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I Don't Want To Do This Anymore!

Okay. I admit it. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m ready for this to be over. I’m ready to get back to “normal.” How about you?

We all respond differently to stressful times, and the COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time multiplied by 100. As this pandemic drags on, many are facing unemployment, illness, death of loved ones, e-learning, or family dysfunctions that have erupted at a higher level than ever before.

And how do some respond? According to the CDC website, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

The toll on Americans is becoming both palpable and quantifiable. Karestan Koenan, professor at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, cited a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey in which 19 percent of respondents said the current crisis has had a “major impact” on their mental health.

In the Old Testament, we read a story about the great prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven and who, by God’s power, defeated the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). The very next chapter, however, we see Elijah’s faith crumple in fear.  

“Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, `It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:3-4, ESV).

During this pandemic, there are times my faith has given way to fear. Maybe yours has, too. When Elijah was faltering, God was imparting, and He has been doing that ever since. First, God imparted a messenger to help (1 Kings 19:5). One of the roles of the church is to be messengers of God’s help and grace in times of stress and difficulty.

Second, God imparted His presence (1 Kings 19:11-13). God appeared to Elijah, not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but in a gentle whisper. Like Elijah, we need to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and find our strength and solace in Him.

Third, God imparted a calling (1 Kings 19:15). God told Elijah to go and serve, for He was not finished with him yet. When we have purpose, we have focus and direction. We may not know how everything will pan out, but we know God is laying out a plan for our lives and future.

You are not alone. When you find your faith faltering and fear rising, turn to the God of comfort, help and strength. Be willing to receive messengers in your life who can help. Be open through prayer, rest, God’s Word and Spirit to receive His presence. Be focused on the purpose God has for you, because, as was the case with Elijah, God is not finished with you yet.

If you would like to check out some helpful resources, go to www.east91st.org/counselingresources.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

I Need a Fresh Dose of this Virtue

I’ve been thinking a lot about patience as of late . . . as in how I need more of it. It seems like the longer the coronavirus pandemic goes on, the more impatient I become. Just ask Laura.

I decided to go back to Scripture and learn more about the virtue of patience. I need a fresh dose of the Spirit bearing fruit in my life, of which the fourth characteristic is patience. Maybe you do as well.

So, here goes. Patience is our English translation for the New Testament word, makrothymia, also translated as “endurance, forbearance, long-suffering, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance.” Used fourteen times in the New Testament, it primarily brings encouragement to Christ-followers not to give up hope but to bear up in times of trouble.

We are told to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12, ESV). “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains” (James 5:7, ESV). “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25, ESV).

We want it. We need it. But how do we get it . . . patience that is? There are a number of “techniques” taught through varying religious and philosophical world views. Empty your mind (Buddhism). Think positive (Quimby to Schuller). Do what works (American Pragmatism). Party like it’s 1999 (Prince, et al.).

All of these approaches are left found wanting, however, because they don’t get at the core issue. Whether we try to numb our impatience (Prince and forms of Eastern religion), or we try to fight through our impatience by being positive, busy, and successful (Ecclesiastes and forms of Western ideologies), we are trying to find answers within, and what is inside us doesn’t fix us. We either try to empty ourselves or fill ourselves with things to mask our brokenness, but what we ultimately need is something or someone to our brokenness.

O, and by the way, His name is Jesus.

Impatience is our response to circumstances whirling around us. Patience is the Spirit’s response to those same circumstances. He indwells us and produces His fruit within us (Galatians 5:22), so that perseverance will finish its work within us leading to maturity and wholeness where we lack nothing (James 1:4).

This point cannot be overstated. I cannot make myself patient. As long as I try, I actually become more impatient with my lack of patience. I can, however, turn to Jesus who gives me His Spirit who produces patience within me.

So, what’s the key? I have to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). I exercise my faith. I stay connected. I work out what God has worked in (Philippians 2:12). The struggle to gain patience is not fought alone. “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:29, NIV).

Do you want to be a more patient person? Then be a more Spirit-filled person by daily walking with Christ.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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