Since March of 2020, COVID has drastically changed how Christians around the world see things. While our lives seem to have been upended, our success as fishers of men depends on how we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond to the many changes around us.
Romans 5: 2-5 says, “Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” We can trust that through faith, God gives us the character and flexibility to not only face change but to allow it produce strength and hope that does not break.
So, in the face of change and adversity when all we want is control of our own destiny, how do we maintain our faith and integrity?
Step #1. Gain and maintain perspective.
This requires us to step outside of our own limited experience to see life from another point of view. An attitude of lifelong education and seeking lessons from life, as opposed to being stagnant and depressed in negative circumstances, can change the narrative of your story. While life is throwing challenges at you, you can rise to meet it by learning and trusting in God’s promises. Perspective can be particularly difficult for teens, who may be in stages of development that are particularly self-focused. Youth leaders can benefit teens by helping coach and mentor them to gain empathy and perspective in difficult circumstances.
Identify and accept any emotions you feel and recognize your power over them. Beginning to see a “big picture” in which one circumstance does not dictate the remainder of our lives is a key step in obtaining perspective. Remember that as Christians, our “big picture” does not fit the limited scope of this world in this time. For youth who may be consumed by what is now, youth leaders need to both listen well and point to the bigger story of God’s salvation. Our picture is eternity in Heaven with Jesus and gaining as many souls as possible according to God’s will. Our hope in Jesus does not disappoint.
Step #2. Learn your role in the bigger picture. (What can I actually control?)
When negative circumstances arise, especially those beyond our control, our sense of security is shaken. Young people who are living out their Baptismal faith may experience anxiety and stress when they see the culture around them contravening that. It can be incredibly valuable to identify what is inside and outside their control.
Historically our society has separated physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual and intellectual health. Science is now recognizing that all these factors intertwine and impact one another for good or bad. Mentally our sense of control in any situation is a significant factor and impacts all other areas of wellbeing. Therefore identifying, even “small” things within our power to control, and then making positive steps with God’s help to master them, can have a reassuring effect on our situation. For example, I may not be able to change a friend’s behavior, but I can determine my own feelings and reactions to it. Teens can learn to identify their emotions and make choices that continue to point to Christ.
Our faith assures us that even the things we cannot control are within God’s control. Fear need not take over in a Christians life, for “perfect Love casts out fear”. We can rest in God’s perfect plan for our lives and know that even though our world is broken from sin, God is ever by our side desiring only good for our lives.
Step #3. Prioritize.
Once we have learned enough to understand the things which we can control, it’s time to prioritize. Even a loose plan of which steps to take when is very helpful. But setting priorities can also come with setting difficult boundaries with people and activities. Sometimes prioritizing seems a large and intimidating task, as it requires us to define our values.
- Who in my life is most important?
- How am I going to spend my time and with who?
- What needs are most important (food, shelter, transportation, etc.)?
- Where do I need to set boundaries for things and people that are not important now?
Our Lord knows what it means to be human. He knows all the challenges we face. God forgives us and guides us to set our top priority on Him alone. As we do, it is important to prioritize our own care and need for healthy boundaries.
Step #4. Keep an open mind.
Oftentimes the sense of control we desire prompts us to confine our thinking to our current knowledge
base. New circumstances however, require new thought processes. Learning to think “outside the box”
can be helpful and liberating as well as contribute to our overall perspective. We may be focused and
praying for a single outcome while God has something much bigger in store.
As Christians, we must accept that God cannot be contained in a “box”. His power is beyond our human
comprehension, so we must learn that there are going to be things we don’t understand. We must learn
that God can work however He wants. We don’t get to dictate to the creator of the universe how or
through whom He works to the benefit of His precious creation.
These steps can better equip us to continue in our roles as faithful Christians seeking by the gifts of God
to be fishers of men. These steps can help us mentor and guide teens who are in difficult situations
where they cannot see the future. When our minds are calm and focused on God, we can maintain our
faith and integrity. We can relinquish control to our loving Heavenly Father who promises good to those
who love Him.