Many folks are feeling the effects of the stay at home orders and normal life being halted. Some are responding with anger and frustration. Others are checking out and self-medicating through alcohol or food. Still others are looking for ways to help their neighbors and to love their families. Most of us, are doing some combination of all these.
The harsh reality is that many are facing trying times. Some are on the verge of financial collapse and others are on the verge of emotional collapse. Still others are experiencing a loneliness that is pervasive. Most likely, even the strongest among us feel a bit fragile. I don’t know if I qualify as “strong” but I know that I am feeling the shadows of my personality creeping closer to the surface. It is forcing me to really do some work in the personal realm of my life.
It is times like this that the practices that we have put in place during “good times” allow us to hold on while we are tested and tried. If during the other periods of our lives we have built a foundation in our internal lives through spiritual disciplines (check out my posts from January of this year on #LoveWell) we will be prepared for when the tests and trials inevitably come.
Why are the tests and trials inevitable? Because the world is imperfect. The creation is broken. There is disease, envy, hatred, violence, and all kinds of other things that we find ourselves confronted with.
When we walk through the various tests and trials of this life we need some firm footing to stand on. For those of us who are followers of Jesus this footing is rooted in our spiritual lives that we work on growing through spiritual disciplines.
Jesus was tested in Matthew 4:1-11. It’s his famous testing in the wilderness. He had been fasting for forty days and forty nights (note the spiritual discipline) and was confronted by the “tempter” or “devil.” Jesus was challenged in his identity, the core of who he was, “If you are the Son of God…”, twice. Then he was tempted to have unlimited power and control. In each test he is able to withstand them and embrace the deeper truths that he knows. Jesus turned to the Scriptures each time as a means to face his trials. With the first two tests came, “it is written…” and with the third he replied with the core of the Jewish identity, the “shema” from Deuteronomy 6.
When the going got hardest Jesus leaned into what he had learned during the easier times in his life.
One day a friend and I were talking about faith. He was asking me about how I am able to handle the hard things. We were talking about the reality that I, as a pastor, hear so many hard stories and walk through the hard things with so many. What I’m learning is that the things that I learn during my periods of de- and re- construction must serve me in the times when I have to act in faith.
What are some of the things that you were doing before the test to help build that internal life? How were you growing as a person of faith? If you’re not a person of faith, what were you doing to grow as a good human? Share your practices in the comments! It would be great to encourage one another to continue growing in this time of testing.