Unsplash: Engin Akyurt

10 Things to Do During Tumult

By David Stoddard, Sep 1, 2020

The only constant in missions is change. The only certainties in life are death, taxes, and suffering. Though I know these things, the storms of change and suffering catch me unawares every time.

Why am I so unprepared? 

The COVID-19 crisis has baffled most of us. We live from day to day reading travel alerts, government posts, and work-related updates. From the realists among us I hear a collective, “I told you it would be like this. This is just the beginning.” Though I am an optimist, I still find myself crying, “How long, O Lord? When will this end?”   

In order to be more prepared, I’ve composed a top 10 list of things to do when storms hit, tumult overwhelms, and I feel anchorless.

1.  Look around. Suffering shouldn’t surprise us (1 Peter 4:12). We follow in the footsteps of Christ. His path was marred by suffering. When He invited us to follow Him, He invited us to participate in His mission, life, hope, grace, glory and, yes, suffering.

2.  Look through. To see by faith means you’ve got the right glasses on. Hebrews 2:2 reminds us we need to see the unseen. Normal eyesight isn’t enough. Your natural gaze will convince you that you are Waiting for Godot. The truth is He is nearer than you can imagine. No tear falls without His notice. His affection runs deep for those who suffer. 

3.  Look in. Circumstantial storms like a global pandemic are like a crucible—they burn away all the masks and makeup I’ve applied to my heart and reveal what I’m really made of. James calls this the testing of our hearts (James 1:2). When tested, where do you turn? Are you shocked by the state of your heart, or shocked by the radical love of Christ for you?

4.  Look up. Remember God’s reminder to Job (Job 38-42). God is God. You’re not. Clenched fist needs to give way to bent knees. Humility before the Sovereign One can quiet the most restless soul.

5.  Look behind. Look behind the curtain of your life and confess the sin you see. This should be a daily discipline. When we fail to do this with sincerity, we diminish the significance of the cross—we yawn at rather than yearn for Jesus’ cleansing work.

6.    Look back. Read the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 39-53 and John 10-21. The astounding thing about the King you follow is that He entered into your suffering and you can enter into His.

7.  Look clearly. Speak honestly and frequently to the Lord. It may be a weak groan, an exasperated sigh, or a loud scream. Sometimes it’s a simple “amen” you speak when someone you love reads a psalm. That may be all you can muster. Keep speaking.

8.  Look expectantly. I love the reminder that Michael Card gives us in his song “In the Wilderness.” God doesn’t just call the wayward and wandering to the wilderness—He calls His sons and daughters. Then comes the line I love. Tumult doesn’t mean you are lost. In fact, “wandering in the wilderness is the best way to be found.” Look expectantly for God to meet you in wilderness we call tumult. He often meets His children there.

9.  Look searchingly. Seek out those who have suffered and listen to their stories. Read their books. Download their podcasts. Watch their movies. Tumult isolates us. COVID-19 is distancing us. Don’t let it. You are never alone. In listening to others’ stories let your heart be moved to tears of compassion. Let their stories remind you the great Story of Redemption is still true.

10. Look ahead. Psalm 84 reminds us that we are on a journey. Your footsteps may be sprinkled with tears and blood, but they lead down a path which ends at a temple. In Revelation the temple gives way to the Garden City of our God, in which His presence and power drives out all tumult forever. 

I tend to go deaf and blind in storms. I hear my own words as spoken through a megaphone and ignore the words of Scripture, the sacraments, from listening prayer, from fellow believers, and the community of faith. We were never meant to weather storms alone. We have been given people both modern and ancient to help us see rightly. 

David Stoddard is MTW’s international director for Europe.

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