Sick of Change and Uncertainty!
With the constantly moving feast called “Covid”, I expect that many of us, and many of the people in our churches, are getting wearied by the never-ending changes and uncertainties that this pandemic has brought into our lives! A report provided by the London School of Economics has observed,
COVID-19 seems to have dealt a sudden blow to young people’s belief in their own agency. There are few things that better say ‘You are not in control of the situation’ than a global pandemic and a stay-at-home order. Since the start of the crisis, surveys attest that young people have a newly pessimistic outlook on the future. In the face of uncertainty over what life will be like come autumn, they are anxious and increasingly concerned about their mental health.
And I’m sure that none of us would be surprised by this. But what does the Word of God offer us in the face of such unsettling times?
Without downplaying the significant psychological impacts that COVID-19 is having upon the mental health of people all around the world, I think James provides for us some helpful insights into how we can respond to the endless round of challenges and changes that are confronting all of us.
In James 1:2-5 it seems to me that James wants us to realise some important things about challenges (or trials) as he calls them. First, our trials are inevitable and varied. Notice James says, v2. Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. It is never a matter of “if” but “when”. Trials are part of the stuff of life. It is part of living in a fallen world. Second, our trials are for our good and God’s glory. James wants us to realise that God’s purpose is that the testing of our faith may develop perseverance v.4. But third, trials can make us better or they can make us bitter. Depending on how we respond, they can either become our steppingstones or our stumbling blocks. The ESV picks up the imperative when it reads Let steadfastness (or perseverance) have its full effect. You see, with every trial there is always an opportunity for us to choose. Do I submit to God in this or not?
James tells us clearly how to choose. He urges us to make prayer our first response, and not our last resort. He says, If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God. Too often we try to address our trials in our own strength using our own wisdom. And, when we have exhausted our best efforts, we decide to pray. James says, no, pray first! Indeed, I think James is exhorting us to keep looking for the joy in the journey. It reminds me of Paul who tells believers in Phil 4:4 to Rejoice in the Lord always. He doesn’t say ‘rejoice in your circumstance’ but rejoice in the Lord. This demands a change of focus – taking our eyes off our trials and getting them fixed again on Jesus. This is what the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to do, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).
Perhaps God has a timely word for all of us in the midst of this season of relentless challenge and change.
Peter Francis (Principal)