A Dangerous Prayer for Your New Normal

I, like the rest of the world, watched in horror and apparent helplessness while our entire world was turned upside down during the pandemic.  I never thought that I’d see the day when wearing a face-mask out in public—in the U.S., was normal. But, like it or not, this was. This is our new normal!

The New “Normal”

I believe that we can learn a lot from the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah:
Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people who had been exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.

This was after King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the court officials, the other officials of Judah, and all the craftsmen and artisans had been deported from Jerusalem. This is what Jeremiah’s letter said:

This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the LORD. This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land” (Jeremiah 29:1-14, NLT).

Much like the captives, living in Babylon, we have to learn to deal with our new normal and “make lemonade” with the lemons that we’ve been given. The only thing that can give us any peace of mind are the trio of truths: God has a plan; God knows the plan & God’s in control.

It took the rebellious prophet, Jonah, literally being locked away inside the belly of a huge fish for three days to soften his racist, nationalist perspectives (Jonah 1:17 – 2:10). The burning question is: what will be our world’s great fish?

Writer, C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Problem of Pain, made this insightful comment: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

There’s something about suffering to help give people insight and perspective that they, otherwise would never have. “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119: 71, NLT).

The “Big” Questions

I’ve noticed something in many of my clients, clients who have traditionally been secular, humanistic, or just plain atheistic. They’re thinking about the “big” questions and giving God a serious second look.

In just the past several years I’ve had multiple conversations with clients who have, prior, never shown any interest in any sort of spiritual things. However, true to His Word, the Bible: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NLT).

Now, this doesn’t mean that all things are good, but that God works all things out for good.

A Surprising Difference

As a therapist and pastor, I’ve had numerous conversations about the goodness and fairness of God and the existence of evil, pain, and suffering in the world. Conversations that begin: “If God is so good, why would He allow . . .”

Each of these conversations are crucial for people to wrestle with, and are riddled with personal pain, confusion, and anger at God. And, thank God, that His Word, the Bible, is filled with true, relevant, and authentic accounts of such people, doing their level-best to find real answers to those heart-questions. But recent conversations since the beginning of the pandemic–they are different.

These conversations all have one thing in common: they focus on having a relationship with God as an effective and healthy coping skill; something that will help them not only survive this crisis but thrive in the midst of it.

This is mind-blowing, because each of the clients I’ve had these conversations with have had an extensive history of chronic mental health issues (in length or severity, or both), and most of them also have co-occurring issues with substance abuse (drugs, alcohol—or both). This means that in their past, they’ve attempted to deal with their problems by using negative coping skills (codependency, anxiety, depression, faulty thoughts, substance abuse, etc.). But suddenly, they’re not turning to any of these former coping skills; instead, they’re seriously considering God as their chief coping skill.

Choosing Sides

As their therapist, I’m both legally and ethically prohibited from sharing my personal opinions and directly trying to get them to choose to come over to my “Christian” side of the fence—(proselytizing), and it’s never appropriate. And even if it weren’t against the law or best clinical practices, I still wouldn’t do it, simply because no one wants to be emotionally manipulated during a time of intense emotional and existential crisis.

Furthermore, research shows that choosing to become a Christian as a result of that kind of manipulation doesn’t last. Their faith would be immature and superficial—at best. And, unfortunately, I’ve had a ton of conversations with people who have had valid “church-hurt” experiences from others; True to the word, Satan is a thief that steals and kills destroys (John 10:10).

A Dangerous Prayer

Maybe, though, that someone who is seriously considering Christianity is you? If it is, then the best thing that you can do is to be patient and continue allowing God to speak to you and answer the questions you have about the things you’re worried about.

Consider this,  “dangerous prayer”:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139: 23, 24, NLT).

In my experience, this conscious understanding of your openness to God will always be honored with His powerful, all-pervasive presence. God will give you the deeper answers to your deeper questions. He is faithful!

Knowing Jesus Better

It’s my hope for you, that, like the Apostle Paul, praying for fellow Christians: “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:9, 10, NLT). As you learn, think, and grow, you need to remember to be patient; first with yourself, and then with others. God will bless your patience and your perseverance, as you continue to know Him better and better.

Yes, the pandemic is here to stay and there may be other realities that will shape our “new normal.” However, we can thank God that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NLT).

And, regardless of what happens in our present or future, Jesus promises us all: “. . . be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NLT).

 

 

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