For months upon months now, our country and our world have felt the effects of COVID-19 in our bodies, minds and spirits. We have grappled with questions about what matters most to each one of us — what we are willing to defend and what we treasure deep in our hearts. There has been pain, heartbreak and unimaginable suffering.
Our challenge this season is to give thanks with a grateful heart. Foundational to that goal is the following passage from 1 Peter 5:1-11 (NRSV): “Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it — not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, support, strengthen and establish you. To Him be the power forever and ever, Amen.”
One of the key points in this passage is that humility is required of all who take on themselves the name of Jesus Christ. We, each one, are called to “clothe ourselves with humility in our dealings with one another.”
Are we really willing to take a servant’s posture? To be seen as less than, rather than raised up in the eyes and minds of all?
How else do we come to God with a grateful heart, if we are not first clothed with humility?
We are challenged in verse 7 to “cast all our anxiety on Him.” But do we believe God will address our anxiety to our satisfaction? Or do we hold our concerns close to us, confident we are the only ones who know best — who can accomplish the goals we have for our lives. Giving our anxiety to God also requires relinquishing our grudges, our regrets and our inability to forgive ourselves and others. Giving our anxiety to God is to give our lives to the One Who created each one of us and Who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Verse 8 calls into question our discipline. Are our lamps lit and ready to greet the bridegroom? Or do we pass that effort off for another day in favor of our own agenda. Do we review our lives, body, mind and soul and wish for a different result, while also setting aside the very habits and practices that would yield a different outcome? In this season of harvest, we are reminded we reap what we sow. The disciplined life — doing what needs to be done — reveals our daily habits and efforts whether we choose to share our short-comings or not.
In verse 9, we are called to remain steadfast in faith, despite the suffering that accompanies life lived on earth. We hear through the words of scripture that we are not alone in our suffering, that our brothers and sisters around the world are dealing with pain and heartbreak, too. A life lived in faithful devotion to the Christian path does not spare us from pain, but gives us a way through the suffering by restoring hope.
And so, may we come, disciplined and prepared, relieved of anxiety, taking faithful steps into the unknown future trusting the Lord God of all and bowing, humbly on our knees at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. Let it be so.