other day, perusing a Voice of the Martyrs magazine, I was awestruck by the heart-wrenching lessons God is entrusting to these dear people as they face persecution on a daily basis. A lot of the hardships that we adamantly try to avoid are part of daily life for our brothers and sisters in closed countries. Yet as I was pondering this, the Holy Spirit started to show me how many of these lessons we have in common.
To be clear, I’m not saying that our specific circumstances are the same. It does no good to feel guilty because we haven’t been given the same experiences as someone else. Every life journey is going to look different.
What I am saying is that we’ve all been called to the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:10). And that in this trying season of upheaval and unprecedented challenges, God is reaching out to us in the midst of difficult lessons we might not have experienced otherwise.
And it hurts. But learning God’s lessons is always beautiful because it requires us to lean on Him. Even Jesus learned obedience this way (Hebrews 5:8). Even though the struggles we face are not directly sent by God, I think we need to apply ourselves to what the Father is teaching us in the midst of them.
This season has opened our lives up to difficult concepts and struggles, ones that are shared by others around the world. We have been forced to confront things like:
- The locus of our identity
- The unsteadiness of shaken comfort zones and disrupted plans
- Financial helplessness
- Unreliable news and inconsistent healthcare
- Paralyzing protocols
- Unfair scrutiny and restrictions on our freedoms
- Shifting priorities
- Heightened family tensions
- Political uncertainty
- Uncelebrated wins
- The pull of accusation, guilt, and shame
- The threat of violence
- The eyes of the world watching our responses
- The reality of our faith levels
- The need for God to be who He says He is
These trials are not reserved for the Church outside America.
We’ve been enrolled in this school too. Different situations, different levels, different faces—but we’re all called to anchor ourselves with an unwavering trust in the Lord. To fix our eyes on Him and trust His Word above what surrounds us. To live as victors.
And Jesus went ahead of us to make this possible, to prepare us for a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).
That has become my comfort as I wait for an undefined rescue.
Then again, maybe I’ve already found it.
“Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13).
Let’s lean into God in all our broken areas, and submit to His crucial strength-training exercises, so that we can all heal straight.