I heard a statement recently: “We haven’t seen the worst, and the worst hasn’t seen our best.” (Ryan Leak) You and I have declared 2020 the worst year we’ve ever experienced; or at the least we have heard others say that. It has indeed been a tumultuous ride on many levels. Ten months into it we are weary of the disruption of normal and there are many feeling the despair of losing hope that normal will ever return. Perhaps the fear is that it isn’t the worst and there’s more to come.
Let’s suppose that is true. Can we be our best in the worst of times? At this juncture in the crisis, do we have anything left to energize ourselves into people of hope and purpose? In our family rhythms, can we invest in each other in a way that we may not have done before? I would like to pose a challenge for all of us to consider. At the end of this time of pandemic/election/isolation, can each of us look back and recognize what God has been up to in our lives, our family, our culture and our church? We obviously do not believe he is absent from all of this, so are we squinting our eyes of faith to see where he is? One cannot read God’s story and miss the point that he works through the calamities of history. He is in the worst of our times.
I believe Paul can give us some advice. He certainly went through the worst of times (2 Corinthians 11:22-29). He writes to the church at Philippi from prison and asks them repeatedly to rejoice. His instruction (not suggestion), after reminding them that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” is to “do everything without complaining or arguing” so we will look like “children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:13-16). That is a tall order when we are in the middle of an election, racial division, social distancing and mask wearing. In my opinion, this does not give any of us an out. The underlying theme for Paul is to rejoice! Rejoice?
Paul models for us what it is like to be the best in the worst of times. God laid on Paul a mission that was beyond what most of us would accept. His worst of times were because of his desire to obey God. How was Paul able to go through all that and see God working? He had a secret. Paul surrenders to God’s purposes and will in his life by saying, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” His secret is “being content in any and every situation” (4:12-13). The God-given strength isn’t for him to carry out his own will but to be content with the purposes of God in his life. It is impossible for us to do that on our own strength.
Back to our challenge: Let’s consider God’s purpose in our own lives through the rest of this year so that in the future when we recite what 2020 was for us, it will be a story of contentment through HIS strength. That is when we will be our best.