When I joined my first New City discipleship group five years ago, we began the process of memorizing Romans 8. Scripture memory was a new discipline for me, but over the course of two years I did commit that chapter to my memory. These words that are hidden in my heart have come to the surface over these past few days when I’ve felt tempted to succumb to fear and anxiety. Out of my meditations in Romans, I have been reminded of three disciplines that I need to practice daily when my feelings start run away with me.
First, I need to actively control my thoughts.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”Romans 8:5-6
We can choose where our minds are focused each and every day. The world wants us to panic, but those of us who know Jesus can choose a different path. When I’m not feeling God’s peace, I can consciously turn my mind from the things of this world, the flesh, and focus on the truths that God has laid before me. He is with us until the end of the age. I am not alone. I am loved. God is both good and fully in control.
Next, I must remember that as a believer I am to live as a person of hope.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”Romans 8:18
This verse reminds me that suffering is to be expected in this life. Jesus didn’t promise his people perfect health or lifelong prosperity. But more importantly, He has promised us an eternal share in his glory and a time when suffering will be at an end.
In the Lord of the Rings books, after much suffering, Samwise Gamgee reunites with his friend Gandalf, whom he had thought was dead. Sam asks him, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?” I long for a time when all sad things will come untrue. I take comfort in knowing there will be a day when suffering will be no more; not in this life, but someday. This truth gives me hope when the world looks dark.
Finally, I am called to pray.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”Romans 8:26-27
Every morning, before my daughters wake up, I sit on my couch and meet the Lord in the quiet. I confess that over this past week, I haven’t known what to say to Him. Do I ask that He keep all those I love healthy? Do I ask that He return prosperity to our nation? Do I ask Him to let me personally avoid the suffering that a terrible virus could wreak on my flesh? Yet after several days, I have felt a peace in my prayer time that only the Spirit can bring. I may not know what I need to pray, but if I show up, He will meet me. He promises that the Spirit of God Himself is praying for me. That truth strengthens me to persevere, to seek his will, and continue in prayer.
We don’t know what the days and weeks ahead hold for any of us. But the truth is, we didn’t know that before Covid-19 made its appearance on our shores. What we do know is that God is good. He is faithful, present, and in control. By keeping our minds focused on his truth, living as people of hope, and meeting the Lord in prayer, we can continue doing what we have always been doing: being his church, seeking his Kingdom here on Earth.