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Growing stronger in crisis

I have a confession. I have really struggled to write this article.

A post on Facebook describes my dilemma. “My most useless purchase of 2019? A 2020 Planner.” Everything, I planned for me and the churches I serve as pastor has been turned upside down thanks to the coronavirus crisis.

Yet, I am fortunate. I am isolated but not disease stricken, confined but still able to communicate with people. I have not lost my job or income, so I have a lot to be thankful for.

Instead of complaining, I pray for those struggling with this monster called COVID-19. So many people have died. So many on ventilators. So many struggling with harmful after effects. So many friends and family are unable to see or visit their loved ones.

I pray for those who go out every day and work in the crisis. There are so many heroes literally putting their lives on the line helping others survive: Health care workers to grocery store employees, to police officers and firefighters. We cannot thank them enough.

I pray for those who lost their jobs or their business through no fault of their own. Restaurants, airlines, retail stores, beauty salons and other businesses facing the consequences of an economy in shambles.

I celebrate and praise God for churches. They may not be meeting in buildings, but people have been working hard to make a difference while the crisis is swirling all around them. You can see them on the front lines helping their neighbors, volunteering where needed, offering encouragement and donating time and money to help our community recover. We have a lot to be proud of.

But, when the crisis is over, now what? What will we do when we are together once more? What kind of leadership is needed to guide us into a very uncertain future?

I have been praying and thinking a lot about our future over the last few weeks. How can we come out of the coronavirus crisis stronger, not weaker? How can God guide us?

The Prophet Isaiah wrote to people who also experienced crisis, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” — Isaiah 43:1-2

Do not be afraid: I ransomed you. I called you by name. You are mine.

When you go through deep waters? I will be with you.

When you go through rivers of difficulty? You will not drown.

When you walk through the fires of oppression? You will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

With trust and faith in God to guide us, I believe we can grow stronger in crisis, not weaker. God says, “Do not be afraid. I will be with you. You will not drown. You will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

I believe, growing stronger in crisis depends upon how we answer three important questions:

1. How firm is your foundation?

2. How big is your dream?

3. How good is your team?

How firm is your foundation? This phrase is based on the hymn of a similar title that promises, “Fear not. I am with you.” Having a firm foundation starts with practicing the basics of strengthening our faith: prayer, worship, Bible study, serving others. That strong foundation will prepare you and enable you to trust God even in crisis, “When through the deep waters I call thee to go, The rivers of sorrow shall not thee overflow, For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, And sanctify to thee, thy deepest distress.”

How big is your dream? This is the next step. When immersed in crisis, can we dare to see the possibilities for ministry? Big dreams are the product of prayer and spiritual preparation. Big dreams often come from unexpected sources. Big dreams may at first sound silly and unrealistic but big dreams can eventually become a vision that can change and shape you, your church and your community.

How good is your team? This is the recognition that you were not meant to be alone. Dreams seldom amount to much unless others share your passion. Good teams depend upon God’s guidance. Good teams need creative and organized leadership. Good teams require a willingness to serve and sacrifice. Good teams receive constant nourishment of praise and encouragement.

What is exciting is seeing how so many in our community already have a strong foundation. They have big dreams and good teams in action now. In many ways, we are able and ready to come out of the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever and looking for opportunities to serve in the name of Jesus.

My daily prayer has been, “Lord, help me be the church today and believe that I can shine a light in someone’s darkness. Today, we are immersed in one of the most difficult crises our world has ever faced. May we continue to be the church our community needs today and may we be ready and able to shine our light in someone’s darkness tomorrow. Amen.”

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.