I didn’t think I had a problem with worldliness. After all, I’m pretty much a minimalist. The only thing I own in excess is books, and I’m particular about curating my collection. I’m generally generous with my money, and I’m careful about my spending.
In addition, over the past year, the Lord has been weaning my heart from a ruling desire for recognition, and I’ve freed up my calendar from commitments that I had only said “yes” to out of a desire to please people. And I’ve spent a good five-plus years of my life working in ministry so people could know Jesus.
With all of this to prop up my “spiritual” ego, I couldn’t possibly be worldly—right?
Enter a global pandemic. Suddenly, my worldliness shone clearly, in shocking technicolor.
It turns out, my worldliness wasn’t about the “stuff” that I always associated with worldliness. It was about my life.
I didn’t expect to ever be considered high-risk for a deadly, uncontrollable disease. I didn’t expect to not be able to see my close friends in person. I didn’t think my world would be turned upside down.
I have plans. I have hopes. Surely God wouldn’t cut my life short? Surely those plans He led me to are still the plans, right?
This crisis revealed that my heart didn’t desire more of God. It desired more of my plans. It desired more of life on this earth. It desired certainty and answers in what I could control. I wanted to save myself and my way of life, and in that, my heart valued what the world values. I was worldly.
“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
Why would Jesus say that? Because people like me (and perhaps people like you?) need to be weaned off of worldliness. We easily take refuge in having enough sanitizer, savings, or strings to pull, and He knows this. But instead of just reprimanding us, He invites us.
Read that verse from Luke again. The invitation is to lose, yes, but it’s also to gain something beyond measure. Perhaps in giving away that last package of toilet paper our neighbor needs, we gain an opportunity to trust Jesus’ provision more. Perhaps in letting go of our certainties, we gain a more steadfast hope. Having to create substitutes for our favorite activities or ingredients; putting ourselves at higher risk to work at an essential, neighbor-serving job; or juggling work and caregiving and unexpected homeschooling . . . perhaps we’ll discover that these are the ways God is drawing us to Himself.
What we’re facing isn’t persecution like Jesus’ original audience would face, but it is suffering. Remember those “trials of various kinds” that James talked about earlier in his letter (1:2)? They’re various, so we all face different ones—including not being able to hug loved ones in times of grief, sitting alone in your apartment for weeks, and having the kids 24/7—but they’re all opportunities for each of us to be reoriented by God’s beautiful grace.
How? Listen to Pastor James:
He gives more grace. . . . Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (4:6–10).
As our passage tells us, drawing near to God in a crisis isn’t much different than drawing near to God in the everyday. It’s submitting to God, resisting temptation, and seeking Him. It’s repentance and humility. It’s believing the good news that Christ has won the victory to give us grace today, and it’s trusting that He will bring us to eternal exaltation and joy.
So yes, the plans God led us to—in some ways, they haven’t changed at all. Our circumstances have changed, our schedules have been upended, and new weaknesses and struggles have popped up in our lives, but the basic plan of our relationship with God hasn’t changed. The same path that God has used to transform our lives in prosperity is what He uses in a pandemic.
There’s many theories being tossed around about what God might be doing through this health crisis—some great ones. Do I know what God’s up to? Not in the world as a whole. But I do know that a part of His plan was to work grace in me and bring me to repentance over my worldliness. As I fought for my safety and my certainty in my bank account and my ability to avoid the virus, God was gently calling me to draw near to Himself. I’m so thankful this is what He is doing.
I can’t say for sure, but perhaps that’s His plan for you, too. Are you willing to let Him transform you—whatever it takes?