Change is difficult for me, upsetting my sleep patterns, my sense of self, my ability to focus, and my memory. I’m a creature of habit. I love routine and order, my days moving predictably from one planned task to another, accomplishing much. Productive. Predictable.
Enter real life, where change is the norm, entirely outside our control. Then add a pandemic, turning everything upside down with breathtaking rapidity, the unknown looming before us.
There we all were in early March, cruise ships circling off our shores, filled with people suffering from a mysterious new virus. Days later we were locked down. No more toilet paper. No more trips to the store. We couldn’t see anyone other than the fellow captives of our households. For some, that meant we were alone. The suddenness of this shift was jolting.
The sovereign God uses these events in our world to mix it all up, to bring about change, to make things better, to propel us toward growth and renewal. His intentions are always good. We’re being stretched.
Christianity has always embraced change, our pastor recently reminded us. We are not to remain as we once were. He called upon us to ponder this text, one we’re so familiar with, but which we’ve never applied to this pandemic producing virus that currently has infected more than 4,230,000 around the globe and 1,400,000 Americans, a third of the total.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV).
These verses encapsulate what it means to live in a way that pleases God. We yield our bodies, our health, our souls to the Lord. We don’t conform, rather we transform. We place ourselves entirely at God’s disposal to be renewed and altered, to serve and to live and to adapt as he directs, and maybe, perhaps to die. He is good, he is wise, and his purposes are to accomplish good in the world. As God does this work, we will grow.
As a living, breathing sacrifice, like clay in the hands of the Potter, we are transformed as our minds are renewed. Our thought processes change. Our way of living alters, taking a new focus and form. Our choices shift as this coronavirus test gives us discernment. We learn to put others first — this is what social distancing, helping neighbors, and wearing a mask to protect others is all about.Our choices shift as this #coronavirus test gives us discernment. We learn to put others first. This is what social distancing, helping neighbors, and wearing a mask to protect others is all about. Click To Tweet
God’s tests are always intended to prove our faith and to bring about growth in love, kindness, and selflessness. Change is an opportunity for growth. This virus causes us to learn to be agile and adaptive. Merriam-Webster tells us that agility is “marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace” as well as “having a quick, resourceful, and adaptable character.”God's tests are always intended to prove our faith and to bring about growth in love, kindness, and selflessness. Change is an opportunity for growth. This virus causes us to learn to be agile and adaptive. Click To Tweet
But how do we do this? There’s a mental strategy we must adopt, a COVID19 strategy, a new way of thinking. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14 ESV).#COVID19 strategy: "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13b-14 ESV). Click To Tweet
The weight of our mistakes, our failures, and our bad decisions can’t remain on our shoulders, breaking our backs, slowing our forward progress. Longing for our former lives and the way things were discourages our spirits and hardens our hearts. And so, we put these behind us, removing the burden that continually pulls us backward toward what once was.
We reflect on the past. We learn from it. But we accept that, as of now, everything has changed. The past is now in the rearview window. Life may never be the same again. We must let it go.
This is hard work, this challenge, for our minds continually pull us backward to long for what is gone, to yearn for the ones we’ve lost, to desire the former order and shape of our lives, to beat ourselves up over the mistakes we’ve made along the way. This is why “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b NIV).
We renew our minds through saturation in God’s Word and his presence, and we run the race, pressing on toward the goal of intimacy in Christ. Paul adds the admonition, “All of us who are mature should take such a view” (Philippians 3:15a NIV).
This is our strategy for coping with this chaos, disorder, loss, and constant change. To alter the course we’re on requires making observations and then pressing onward, focusing on what is true and right and good. To put others first, we must first take stock of ourselves.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3 ESV)."I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Romans 12:3 ESV). #COVID19 strategy. Click To Tweet
Sober judgment causes us to realize that we have not arrived. We’re not better than others. We are who we are. We make a clear-eyed assessment, in a self-disciplined matter, not pondering in order to bemoan the current situation or to beat ourselves up, but to take stock of reality and to make a solid determination of where we need to grow and how to go about it by the grace of God. It’s time to assess what is lost and what is gained when we take our faith seriously.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:7-9a ESV).
Much is lost in order to gain Christ, to know Jesus, and to be transformed into selfless and loving people. Self must be let go, personal preferences must often yield. Tranquility comes in recognizing that God, in his sovereignty, has allowed this current situation, and that he will, in his own time, orchestrate this for our good and our growth. He always does.Tranquility comes in recognizing that God, in his sovereignty, has allowed this current situation, and that he will, in his own time, orchestrate this for our good and our growth. He always does. Click To Tweet
Our challenge, therefore, is to surrender what is lost and instead to strain toward the goal, the precious gain of knowing Christ and being found in him. We aim our minds toward deeper intimacy with the Lord.
“. . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:10-12 ESV).
Because our Lord and Savior Jesus Messiah suffered and rose, he is our source and our reason for transformation, for growing toward what we will be one day, becoming like him. We’re not there yet, but we press on to grow in him, because he has made us his very own.
Adapting and living this change that the Lord has wrought is a mark of maturity. We will make mistakes. We won’t be made perfect until we see him face to face. And so, “let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:16 ESV), not looking back.
No matter what happens next, no matter where this goes, let’s hold firmly to Christ, trusting him entirely, fixing our mind on his words and his actions, walking in his steps, leaning in to all he teaches us and all the change that he works in our lives. His promise to work all things together for our good, because we love him, is a fact, not a platitude. He will do it.
We will always be in need of change, our lives always altering. We will always be growing in faith and maturity. God will always be at work in our world and in our personal lives, and therefore, we will always be learning to let go and to embrace change, for change is the only constant.
And, in the middle of this, we learn to trust the Lord and to rest in him.
How are you doing in all of this upheaval? How can I pray for you?