I’ve recently been struck by the thought that all ministry can be summed up with one goal: to bring people to Jesus. During this time of uncertainty, it gives me great peace to know that I don’t need to have all of the answers or even have the capacity to carry another’s anxiety. I just want to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, encouraging others to have their gaze on Him as well.
Through this unique time of ministry, there are two fundamental ways that we care for ourselves, modeling for others how to know God during a season in which our foundation seems to be shifting: Lament and hope.
Americans are not accustomed to what it means to lament. We have trained ourselves to handle loss with distraction and shallow optimism. We brush off sadness with clichés like, “Things are bound to get better tomorrow. God is still in charge.” As the Scriptures show us, there is a time to sit in grief, to tear our proverbial robes, and to put ash on our heads in mourning. Ecclesiastes teaches us that it is wise to sit in the place of mourning because it causes us to ponder our eternal destiny.
This is a season of lament, not distraction or false cheer. Give yourself permission to grieve what may have been lost and to accept the reality of hardship that may likely come. This is not the same as anxiety. Lament is the natural response to letting go of things that have given us assurance and comfort. Only as we grieve and receive comfort can we offer that comfort to those around us (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
As we deal with genuine sadness and loss, we need each other. Through this season, be creative in finding ways to share your fears and burdens with one another. Healthy lament is both individual and corporate.
While lament is a constructive and God-given reaction to loss, the Bible also tells us that our grief will be different than the world’s—we must grieve with hope. Our reason for hope is not that the economy will quickly recover or that a vaccine for COVID -19 will soon be discovered, although we pray for those remedies. Our hope is entirely based on the eternal promises of our God.
Many years ago, I heard something from Larry Crabb that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “I know that Jesus is all I need, but I don’t yet know Him well enough for Him to be all that I have.”
Sitting comfortably in our churches a few months ago, our hope in Jesus may have meant little.
As we face the possible stripping of earthly comfort and security, may the prospect of true fellowship of Jesus shine brighter and brighter. Everything we let go of leaves in its wake the capacity to grab onto a Treasure that disease and economic crashes cannot destroy. This is a time to radically pursue an intimate fellowship with God that is able to withstand great loss.
Not surprisingly, we find that thanksgiving, worship, fasting, serving others, and meditation are all good for our mental and emotional health. These are rhythms that God created for us to practice in good times and to cling to in times of stress. Make the “spiritual disciplines” more than disciplines in your routine. Invite them to become conduits, ushering in the presence of the God of hope.
Though the fig tree does not bud and no fruit is on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the sheep are cut off from the fold and no cattle are in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!