Covid-19 has thrust the world, and the church, into an in-between season on a scale that has been compared to World War I and World War II. Life as we knew it has ended. The new has not yet emerged.
We find ourselves in what has been known throughout church history as “the confusing in-between.” Scripture offers us a clear biblical theology for transitions like the one we find ourselves in today: Embrace the endings, wait on God in the confusing in-between, and let the old birth the new. The question is how to position ourselves to receive what God is doing. The following are three spiritual practices that I believe are indispensable – relax, detach, and listen.
The day after Jesus feeds the five thousand, the crowds come looking for him. When they find him, they ask, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: To believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28–29)
When the people ask about the “works” God requires, they have in mind things such as prayer, acts of mercy, giving, or Bible study. Surprisingly, Jesus says there is only one work. This phrase "believe in him" means to trust in him—it is an ongoing, moment-by-moment, and day-by-day kind of way.
Theologian Frederick Dale Bruner captures the richness of this kind of trust when he writes, “‘Relaxing in’ is a good modern translation of ‘trusting in’ or ‘believing in.’” We relax by allowing ourselves to be held by him, regardless of the storms and circumstances in which we find ourselves. Jesus says that if we get this right—if we make iit our work to relax in him—he will take care of the rest.
The key to sharing this rich life of oneness with God is found in a practice called detachment. Unlike the cold detachment that some might expect from a judge or a tax accountant, our motive for this kind of detachment is being with Jesus. Jesus speaks of detachment as losing our lives that we might find them (see Mark 8:35–36).
Meister Eckhart, a Dominican monk and theologian, uses the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to teach the practice of detachment. Faced with the loss of reputation, emptied herself of her will for her life to radically surrender herself to the birth of Jesus in her. In the same way, we must be emptied of all created things to be full of God and what he wants to birth in us. We must be open to God’s orchestration of events in our lives for his glory. We release attachment to outcomes we anticipate, and we remain prayerful as we surrender our will to God’s will.
Even the best of Jesus’ disciples—Peter, James, and John—were not good listeners. We see this clearly when Jesus invites them to a high mountain where he is transfigured and they see the heavenly glory of Jesus, along with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:2).
Instead of waiting and listening, however, Peter interrupts with a plan of his own. But he doesn’t get very far before God himself interrupts Peter, saying, “Listen to him [Jesus]!” (Matthew 17:5). Why? Because the direction Jesus is going appears counterproductive and doesn’t make sense to Peter.
We all want a spiritual life, but we prefer to be in charge of it and have it unfold according to our schedule and in our way. But following Jesus is not first doing things for him; it is first listening to him speak and then doing what he says.
Pete Scazzero, a 2005 Doctor of Ministry graduate of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer), is a best-selling author. Part of this article is an excerpt from his recently released book – Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (Zondervan, 2021). For more information, visit: emotionallyhealthy.org