Our faith walk balances our trust that God is divinely in charge of all aspects of our lives alongside our knowledge that we are still in charge of our daily decisions.
The balancing act between trust and action is especially challenging when life feels out of control. Psalm 91 confidently proclaims that we “who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will be able to rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” As our refuge and fortress, we trust the Lord to save us from the “fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” In verse 14, God promises to those that love Him, “I will rescue him; I will protect him…he will call on Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” In the wake of a pandemic, steep stock market plunges, and seismic shifts in the delivery of education, it would be easy to say that God’s role—His part—is to protect us from contracting disease, facing devastation, and disrupting our dreams. It would also be altogether too easy to say that our part is just to trust and rest in His shelter while He fixes everything. However, that would be taking for granted that the Lord gives us an active role, too.
In verse 14 He also tells us to start by calling on Him.
We seem to get that our part includes prayer, but when we pray, are we asking Him more than just to do His part? Are we asking Him to show us what is next for us, too? We have a part to play in the grand narrative and Scripture is packed full of instructions that spell out what we are to do. So, what else does He ask of us?
…God asks us to be stewards of what we’ve been given.
I Corinthians 4:2 clearly says that “it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” That includes being a good steward of our own bodies. Yes, God is entirely capable of saving us from the most deadly poisons. Acts 28 tells how He healed Paul from the deadly snake bite on the island of Malta. However, God didn’t encourage us to walk into a viper den on purpose! He also healed an army commander, Naaman, from leprosy in II Kings 5. In that case, God spelled out specific instructions to bathe in the river Jordan seven times before the healing would come. We need to take care of our own bodies, which includes learning how to wash our hands, cough into our elbows, and avoid exposure to (or exposing others to) diseases like COVID-19 whenever we can. Our part includes taking appropriate precautions for ourselves and our families.
…God asks us to take our thoughts captive for Christ.
The way we have peace in the midst of challenging circumstances is to think like Jesus. Philippians 4:8 tells us to focus our minds on things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Romans 12:4 instructs us to actively take our thoughts and our attitudes captive. If left to our own devices, we are more likely to catastrophize. What we dwell on needs to be a deliberate choice we make. God didn’t give us our minds to sit idle or drift into panic mode. They are a gift from Him to exercise thoughtfully (pun intended). All kidding aside, we need to practice overcoming thoughts that would otherwise overtake us.
…God asks us to actively model the behaviors of Jesus.
Philippians 4:9 promises that the peace of God will be with us when we put into practice whatever we have “…learned or received, or heard from Me, or seen in Me.” In other words—act like Jesus, too! We know from John 13:35 that we demonstrate that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. He gave us hearts for a reason that we would be able to exercise compassion, empathy, understanding, and sacrificial love for the people in our lives. That includes our colleagues, fellow students, family, friends, and neighbors—especially in challenging times.
…God asks us to trust that He will make a way for us, no matter what.
He reminds us in Isaiah 43:19 that He will send a stream of life through the middle of our desert experiences. In spite of the corona crisis, our students will have a new way to complete their spring semester academic goals on time. In spite of the sudden change in roommates, we will find a way to turn closer quarters at home into new ways to connect with our dear ones. In spite of shut downs, social distancing, and changes in work, we will be able to take care of the needs of our families. Change can feel uncomfortable. Nervous is a companion to new, but God draws us to Himself in times of uncertainty. When the path to the goal doesn’t look familiar, He is asking us to let Him lead the way.
…God asks us to walk in our calling.
Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that He has prepared goods works for us in advance, so that we could “walk in them.” Sometimes we need to be reminded that walking requires legs! The carrying out of the jobs and ministries that God has prepared for us still requires our initiative. In times of global uncertainty, it’s easy for us to want to just hunker down. However, in times of crisis, our opportunity to care for others and share our faith in our circles of influence is greater than ever. We need to intentionally practice what we already know about God’s character and our calling.
We are still a community, still called, and still care.
God has called the University of Northwestern to be a training ground for Christian leaders who can bring a message of hope to their workplace, homes, churches, and communities. Our mission hasn’t changed—neither has His faithfulness. As President Cureton so often says, “The WHY doesn’t change, but the HOW will.” Could it be that the Lord will use the current national crisis to expand UNW’s footprint? He is entirely faithful in turning traumas into traction for the Kingdom. Is it possible that from our diverse locations we can be a Christ-centered community that reaches an even greater territory for Christ this spring?
When we need reminding, we can re-read and rehearse these truths in Scripture about God’s part and our part, in spite of our circumstances:
God’s part is to be in charge.
He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present (Psalm 147:4-5, Job 26:7-14).
Our part is to follow His lead.
We do that one step at a time (Psalm 119:105).
God’s part is to provide what we need.
He cares for us out of His abundance of riches (Philippians 4:19).
Our part is to steward what he gives us to use.
Whether it is our time, talent, or treasure, our job is to share it, not to hoard it, and that includes toilet paper and hand sanitizer! (Matthew 6:19-29, Luke 12:16-21).
God’s part is to be trustworthy.
He promises to uphold us (Isaiah 41:10).
Our part is to cast out fear and give Him our trust.
It is far better to trust God than man (Psalm 118:8).
God’s part is to equip us to do all things through Christ.
He is our strength and shield (Psalm 28:7).
Our part is learning to be at peace in all situations.
He brings contentment--no matter what (Philippians 4:11-13).
God part is turning trauma into traction for the Kingdom.
He is gifted at making beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
Our part is to be true to His calling for our Christ-centered community.
We are to continue making disciples wherever we are (Matthew 28:19-20).
In this unprecedented time in the history of the world God created, remember that He is still in charge.
We can rest, knowing that He cares more about us and the body of believers at the University of Northwestern than we could ever fathom. The Lord is with us, hemming us in on every side (Psalm 139:5). We can pray with anticipation of what He will do (Psalm 5:3). He is present with our entire Northwestern student, parent, staff, faculty, alumni, and now our virtual learning community. We are together in this, each doing our part. We can honor God in the midst of our circumstances by refusing to react out of fear. Rather, we can peacefully pursue our part while we trust Him to do His.