Despite this strange new normal in which we find ourselves, we are still in the season of Lent.
The Church continues on with her year, regardless of what is happening around her.
Lent is a season of giving up, of denying yourself for the purpose of becoming more unified with the Spirit of Christ.
Most of us, no matter where in the world we live, find ourselves being forced to give up.
Give up freedoms, give up financial stability, give up plans and dreams for the next few months.
As with any time of suffering, I do not mean to imply that God caused this. We live in a broken world.
But He did allow it.
And, as with any time of suffering, He is asking us what we are going to do with it.
It is vitally important for our life-with-God to be still before Him. We must spend much time gazing at Jesus and being filled up by His Spirit through silence and solitude, among other things.
When we do this, we have His peace and His joy deep within us. We are sheltered in our Home, and we emerge safely on the other side of whatever grief and pain may come our way, though perhaps a bit battered and wind-torn.
Jesus spoke of suffering that is used by God.
In the parable of the vine, He said that every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Andrew Murray writes that we should be moved by our abiding in Christ
to hear in each affliction the voice of a messenger that comes to call them to abide still more closely. Yes, believer, most specially in times of trial, abide in Christ…abide in Christ in times of affliction and you shall bring forth more fruit.
James, the brother of Jesus, also speaks of suffering that is used by God. He makes so bold as to instruct us to count suffering as pure joy.
What could there be, what could there possibly be in the valley of the deepest dark that could be counted as joy?
James does not leave us sinking into despair.
He answers with the answer we have been aiming towards from the beginning: our suffering, when we choose to continue to abide in Christ in the middle of it, leads to nothing less than being made perfect and complete.
We can choose.
We can choose in our pain to more fully make our home in Jesus or to step outside of Him. The way we choose to respond to suffering matters.
Over and over, Scripture tells us that the choices we make in this life ripple forward into the next.
What we do with the ebbs and flows in our lives matter. From interruptions to worries, from marriage to loss, every choice we make in response to our circumstances is changing us.
Changing the very essence of ourselves into something different than what we are now.
C. S. Lewis said it best.
Taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.
Choosing to live out Holy Habits, daily activities like Scripture reading and prayer, solitude and silence, are how God the Holy Spirit transforms us into people of His Kingdom.
People who, by obedience and love, are helping the Kingdom, God’s rule, to break through here and now.
People who are at home in Jesus.
So may I make a suggestion?
We have all been required to give up most of our normal activities. By all means, fill up some of that time with books and movies, but perhaps take some of that time to just sit in silence with God.
This can be a frightening thing to do, especially in our particular circumstances. Sitting quietly with your thoughts and emotions can feel hard.
Yet God has promised to always be with us, to give us a peace and a joy that goes beyond any circumstance. But we must trust Him enough to give Him those thoughts and emotions, trust Him enough to be still before Him.
We do not need to pretend in our times with Him. We do not need to act as though everything were okay, as though we were okay, as though anything in our entire world were okay.
It is good to lament before the Lord.
We need to lament to Him when all around us feels as though it were falling apart.
Scripture is full of lament.
We are at a loss what to do, hence our eyes are turned toward you. (2 Chronicles 20:12)
My soul, too, is utterly terrified; but you, O Lord, how long…? (Psalm 6:4).
Why, O Lord, do you stand aloof? Why hide in times of distress? (Psalm 10:1)
In the next couple of days, will you find some time to go hide in a bedroom or take a walk alone outside? Just be still before God and try to be silent. Take a name of God that is meaningful to you or a phrase such as “Lord, have mercy” to use when you need to bring your thoughts back under control.
Try to make this a regular part of your routine.
Will you also write your own Psalm of Lament over all that you are experiencing right now?
It is an act of faith to pour out our fear and hurt to God.
If you want to share it with someone, I would love to read it. You can email me at Elizabeth@MadeSacred.com
This can also be just between you and God.
May God grant you His incomprehensible peace and His deep, abiding joy even in the middle of all that we are experiencing right now.
May He grant you what you need more than anything else – a real sense of His own presence.
May He grant you Himself.
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All photographs copyright Made Sacred 2020