It’s a common personal greeting. A little more than “hi”, a little less than “tell me”. For years, it has been the perfect way to show someone you care without the messiness of a real conversation. I’m pretty sure one of my Germanic relatives invented it. Yet, somewhere in the past few weeks the reply of “I’m good, and you?” has started to feel a bit light. Admittedly, it’s hard to change a staple of American greeting overnight, but honestly all it takes is someone willing to go first. So here it goes…
How am I doing, you ask?
Honestly, I’m doing pretty well given the expresso-fueled intensity of life these days. There have been lots of adjustments, lots of surprises – but all in all, pretty good.
But if I were to be fully disclosing, I’d also have to confess to some moments of fear. Not long bouts, more like microbursts. A momentary realization that someone I know might not fare well during this epidemic. Or, an instant of anxiety over how our flagging economy might impact people in our church, or even my own family. I know I’m not alone in this. I have talked to many of you who are navigating a lot of fear right now. I get it. Fear is in abundance. As a man, it’s hard to admit to fear. I was taught to keep my fears to myself and be strong for everyone around me. But over the years, I’ve learned it’s okay to be afraid, it’s even natural. It’s what we choose to do with our fear that matters.
I’ve also had more than a few moments of internal frustration. The moments where we make statements in our heads, the ones we’re glad no one else hears. I’ve had instances of anger that a virus can take away big parts of my life without my permission. I’ve been angry that a lot of good people who never asked for any of this have to endure its effects. I’ve also felt anger because I feel so powerless. I don’t do powerless well (yes, I know that’s a character flaw). As a young man I learned that anger doesn’t keep very well – sort of like takeout that’s been in the fridge for a week – and it really does affect all those around me if I’m not careful.
Mostly though I’m tired. Tired from all it has taken to get a church our size to turn on a dime. Tired at all it has taken to get our family and our lives into this new normal. Tired of thinking about COVID-19 and how long it might all last and of new ministry strategies and of the potential financial impact on our church. Tired.
But in the midst of all of that, I’ve had great moments of peace, joy and freedom too – mostly around times of prayer. I know when a lot of people think about prayer, they visualize monotonous prayer checklists, wandering experiences spent searching for the right words and frustrating moments when God hasn’t met their expectations. I’m actually talking about a very different kind of prayer. The kind of prayer where we can say anything, where we can pour out our hearts, where we powerfully encounter the reality of God in time and space. It’s an experience where the genius, goodness and greatness of God infuse our lives – a God-filled, fear-busting, anger-diffusing, weariness-scattering prayer.
Philippians 4:6-7 says this…
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
This is literally an invitation to bring our fears, our frustrations and our weariness to Him. It is a declaration that we don’t have to carry them anymore, that we can actually hand them over to God. And we are told that the peace of God’s presence will be given to us in return.
This is what Jesus meant in Matthew 11:28-30 when He offered His yoke to us. Not the possibility of a problem-free life; Jesus didn’t even have that – but rather a life with Him. A life where His wisdom, heart and strength come alive in us. A life where the fullness of who He is resides in every part of our life.
In this challenging, fearful, frustrating season we actually aren’t powerless. We can invite the God of the universe into the fabric of our day. The opportunity of hard times is the opportunity to see God more clearly in our lives.
But, the real question is – how are you?
How is your anxiety, frustration, weariness?
How is your experience of God?
Have you been able to carve out some time in the midst of all the craziness to be with him? To pour out your heart – to offload what you don’t need to carry?
I pray that we all, in the midst of all we face, can find ways to open our hearts and minds to Him who gives us all we can ask or imagine.
May you know the blessing of His presence, the goodness of His heart and the strength of His will.