Pressing On Together
by Katie Raymond
We are now two months into Washington state's stay-at-home order due to COVID-19. Our daily lives have been disrupted and each of us has been affected by the pandemic to some extent. In times of stress, humans become more self-protective, and socially distancing during a pandemic has brought this out in many of us. As the weeks continue to go by, we might be finding ourselves turning more inward. I've noticed this about myself, and as an introvert it is very easy for me to head to that comfortable, easy place of inward focus. Yet as followers of Christ, we're called to be outwardly focused to see and meet the needs of those around us. We are to be the hands and feet of our unchanging, loving God in an ever-changing, hurting world. I know this, and I feel it heavy in my soul. My prayer recently has been, "Lord, how can I best serve You right now in this current time? You know me; You know that when my own internal resources are feeling stretched thin I don't like going outside my comfort zone. But, I also know You call me to "go", not to isolate and turn inward. Help me instead to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, not on myself, and show me how to faithfully serve your people during this time."
A few evenings ago I was reading Matthew 28:16-20 with my nine year old in preparation for her upcoming online Sunday school lesson. This passage of Scripture contains Jesus' words to His disciples before His ascension into heaven, outlining what He expected them and all who follow Him to do in His absence. The task Jesus gave the disciples may have seemed impossible to them at the time. But the disciples were given Someone with all authority to remain on their side (and we are, too!). No matter the circumstance, enabled by the Holy Spirit, we are able to persevere and come out triumphant in hard and seemingly impossible situations (even COVID-19).
The Lord reminded me that although current circumstances may look different, what He calls His people to do remains unchanged, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
Whether we are able to "go" physically or if we use technology to "go" virtually during this time, we are enabled by the Spirit of the living, ascended Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the Father. Here are some practical ways we can keep going and live to do His work, even during a pandemic:
- Speak words of encouragement and comfort to those we are staying at home with. "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it." (Ephesians 4:29)
- Show grace by forgiving those who wrong us - again and again. "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ Forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)
- Set aside quiet time with the Lord each day, spending time reading His Word. We must first know His Word before we can share it with others. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)
- Spend time in prayer throughout the day, remembering to pray for our Bethel Elders, Pastors, directors and staff. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
- Be the light of Jesus and offer notes of encouragement to those who might need it through texts, email, or a letter in the mail. So often the loudest voices are the ones of dissension; our words can instead be a sweet encouragement. "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103)
- Choose to allow Christ's peace to rule in our hearts, demonstrating to the world that our hope and peace is found in Him alone. "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:15)
- Pray and look for opportunities to engage in purposeful conversation to share our faith in Jesus, whether it be in the grocery store check-out line, through our words on social media, or intentional conversations over the phone, texts, or Zoom video calls. "But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3:15)
- Be a light of the hope in our community by searching out new ways to serve and help those in need during COVID-19. The biggest need overall in our community continues to be food insecurity, and Bethel is coming alongside community partners and families who need help. Visit Bethel's Local Outreach page for more information on ways to help and current serving opportunities.
- Surprise a friend or family in need with a coffee, a meal, flowers or a special gift delivered safely to their front porch.
I'm counting down the days until we can again get together in person. And I'm looking forward to hearing the stories we will be able to share about how God worked in and through each of us as we chose to move towards Him and His people during this pandemic. Let's not settle for comfortable, but strive to press on together.