A Pastor’s Confession During a Generational Global Pandemic
By Pastor Zack Searcy
March 15 was the last time we had in-person services in our church. At the writing of this article, that was 82 days ago.
March was a blur.
April felt like a decade.
May gave us a glimmer of hope.
Here we are in June, and half of the year is almost over.
As a pastor, I’ve gone through the five stages of grief during this Coronavirus crisis: denial toward the veracity of the virus itself, anger at what government restrictions might do to the life and livelihood of our church family, bargaining with my deacons about what ministry was (and wasn’t) appropriate during this season, depressed at canceling Easter Services, and finally accepting the fact that I have very little control over the entire situation. I’m normally a pretty positive person, but I will freely admit that I have experienced every human emotion possible over the past few months - including all the negative ones. Anger. Fear. Sorrow. Doubt. Depression. Frustration. Brokenness.
If the past few months have taught me anything, it is this: I don’t have this world figured out.
Sometimes what is up is actually down, left is actually right, and right is actually wrong. What we perceive to be true is actually a lie, and what we thought was the real thing was just an imitation. Our thirst for what is real and what is true will not be discovered in society, as much as we desire for truth to reign supreme in our culture. My heart echoes the sentiment of the Psalmist who confessed to the Lord, “Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live” (Psalm 119:144). As a pastor, I want my congregation to know the truth, and for the truth to make them free. In a world full of turmoil, fear, and moral bankruptcy, the solace we have in life is the Word of God and the work of God (I don’t mean our labor in ministry, I mean God’s will being accomplished on the earth.)
So, as a leader, what do I do when the road is not easily mapped out for me? What do I do when there doesn’t seem to be a clear path forward? How do I lead a group of people with varied and vocal opinions about the circumstances that rule the day?
I turn to the Word of God.
There is a powerful story in 2 Chronicles 20 where Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, is perplexed about what to do. An alliance of enemy forces has amassed to come against Judah: men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. These enemy armies have joined forces to come against God’s people, and this causes much consternation for Jehoshaphat.
The questions must have been swirling for the King: What does this mean? Why now? What error, if any, is being exposed through this? Has God lifted His hand of protection from us? What is the right response to this threat? How do we honor God through this difficult circumstance? These questions aren’t explicit in the text, but you can imagine a good leader asking these kinds of questions in crisis…because these are some of the same questions you’ve been asking yourself.
Jehoshaphat was a man who honored the Lord, and through his crisis we can learn how to respond in the midst of our own predicaments:
- Increase Your Spiritual Intensity. Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and proclaimed a fast ( 3), he gathered the people (v. 4), and he engaged God in prayer (v. 6). When the temperature was turned up in his life, Jehoshaphat leaned into the things of God. Now is not the time to run to the media (social or traditional) or offer up our own commentary. No, now is the time to get on our face before God and seek His face. Instead of puffing out our chest we should be falling to our knees.
- Get Historical With God. In his prayer (vv. 6-12) Jehoshaphat recalls the goodness of God in times past. God had driven out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, given that land to the children of Abraham as an inheritance, and established His presence with the nation of Israel. These memories gave Jehoshaphat the confidence to believe that God could accomplish His purposes in another generation, too. “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered…” (1 Chronicles 16:11-13). If God has driven the enemy out in the past, He can do it again. If the Lord has blessed us with provision and safety in the past, He can do it again. If the Lord has heard our cries from Heaven and responded in the past, He can do it again. Remembering what God has done for us builds confidence, gratitude, and faith, three things that we absolutely need to walk in victory!
- Walk in Humility. Jehoshaphat is quick to admit his (and his people’s) limitations: “…we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us” (2 Chronicles. 20:12). We’ve seen many emotions in the midst of this crisis, but one we have not seen much of is humility. And yet to walk in victory what we need most is humility. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Humility proves that we don’t have the power or the understanding to remedy the trial we are facing. Instead, humility focuses us on pursuing the One who does have the power and understanding – God and God alone. This sentiment is reflected in Jehoshaphat’s concluding phrase, a phrase that reverberates into our very own realities: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chron. 20:12).
As a minister of the Gospel, I often don’t know what to do, but I do know who to turn to. When Jehoshaphat fixed His eyes on the Lord, God gave him a remedy – an arsenal of worshippers who gave thanks to the Lord while God set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. This may sound fundamental, but it bears repeating over and over – as ministers we must point people to Jesus! We don’t have all the answers, and our understanding of this season is limited. We never go wrong when we point people to the One who “rules over nations” and has “power and might” in His hands (2 Chron. 20:6). When we point people to Christ, we invite a new generation to join the army of worshippers, declaring the steadfast love of the Lord. As we fix our collective eyes on Jesus, we will see the Lord ambush every scheme and tactic of the enemy.
Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You.