Learning to breath like a Christian during a pandemic

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Honestly I’m angry. It’s 10 pm and I just made myself shut off my phone.

What I read on Twitter tonight has me writhing in anger! I see people loosing their grip on their wealth and spinning the elderly and vulnerable as worthy martyrs on behalf of the American dream.

It makes me want to puke! Puking probably won’t help anything. But learning how to breathe like a Christian during this pandemic will.

Just today I was thinking about the tension between being joyful as a Christian and lamenting. Right now I mostly want to lament. I want to be angry at the injustice and evil I see. I want to weep over the anxieties I feel. But I also feel a sense of hope, anticipation and actual joy about the redemption Jesus is working through this dark time in history.

After scrolling through tweets tonight, finding myself scowling and scrunching my shoulders, holding my breath and slamming utensils in anger, I realized I needed to stop and breathe and cast my cares on the God who defends the widow and fatherless and redeems my life.

There’s a healthy pattern in the Psalms for a practice of living with the tension between joy and sorrow, anger and hope.

The Psalms are like breathing. Breathing like a sojourner in a foreign land. Breathing like a child of God.

We exhale, “How long?” And, “Why have you forgotten?” And, “Contend, O Lord!” and we cry.

He gathers our tears and bears us up continually (Psalm 68:19).

Then we inhale, “Trust in the Lord!” And, “You are my help and my deliverer!” Breathing in the hope of his promise.

He leads us on, in that “long obedience in the same direction” (Peterson), through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), all the way home.

There is much to lament. And there is also much good to anticipate. Our Redeemer lives! And while I weep and I cannot tritely say, “Look at how happy I am because I’m a Christian, even while the world burns.” I can, weathered and worn, laugh at the days to come.

I can breathe out my complaints to the One who takes vengeance, and I can inhale his unspeakable peace.

Is his promise enough?

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One promise I look to in the Bible when I feel everything in my life is screaming, “There is no God!  You’re all alone in this,” is Romans 8:28-29.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

The first part of that section feels good. “God is going to work everything for my good,” I tell myself.  And then I ask, “What is my good?”  The answer is found in the next verse.

My good is to be conformed to the image of the Son of God.  The good God is promising to work in every good and bad circumstance in my life is making me more and more like Jesus. The question is, do I value this good God is promising to work for me above everything in my life?

Because everything is up for grabs.

Jesus didn’t make any bones about what it meant to be his disciple. He didn’t say we had to earn being his disciple, but he said, if we follow him, we’ll let go of our grip on everything in our lives.

There’s this underlying thing about being a Christian. This constant undercurrent of a question threatening to grab me by my ankles and pull me under. And the question is, “Why are you doing this? Why church? Why care about telling others about Jesus? Why keep striving in a hard marriage? Why read the Bible? Why sing?”  And if the answer isn’t , “Because being made like Jesus is more valuable to me than anything else,” then I’ll sink.

In all the hard things that come with life, I will not endure in following Jesus if I haven’t tasted his goodness and value being being made like him more than anything.

Jesus prays for us, that our faith won’t fail. And like Peter, the question Jesus is asking us, every new-mercied morning is, “Do you love me?” And by his grace, I do. I have tasted that there is no comfort, to escape of hard things, no self-preservation or functional savior better than finding within me the heart of Christ.