A month ago, I went to the gym for a swim. This was partly for exercise and partly to cool myself on a hot day. After a good swim, I realised that my eyes were foggy. Suddenly I couldn’t see clearly. Arriving home my eyes felt misty, and I was starting to worry about my vision. I became anxious and fearful about losing my eyesight. But I soon learned that it was only the effect of chlorine, so I thank God for eye drops! There was no real cause for despair.
For some, the result of COVID-19 is that their love for the Almighty has grown cold.
However, considering the past year of COVID-19, when I look forward things still appear blurry. It feels like we’re staring into a fog and are already lost. The pandemic has brought bitter suffering, turmoil, uncertainty, job loss, and tragedy – and that’s just in my own circle of friends. It’s a struggle to see forward, let alone continue swimming into the darkness. For some of us, the result is that our love for the Almighty has grown cold.
When Love Runs Cold
Now, as a Christian, how do you respond to these circumstances? The situation is not different for Christians. It’s tough when things are hard. It’s tempting to doubt God’s saving power and promises. We easily grow despondent.
When things are hard, it’s tempting to doubt God’s saving power and promises.
Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:29 that “it has been granted to us that for the sake of Christ we should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” In other words, we are not immune to suffering as Christians. We often cannot understand why we have to go through suffering, but we can trust in the sovereign God who loves us and who knows everything. We can also trust that he is always at work for our good.
What Will Sustain & Guide Us?
This is incredibly difficult to believe at times. But it is the truth. So, what will sustain us and guide us in this troubled season of life?
This question should point us to our source of life: God our Creator and heavenly Father. He is our great shepherd and the sovereign sustainer of life, both physically and spiritually. He has given us his word to teach us, to guide us and direct our paths.
As David says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Therefore we need to constantly feed our souls with God’s Word. For it is God’s inspired truth that will sustain us. Only there will we find our ultimate hope in Christ.
We need to constantly feed our souls with God’s word.
Moreover, Peter urges all believers saying, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Thus, we must hunger and thirst for God’s word. For by it we can grow to be more like Christ. Eventually, it is God’s word that will clear the fog in our eyes and world as we gain certainty from the Bible. The Spirit will guide us in all truth.
Now, how do we move forward? How do we look to the future despite all challenges swimming before our eyes?
Keep Looking Ahead
1 Peter 1:6-7 reminds us that, “Though now for a little while, if necessary, we have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of our faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” But in this we rejoice that God, in his mercy, “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
These words should bring us comfort and a deep joy as Christians. For by them we can look beyond the fog to our living hope and inheritance.
How do we look to the future despite all challenges swimming before our eyes?
Philippians shows us Paul’s radical faith in Christ. He never stopped trusting and serving God and the Church despite all the challenges he went through. While Paul was in prison, his love for Christ grew rather than diminished (Philippians 3:10). He continued to spread the gospel to many, that is, to those who were in prison and to the churches he was ministering to (Philippians 1:12-13).
In fact, Paul is a great example for us today in the way he conducted his life as a Christian. His primary desire was to know Christ Jesus as his Lord and grow to be more like him (Philippians 3:8).
Yes, we are still here living on earth, which is tainted by sin and hostility towards God. Yet we can also desire to know Christ and continue to live a life of daily repentance (1 John 1:8-10). Like Paul, we must “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ’ (Philippians 3:14). Paul lived his life on earth in light of heaven. This enabled him to live for Christ and see death as gain (Philippians 1:21). He looked forward to a perfect fellowship with Christ forever, when there will be no more sin, pain, and suffering.
Paul lived his life on earth in light of heaven. This enabled him to live for Christ and see death as gain.
Even though it may seem like we are staring into a fog, we can look beyond it to eternity. We can be sure of the day when we will be with our Lord Jesus Christ forever.
We need to always remember that God is still in the process of sanctifying his Church. Regardless of season, this is a time for us to grow to be more like Christ. God is calling us to persevere in times of hardship, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). Although these words may be hard to swallow, they are necessary for us as believers. For hardship shapes our character into godliness.
It’s a bit like swimming. Winter is just starting here in Johannesburg where I live – the pool is looking a lot less inviting than it did 3 months ago. However, I know that if I really wanted to grow in my strength and confidence as a swimmer, I should be disciplined and get in there whatever the weather. Sometimes that’s what persevering in our faith feels like too.
Hardship shapes our character into godliness.
The Future Is Certain
Fortunately, the words of Paul in Romans 8:18 give us a sure hope. We are not doing all this in vain. “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Therefore, we must keep persevering in the Lord as we look toward the future.
“Be patient until the coming of the Lord, as the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and being patient about it until it receives the early and the late rain. We also must be patient and establish our hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8). So, while we wait, we must continue to fix our eyes on Christ. We must allow him to use us and transform us by his Spirit for his own purposes.
While we wait we must continue to fix our eyes on Christ.
Consequently, we must be certain that true sustenance and guidance can only be found in God’s living Word, our eternal hope, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. It is the Word of God that can remove the fog in our eyes and help us see what lies ahead, while we wait patiently with unspeakable joy as the future of our heavenly calling unfolds. And, ultimately, when we completely trust in God who is sovereign over all, we will find true sustenance from his word until the day of Christ’s return. So we keep eating, we keep looking ahead, and we keep swimming.