God is at work in the heart of his people during this pandemic. Who other than God could allow the entire world to be in captivity through something microscopic? The question we must ask ourselves is, what does God expect us to manifest through it? Though our physical body is in bondage, our Spirit is free to worship and draw near to the Lord.
If God doesn't take us out of a situation, what is He bringing forth in us? There is always a purpose in pain. When the Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Philippians, he was in a prison cell. He didn't know if he was going to live or die. Similarly, we are locked in our homes with the fear of death looming over us, and we cannot change it. Despite his seemingly desperate situation, Paul expressed uncertainty and confidence all at the same time. Paul doesn't bother to describe the horrible circumstances in prison; he just wants to talk about the fruit of the situation.1
And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the Gospel without fear. Philippians 1:14
Could we be bold enough to look at our lives in a similar way right now? What's happening in me is more important than what's happening to me. What is God pruning in me this season? Personally, having no means of "escape" forces me to confront my character flaws that negatively impact the quality of my life and those closest to me.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control... Galatians 5:22-23
In all my years practicing Islam, I never learned or even considered most of these attributes, especially not forbearance or gentleness. I worked in the very fast-paced, competitive industry of federal contracting, so I was always fighting my way to the top. Gentleness and kindness were not part of the equation. I worked hard and outdid my competitors, so I was successful.
Similarly, in Islam, as long as I prayed, fasted, and wore a headcover, I was good with "God." Life was just a series of transactions. Even love was a transaction, so I treated my personal relationships the same way. It was not until I encountered the Gospel that I learned about unconditional love. I began to understand the significance of gentleness, kindness, and forbearance. Jesus was so loving, kind, and forgiving. He gave it all for us to be free. It was my love affair with Jesus that made me want to be more like Him. However, only when the world completely shut down did I realize I still had so far to go.
What do you feel God is speaking to you in this season? Can you focus on what fruit He wants for your life, rather than the frustration of the moment? What if this season is fast-forwarding us into wisdom God wants for our lives. Imagine the possibilities!
In this season, we are all equally ignorant. Nobody knows what our new normal will be. God is filled with mystery. None of us know what He will do. Faith doesn't negate uncertainty. In life, the only thing you can control is your emotional and spiritual focus. So what matters is what we choose to focus on. We don't need to know how it ends, only that God will be with us through it. There's a confidence that goes beyond knowledge.
Now those are words to live by! As the saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
If we can focus on the transformation occurring in us, the pain makes sense. Pain without purpose is unbearable. We need to listen for what God is trying to teach us in this season. It doesn't happen overnight, though. That's why Jesus uses so many parables of harvesting. Growing fruit takes time. You need good soil, that first seed, fertilizer, water, and time. The tree has to grow before there is fruit. Honestly, it is only since quarantine that I appreciate the harvest analogy of the Gospel. I understood it conceptually, but now I am living it. I am covered in dirt, sometimes buried, but I have the hope in the Lord to make something beautiful out of it. Hope is a focus we have to choose consciously.
….but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:23-25
Paul is teaching us that the transformation and redemption is the promise we hold onto through the pain. If we already had it, we wouldn't call it hope. Nonetheless, there is a groaning and suffering that comes along with it. I am so grateful for a God that prepares us for the hardship. He doesn't pretend it will be easy. He teaches us to embrace it. He also promises to carry us through it. When we don't know what to pray, the Holy Spirit will pray for us. And when we mess up or stumble, God will make it work to our advantage if we love Him and continue to follow His purpose for our lives.2
None of us know what will come of the world in the coming months or even years. However, we can choose what to focus on. Let's focus on what's ahead and the fruit God is trying to bring forth in our lives. I'm going to try and ignore what I can't control.
What will you focus on as you go into the new normal?
1 Parts of this blog post were excerpted from Pastor Furtick “Focus on the Fruit” available at youtube.com/watch?v=QED4Oqd202c
2 Romans 8:26-28