In 2020 after coping with COVID restrictions for some time, Paul Askin shared these words of encouragement in living through crisis.
A global pandemic! It’s a crisis for sure. No one knows how the future is going to unfold. Predictions vary from gloomy to catastrophic. Uncertainty is the only certainty. This is true for everyone, including leaders in Christian communities.
I have learnt in a crisis to ask questions rather than desperately look for answers to my immediate problems. I figure I can’t arrive at good answers if I don’t first ask the right questions. So I would like to share with you some of the questions I’m asking right now.
What’s actually happening?
Before focusing on the future, we have to understand and accept the present. We might not like it, we might hate it, that’s okay, but, “It is what it is.” God is with us in present realities.
It’s good to ask ourselves, as David did, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:11, NIV). This approach helps us understand and manage the mix of thoughts and feelings we naturally experience in a crisis. A theology of celebration is great, but just as important is a theology of lament to enable us to process the pain, suffering, and confusion we experience at times.
What pitfalls do I need to avoid in this crisis?
Some common responses to crisis are unhelpful, for example: denial, anger, blaming, withdrawal, and self-medicating in some way. Hankering for a return to the way things were is no use. We must accept that serious crises permanently change us all. The lives we lead and the future we move into are different.
How do I walk with God through this crisis?
Crises can easily distract us. We can become very busy responding to immediate needs as we see them, but a crisis is, more than ever, a time to seek the Lord’s wisdom, to follow his direction, and to focus on keeping in step with the Spirit. He is true to his word and is with us.
What is God saying?
There are some things we have already heard loud and clear; we are called to be people of love and courage. The fruit of the Spirit is to be evident in our lives. Character speaks louder than action. Then before we leap into trying to fix the problems we face, we must hear God’s word in the crisis. God, who leads us forward, is the God of new things. Even the worst crisis can become an adventure of discovery with God. Learning to trust God in a crisis is a spiritual skill that can only be learned in a crisis. In our painful times we are changed as we learn to take refuge in God rather than the lies and idols we are tempted to trust.
Sometimes God uses a crisis to help us face issues we have previously consigned to the ‘too hard’ basket.
How can God’s people shine in the crisis?
God’s people have experienced devastating crises many times down through the years and often in these times they have been found to shine. They have been the ‘plausibility structure’ for the gospel.
For us, it might be weeks, even months, before we can hold the gatherings we are accustomed to. The financial ramifications of this crisis will probably be severe. However God is not thwarted, the church will continue to exist and function. In this crisis, let’s gladly anticipate God leading us creatively into new ways of being his people, making disciples, being church, being his witnesses to the whole world. With God the future is secure.
Contributor: Paul Askin, Chaplain and long time apprentice of Jesus.