Our current situation has provided an important opportunity to pauseand evaluatewhat matters most in our lives. Pause and evaluate. Those two words jump off the page for me. Part of me really likes the idea of hitting the pause button on life and re-thinking my priorities. Yet another part of me does not want to acknowledge the messiness that might arise from my evaluation. But regardless of what I want or don’t want, God is giving me and you a time to pause and evaluate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Think about it. Has the timing of this pause been much needed for you? Busyness often functions as an idol that controls most of our 24 allotted hours in a day. And for some, pausing is more like the experience of a detox. Do you struggle with being at home, but enjoy having more time to read, pray, and spend with the Lord?
Yet for others, this pause has produced anxiety. Uncertainty about the future looms. Financial stress is bearing down. This pause doesn’t feel like a heavenly break from busyness, it feels more like a Mack Truck running through your life.
What might come of this pause in our lives? Maybe a new starting point, a shift in perspective, or a dying to self in a particular area. We are not pausing for the sake of taking a break, but our pausing should move us down a better path. A path that might lead to new possibilities.
Here’s the rub for me. I like the opportunity to pause, but struggle with evaluating. Merriam-Webster defines evaluate, “To determine the significance, worth, or condition of by careful appraisal and study.” Often we connect pause with the word reflect. We might say, “I took some time to pause and reflect on the day.” Although reflection and evaluation seem to be the same, there is a key distinction between the two. Webster defines reflection as consideration, but evaluation as a determination. One can reflect by considering, but never make necessary changes. Yet determination sets the value and worth of the changes that need to be made. After we pause, evaluation leads us to move forward to new possibilities.
Imagine witnessing a bewildered man walking through the streets of his town as he wonders how the city became so lonely. Previously the market, homes, and businesses filled the atmosphere with activity and a future, but now the hopelessness of pain, suffering, and destruction had settled in. It might surprise you, this is not a description of our town during COVID-19, although there are a few similarities, it is a description of the prophet Jeremiah as he walked through Jerusalem in wake of the Babylonian invasion of 586 BC. Life had changed, people were struggling, lives were lost, and fear became the default for many. Amid uncertainty Jeremiah says something important, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” (Lamentations 3:40 ESV).
Do you feel the gravity of “Let us test and examine our ways”? Jeremiah’s world had changed and difficulty surrounded Israel, but Jeremiah knew this was the pause and evaluate moment both he and the Israelites desperately needed.
If we cannot seize our opportunity to test and examine our ways during this season, then we are giving up a meaningful moment that God has provided. Would you consider pausing and examining your life through the following questions:
- Have I drifted to a place of focusing on worthless things?
- Am I consistently growing in faithfulness or stagnating by being too comfortable in my relationship with Christ?
- Do I live with urgency for the mission of the gospel?
- Is the prayer of my life… “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease”? Have I turned situations, relationships, church, etc. to be about me?
- Have I sought to empty myself and with all of my heart love God, my family, my neighbor, my enemy?
I think there’s only one way to respond and it’s with a heart much like Jeremiah. Notice his prayer was for God’s People to return to the Lord! Jeremiah knew God’s purpose behind providing pause and evaluation was intentional, for God was drawing His people back to Himself. God often disturbs our normal rhythms of life in order to bring us back to Him.
Maybe our current disturbance calls for a prayer similar to Sir Francis Drake’s:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too closely to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizon of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope and love.