We are living in what many are calling unprecedented times. I don’t know about that, exactly, but I do know that for most of us, we’ve never personally experienced anything like the global, national, and individual unrest that is happening right now. I personally feel things very deeply including the pain of people around me. The sights of men being murdered, the riots that followed that, the divisiveness of elections, and of course the stress and isolation as well as financial difficulties from quarantining due to Covid-19 have affected me as I am certain it has affected most. I was told by someone close to me that she saw me more acutely affected than many from the George Floyd and Ahmaud Aubrey murders. I don’t know about that, but I know I am profoundly angry and sad and hurt by those murders as well as the many other injustices I see around me.
I am Caucasian, and an African American friend made a general statement that any non-black person could not understand the unrest. Once again, I don’t know if that’s true or not. I am not black, but I am human. I was offended by her statements until I remembered nothing can truly offend me in Christ. I have to have mercy on others as Christ has mercy on me. She is hurting too, maybe more than I am hurting. I don’t know her life or experience and she doesn’t know mine.
As people fight over things like protests, riots, elections, masks, business, and leisure, I have been becoming increasingly anxious and depressed. I know I am not alone in this either. I’ve heard so many people talking about their own depression, some who have never experienced it before and don’t understand what it is, some who have suffered for years. I have listened as many talked about worries, anxiety, and even panic attacks. I have even been wrongly envious of people getting three to four times more per week from the government than I receive at my work as I experience the privilege to depend on the Lord my God.
But, as believers, we do not have to give in to the chaos and worry. We may be moved in love by the sad and broken world we live in, but we do not have to fall victim to the schemes of the enemy to destroy our hope, joy, or love. We do live in this world, but we are not of the world. We are not the same as the lost. We are in a position to change things, to control our responses, and to glorify God through any tribulation.
It is easier said than done, right? Where do we start? We start with Jesus. We start with believing God is who He says He is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, we take control of our thoughts and hearts, we respond rather than react. We depend on the LORD to be who He is so that we can be who He says we are. We remember that this earth is temporary but our life in Christ is eternal. We remembered that suffering and tribulation is promised and prophesied; but so is perfect peace, everlasting joy, and undying love.
God told us to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Who is God? He is All-Powerful. He is Sovereign. He is Love. He is The LORD of Hosts. He is the Prince of Peace. He is Omniscient. He is Wonderful Counselor. He is Father. He is Savior. He is the Truth, the Way, and the Life. He is our Helper. He is the Great I Am.
He is the God who Sees you. He knows you perfectly. He created you with purpose and has good plans for you. He is with you and He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). He will fight for you and you only have to be silent (Exodus 14:14).
Our part is to be still and to be silent. We aren’t trying to find peace through works and labor. We don’t get to know God by laboring, we get to know Him through being still, letting Him be God, letting Him fight for us. We need to rest. Especially when all these circumstances exhaust us. The author of Hebrews told us to strive to enter God’s rest. It seems like a contradiction to strive to enter rest. It isn’t. Enter God’s rest and being still and silent are choices we make, especially when the natural reaction is to worry and cry and yell and fight.
Jesus, the Son of God, God Himself, our Savior purposely sought rest and solitude (Luke 5:16). He withdrew to be alone with the Father often. The scriptures share several instances when He took time alone with God and when He chose to withdraw with the twelve to teach. When others were reacting with fear to storms, Jesus exhibited His faith and peace by resting so He would be prepared to do the Father’s will. Matthew 8:23-27 tells us
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Even the winds and sea obey Jesus, why do we think He can’t or won’t be our Lord and Savior through any circumstance? He is able and willing (Matthew 8:3). He loves us and He thinks of us more than we could imagine. The world and everything in it belongs to God. We may see chaos, but the Creator knows His plan and we trust, we know nothing will thwart that plan. Acts 17:24-28 reads,
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.
Job 42:2-6 says this,
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
What are God’s plans? Well, of course He has plans for us on this earth. Jeremiah 29:11-14 says this,
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
His plans for us are good, for a future, and a hope. Are we seeking Him? Do we really want to know Him? To know Him, to know who He is we need to seek Him. We seek Him not welfare, not a future, and not a hope, but God Himself. If we look seek to know Him, we will find Him. We will know He is God. Those are the plans He has for us.
But ultimately, His plan is for us to spend eternity with Him. This earth is just temporary, it is an opportunity to bring as many people to Him as possible. What will even a very long life of 120 years be like compared to a billion years, 10 trillion years, and forever?
This earth has to be destroyed before we get to the beautiful forever God has promised us. The bad stuff, the terrible stuff is not God’s doing but He is using it to bring people to Him, to give them every opportunity to confess He is Lord and be His very own. But then... Oh Believer, let’s read it in Revelation 21:1-8
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
This is our hope, this is our assurance. This is our promise! It is real. It feels far off. I know it does. After a thousand years with Jesus, I will not even think about the pain and suffering I went through in my earthly life, but right now, it is with me and I am in pain. I don’t know how much more of this injustice, pestilence, and war I can take. But eternal life doesn’t begin on the day we enter Heaven, eternal life began the day we confessed Jesus as Christ and Lord. God is with us and He will never leave us.
I don’t have to cry out for justice, because Justice will come! He will come riding on a white horse (Revelation 19:11-21). He has said, “Vengeance is Mine!” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
This life is difficult!. Yes, Jesus is coming and He is bringing us justice, but sometimes I forget. Sometimes, I give in to the selfishness of my humanity and I find myself too often giving into myself and becoming more depressed, anxious, and even bitter and angry. Believer, I am not alone, you are not alone! God is with us! He is Emmanuel. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
But, we are also a part of the body of Christ with brothers and sisters who walk beside us. If you are not part of a local church, if you are trying to be a Christian without being a part of the body, you are short-changing yourself and you are not walking the way Jesus intended. My own local church are so much a part of who I am, I understand the concept of the bride being united as one with the Groom. I could not go through any of this without my beloved brothers and sisters walking beside me.
How do we go through a time like this? How do we make a difference in a world that seems to be degenerating exponentially day by day? What can we do?
Paul said it this way in Romans 12:9-21,
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It may sound like too much. It really isn’t. Let’s look at that passage again, this time from The Living Bible.
Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. 10 Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.
12 Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always. 13 When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.
14 If someone mistreats you because you are a Christian, don’t curse him; pray that God will bless him. 15 When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. 16 Work happily together. Don’t try to act big. Don’t try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. 18 Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible.
19 Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don’t take the law into your own hands. 20 Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be “heaping coals of fire on his head.” In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. 21 Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.
Point by point this says,
- Really (tangibly) love others.
- Hate evil, stand on the side of good.
- Take care of one another. See a need? Meet it!
- Love each other with empathy, truly be happy for each other’s happiness, be truly distressed for each other’s sorrows.
- Don’t think you’re better than anyone else.
- Whatever you can do to live peacefully, harmoniously with everyone. (no arguing, fighting, etc.)
- Don’t payback evil for evil, be honorable.
- Don’t avenge yourself. Vengeance belongs to God.
- Conquer evil by doing good.
I know we can still feel anxious, we can still feel so devastated we wonder if we even want to keep going. What then? Paul said this in Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Wait! How am I supposed to rejoice when people are fighting all around me, when I don’t know how the rent is going to get paid, when men are pointlessly murdered and the world is falling apart all around me? Well, Believer, firstly, you have the hope that we talked about in Revelation 21, you are saved. Your suffering, our suffering gives us all the more reason to rejoice! 1 Peter 1:3-12 in The Message describes it this way,
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
10-12 The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!
You must purposely choose to rejoice, to bear in mind all this. We have that choice, we can control our thought life. And in controlling our thought life we control our responses and our actions. Paul tells us to fix our thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all we can praise God for and be glad about. Purposely choose to think about what we can praise God for and do it.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 says,
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Yes, we can rejoice through any circumstance. There is always something to praise God for! Go ahead right now and make a list of five things for which you can praise the Lord. What is true? What is beautiful? What is good? What has God done for you? What is God doing for you? If you are able write the list down, add to it as often as you think of something to add. Do this, do this for yourself. You can even use social media to your advantage instead of your detriment by posting praise instead of complaints, blessings instead of curses, gratitude instead of grievances.
As a side note, personally, for the most part, I had to get off social media. People feel free to fight, be hateful, and angry or overshare their politics behind the safety of a smartphone or computer screen and I just had to stop reading all of that stuff. But that is me, not you. You might find there are certain people or situations that add to your stress, from which you may want to further yourself. You may not.
Let’s return to Philippians 4:4-9 Verse 5 tells us to “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” What does that mean? Be levelheaded, don’t panic, don’t be the person running around screaming that the sky is falling because an acorn hit you on the head. Be rational, think. Be fair. Be sensible. Jesus is coming. We can’t forget that. That helps us remain reasonable and wise and it also helps us to glorify God as people observe us and note our calm faithful response to circumstances rather than our fear-fed reactions.
Verse 6 is the core to not worrying, it says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” So, the key to not worrying is don’t worry? Yes, but not just don’t worry. Instead of worrying pray, pray about everything, tell it all to God, every need, every concern, every hope, every request. As you pray, thank Him, thank Him for what you are praying for, knowing that whatever you ask for in His name, He will give you. Let me list a few verses that repeat this promise: Matthew 18:19 and 21:22. Mark 11:24, John 14:13, 15:7, 15:16, and 16:23, James 1:17,and 1 John 5:14. Thank Him for what you have, thank Him for what He has given. Be thankful.
The Living Bible says it simply this way, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” This is your choice, your response to what could make you worry rather than your fearful reaction to circumstances. The promise that comes with this command is in verse 7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
People really don’t understand that peace, they may question it and give the wonderful joy of an opportunity to share His love, word, and gospel with them. But it also benefits us personally peace in the midst of chaos, is wonderful. Peace feels good! Peace makes it easier to live out the Word of God to live in the love we have been commanded to live. Our lives transform to more naturally display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That leaves us free from law and rules; it leads to true freedom to love one another as Christ loves us. It is not freedom to sin, even though there is no sin in Christ (1 John 3:5); it is freedom to love more, to rejoice more, to have more peace, mercy, patience, faith, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
Beloved Child of the Living God, have you like me been tormented by the pandemonium of this extraordinary time? Wash your hands of the worry, draw near to God. You will feel His closeness to you. Love, rejoice, pray, be thankful, take control of your thoughts. Be still and know He is God.