Our news feeds are filled these days with practical “how-tos” for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic.
- How to wash your hands
- How to make your own mask
- How to work at home
- How to do school at home
- How to survive/thrive your business
- How to get your stimulus check
- How to file for unemployment
- How to stretch your budget
- How to go out in public
- How to stay physically fit
There is an endless sea of (mostly) helpful information to help us navigate these difficult times. I wrote my own how-to when Minnesota first ordered shelter-in-place (Five Things to do More/Less of During Shelter-in-Place). None of us have ever been here before, so we’re grasping for anything or anyone who will tell us how to do it.
We are so busy trying to figure out how that I’m afraid we may miss the what.
We’re all wondering when this will end and how life will be different after this is all over. Most of us are coming to terms that life won’t be the same when it does. There will be more limitations and regulations. There will be more virtual learning, working, and worshipping. Many aspects of life will be different.
But what about you?
How will you be different? How will you have changed?
The answers to those questions depend on the answer to this question: What does God want to teach me in this season?
The answer to this question is likely linked to another: Where do I most need to grow right now?
Maybe it’s just me but being caged up with my family 24/7 is revealing some pretty nasty characteristics about myself. Most of them I was already aware of, but stress has magnified them (funny how that works). Thanks to home confinement, what were areas that I should “probably work on” have now become mission-critical. My family needs me to change these things or we’re not going to survive – no matter how many helpful how-tos we read and watch!
My guess is you probably have some stuff too. We all do.
I’m sure there are many things that God wants to teach all of us right now – depending on our growth areas – but here’s one thing I believe God wants us all to learn during this time: to be “single-minded.”
To be “single-minded” means to be focused solely on God’s will and purpose and trust him to take care of our needs.
In Jesus’ longest recorded teaching that is commonly referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount,” he instructs his listeners to:
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and God will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT)
This instruction to be laser-focused on God is the culmination of Jesus’ teaching on money and worry (Matthew 6:24-34) which I wrote about here. The word translated into English here as “worry” is used six times in this section. The word in the Greek means “to divide the mind.”
The term “single-minded” makes a bit more sense now, doesn’t it?
Worry divides our mind. It shifts our focus. It breeds anxiety and fear so that we can’t think straight. Sometimes we can’t even function because our mind is so divided.
Jesus is saying, “Don’t focus on how big your bills are or how small your paycheck is. Don’t focus on the breakdown or break-up of the relationship. Don’t focus on the seriousness of the sickness or the threat of the crisis. Focus on Me. I’ve got you.”
Now, of course, this is much easier said than done, right?
How do I keep my focus on God when the pandemic is growing exponentially? The bills are mounting up? My kids are driving me crazy? My plans are a mess and everything seems to be falling apart?
How do I stay single-minded when worry is constantly trying to divide me?
Immediately after [feeding the 5,000], Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. (Matthew 14:22-33, NLT [emphasis added])
The storm didn’t surprise Jesus. Remember, he insisted that the disciples go out into the water without him. Then he went alone to pray (presumably for them). He knew what they were up against. He knew they would be afraid, but he sent them into it anyway. He doesn’t leave them alone for long, however.
When Jesus shows up, the disciples are even more freaked out, thinking the storm already has taken Jesus. But Peter’s like, “What’s up Jesus? I don’t know what these guys are so freaked out about. I’m not scared. In fact, if you want me to, I’ll come play in the water with you.” Oh Peter, great man of courage!
But what happens when the winds pick up and the waves rise?
Again, Jesus isn’t surprised. He didn’t panic. He wasn’t like, “Holy crap, Peter! Look out! Oh man, I’m so sorry. I had no idea that was going to happen.” He knew the wind and waves would rise when he invited Peter to join him, but he did it anyway.
What do you look to when you’re sinking? Jesus? Or the waves?
Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the problem. That’s when the waves overtook him. His mind was divided by worry and he was afraid he was going to drown even though Jesus was right there.
I don’t think God caused this pandemic, but He certainly didn’t prevent it. He didn’t shelter His people from it, even as we sheltered in place. Instead, He insisted we go through it. This is our collective storm.
The God who invites us into the storm is the same God who is with us in the storm. Just as he did with Peter, Jesus is teaching us to be singularly-focused on him in these troubled times.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus doesn’t mean we’ll never get hurt. It doesn’t mean that the storms will never come. It does means that when the waves rise and the winds increase and we feel shaky and afraid because we don’t know what’s going to happen, we set our sights firmly on Jesus as he reaches out his hand and says, “Trust in me.”