Who is your neighbor?

This is the third essay in a special series on what Jesus taught about racism and social injustice, entitled, What God Expects from Us Now.

Robbers beating the pilgrim (Good Samaritan window, Chartres Cathedral, France)

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

Luke 10:25-28, NIV

Accept God’s purpose for your life

In short, by reciting the two greatest commandments, Jesus was teaching us that God’s purpose for our lives is to know, love, and serve God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love is the chief characteristic of God. Loving others is thus the hallmark of godliness (literally, god-likeness). This is our calling as followers of Jesus Christ.

Such a message is not hard to understand, intellectually, but living by this kind of love can be very difficult in practice. Why? Because we human beings tend to put ourselves or something else at the center of our universe instead of God (the Bible calls that, idolatry). Then, by nature, we are selfish and driven by all sorts of desires and impulses that run contrary to love. Even when we love those who love us, our “love” tends to be conditional, with strings attached. (I’ll love you, if…. I’ll continue to love you, as long as you….) But the moment we’re afraid, we’d rather do something else, we’re mistreated, or loving others becomes inconvenient or too costly, love can easily fly out the window.

So, not surprisingly, the religious leaders of Jesus day easily agreed with him about the priority of love, intellectually. But then they quickly sought ways to excuse themselves from actually putting love into practice when they didn’t want to do it.

The Pharisees question Jesus (Good Samaritan window, Chartres Cathedral, France)

But wanting to justify himself, [the religious lawyer] asked Jesus,

“And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:29, NIV

But Jesus was ready to close the loophole. He responded by telling the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan to put in no uncertain terms his answer.

Why the Samaritan is Good

When Jesus identifies the role model for Jewish people in the parable as a Samaritan, he is both (deliberately) offending them and challenging them to raise their standard for loving others in society. Jewish leaders in Jesus’s day looked down on Samaritans, who were a racially mixed people. Their religion was also a syncretistic blend of Judaism and pagan religions. After the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel (722 BC), most of the people were taken away into captivity. When they eventually returned, many had intermarried with the Assyrians. These racially mixed people became known as Samaritans. They were rejected by the so-called, pure-blood Jewish people from the southern kingdom (Judah).

By choosing a Samaritan as the hero of the parable, Jesus is making at least three points, which have relevance to us today in working to mitigate racism and create a more just society.

Who pleases God?

Not those who have the “right” color of skin

But those who have compassion on those in need, who show mercy and kindness to those who don’t deserve it or who can’t repay them

Who is our neighbor?

Not just those of our own color, tribe, or race

But anyone in our society, especially those who have been victimized, exploited, or mistreated by others, or who may simply need an extra helping hand

How far are we expected to go?

Not only as much as is comfortable or convenient

But as far as necessary to adequately address the needs and suffering in society

Love is not just a warm, fuzzy feeling, or cute emoji. Showing mercy costs us something. The two religious leaders, no doubt, could have preached wonderful sermons on love and the God of mercy. But when it came to addressing real-life, human needs in their society, they crossed to the other side of the road and just walked on by. In glaring contrast, the Samaritan paid for the beaten man’s medical, housing, and food expenses out of his own pocket. He took time away from his business. He planned to check back in to see if there was more he could, if he hadn’t done enough the first time.

The Samaritan cares for the beaten man (Good Samaritan Window, Chartres)

Hot and cold racism

My Apple dictionary defines racism as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.”

This definition does a good job highlighting what I call “hot” racism— outright, overt hostility or aggression toward a different race or person of a different color. Everyone knows what that looks, sounds, and feels like. In my experience, most white people don’t act like that.

However, as sociologists Robin DiAngelo and Michael Dyson point out in their thought-provoking, insightful book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018), by only defining racism in extreme terms, we easily fail to recognize our own, underlying racist attitudes and behavior.

In other words, there is also what I call “cold” racism. Cold racism is far more subtle and difficult to detect, even in ourselves. Cold racism can simply be apathy or preoccupation with the concerns of one’s own family, tribe, or group to the neglect of others who don’t fit in with us, for various reasons. For example, to ignore the cries of black people for greater justice, or to refuse to seriously consider ways that our society favors white people over minorities is to be complicit with racism. DiAngelo’s and Dyson’s book provides numerous, convicting examples.

This essay barely scratches the surface of the kinds of changes needed in our society, since I’m focusing on the individual. But one very good place to start is for each of us (including me) to become more self-aware of our implicit biases and to be a whole lot more humble about how we might be unwittingly contributing to racial discrimination and injustice.

Spiritual Application

Let’s be honest. Like the well-educated, sincerely religious, lawyer in Jesus’s day, most of us would prefer to justify our own way of living and acting rather than do much more than make a contribution, read a few articles, and watch news shows. Many of us would rather spiel off all our good deeds and righteous behavior than do the soul-searching work to examine our deepest attitudes toward minorities. We would rather just be outraged or find reasons to congratulate our progressiveness than ask ourselves, “Am I truly loving my neighbor to the extent Jesus calls for?”

Jesus answer to the Pharisee’s attempt to justify his inhospitality and neglect of people in need was clear: Your neighbor is precisely the person you may least want to reach out to, and probably has done nothing to deserve your help. Loving him or her is going to cost you more than you want to give, and is likely to take more of your time and energy than is convenient.

The Good Samaritan does not offer a role model for working for systemic change, something essential for real change in America. Yet he does offer a concrete example of a godly (God-like) attitude toward those who are disadvantaged, suffering from racial discrimination, injustice, or just “different” from us. It’s called compassion. And when we put it into action, it’s called mercy.

[Jesus said,] Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” [The expert in the Jewish Law] said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:36-37, NRSV

Who is your neighbor?

The full text of the parable of the Good Samaritan

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:29-37, NRSV

Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.


Photo Credit:

  • Photos from Chartres Cathedral, copyright ©Jill Geoffrion, www.jillgeoffrion.com. Used with permission.
  • Photo of man, Leroy Skalstad via unsplash

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What would Jesus say?

This is the second essay in a special series on racism and social injustice: What God Expects from Us Now.

Memorial for George Floyd, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Since George Floyd’s murder by a white policeman in Minneapolis and the ensuing protests and riots, I have felt overwhelmed with emotions and questions. I have been reading articles and editorials every day. I have been listening to blacks and whites talking, preaching, warning, advising, and arguing about racism and injustice in America. I have been watching troubling documentaries and historically-based movies on the history of race relations, law enforcement, and the justice system in recent years.

It’s not just what’s being said or portrayed that’s making me feel so upset. It’s the underlying reality of widespread disparities between whites and blacks, and a whole set of troubling societal issues, stemming from years of slavery followed by 135 years of (at times) improving, yet often pitiable, treatment of African-Americans in my country. Intelligent people are fiercely debating causes and responsibility, as they should be. But, at this point, I’m more concerned with what is actually going to produce meaningful change?

So much is needed to reduce racism and create a more just society; but here, for a moment, let’s step back from the intense emotion of these issues–not to diminish our passion to thoroughly understand what is going on, what has led to this point, and to eliminate racial discrimination. Our passion for these goals should increase, not decrease. However, at the same time, as followers of Christ, we also need to create enough space to let the Holy Spirit bring some needed, fresh perspective to us from the Bible.

What would Jesus say about all this?

The parable of the sheep and the goats

A scene of Christ in Majesty at the Last Judgment in a fresco in the Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex.

In Matthew 25, Jesus references the great Judgment Day, when the Son of Man (a reference to himself, God’s messiah, who will ultimately rule the world) will separate the “sheep” from the “goats.” The sheep, on his right hand, will inherit the Kingdom of God. The goats, on his left, will be cursed and sentenced to eternity in Hell, along with the devil and his angels.

If you’re not accustomed to this kind of preaching, Jesus was employing a popular way in his day to get people’s attention. The rhetoric was stark, frightening, and powerful, based on a core theological conviction found in all Western religious traditions: those who do what is right in God’s eyes will be rewarded. Those who do not will face eternal punishment.

And what will be the basis for judgment?

To the sheep, the King will say:

‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Matt. 25:34-36, NRSV

When the perplexed righteous ask when they had ever done these things for him, Jesus will explain:

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40, NRSV

See God in Jesus

By talking in this way, Jesus is telling us something very important about God and about what God expects from us, his creation. He’s saying, God cares deeply about human suffering, and those who want to please God will, too. Or, else.

Christians know from the full teaching of the Bible that we cannot save ourselves, by our own good deeds, but only by faith in Jesus Christ. However, especially in the context of Matthew’s Gospel, we also know that true believers are called to live righteously, which means, above all, to show love to others in concrete ways. And not just toward our families and people we like or who love us. Jesus taught that we’re to love everyone, even our enemies.

Jesus, himself, showed us what this kind of non-discriminatory love looks like. For example, he identified with the poor and marginalized in ways that contradicted the dominant views of his day. By associating with the “least” (not least in God’s eyes, but those who hold the lowest status in society), and by welcoming and treating everyone (except the hypocritical authorities) with respect and kindness, Jesus provides a basis for dignity and self-respect for even the most discouraged, downtrodden person.

Then, he was killed. Jesus was crucified, because he dared to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves, and to fulfill the will of God that he die for the sins of the world. By God’s mysterious design, Jesus’s ignominious death wound up simultaneously judging humankind’s self-serving, unjust ways and showing us the breathtaking extent of God’s love.

In Jesus, we see who God is and what god-likeness (godliness) looks like in a social context. God is just, in condemning discrimination, exploitation, and neglect of the needy; and God is loving, kind, and merciful, in welcoming and caring for those who cry out to him for forgiveness and help in their time of need.

See Jesus in “others”

Holmesburg Prison, Philadelphia, PA

I met Kevin T. at Holmesburg maximum security prison in Philadelphia, which was officially closed in 1995, after decades of abusive and exploitative treatment of prisoners. I was only 23 years old, serving as a part time prison chaplain, while studying at Princeton Theological Seminary. Looking back, I realize I really didn’t know what I was doing. But I cared. I wanted to do something. I was willing to learn and to try.

Kevin was also a young man, but his future outlook was far different than mine. He was serving a life sentence, for murder. I had never met a murderer before. I didn’t know what to expect. What was both comforting and disturbing was that Kevin seemed rather normal. As I got to know him I could see his humanity. I could feel our brotherhood, in spite of his crimes.

One day, I drove my old Catalina across town to search for his parents. I knocked on the door of an old, two story building, in a dilapidated part of town. It suddenly dawned on me that I was the only white person on the block, and probably in the whole neighborhood. Peering down at a scrap of paper with an address scrawled on it, I silently prayed that I was in the right place.

When the door opened, I introduced myself and was taken to a big open room in the back. I’ll never forget the shock and the deep, deep sadness that I saw in the eyes of Kevin’s father. He was hunched over a table, surrounded by maybe a dozen family members. They weren’t expecting me. They weren’t expecting anyone like me, ever.

In that first awkward moment, I didn’t really know what I was doing there. I just wanted to show that I cared and wanted to help their son, if I could. Fortunately, they quickly welcomed me and invited me to sit and talk. It turned out, they didn’t want anything more from me. My visit was enough.

Spiritual Application

The parable of the sheep and goats challenges us to think carefully about who we think God is, where we find him, and what God expects of followers of Jesus in a world full of suffering and need, racial discrimination and injustice.  

In the parable, Jesus doesn’t focus on who’s to blame for social problems. He doesn’t analyze why some people are poor, some are in prison, others are hungry, etc., as if we should first decide if someone is worthy of our help before caring or taking action. No, Jesus teaches us to first respond to “others” with compassion, mercy, and kindness, as if we were caring for Jesus himself.

Kevin deserved to be in prison. It was a just sentence. But when I visited him, and when I visited his grief-stricken parents, I experienced God’s loving presence through the encounters. I felt it. They felt it. And the racial barriers began melting away.

I learned, what I have experienced hundreds of times since, that when we get over our fears and prejudices to reach out to those who are different from us, from a place of genuine love and respect, beautiful things often happen. When we give of ourselves to someone in Jesus’s name, we often find that Jesus is already there.

Next week: It’s time.


For those wishing to read the full parable.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. … Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-46, NRSV

Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.


Photo Credits:

  • George Flyod Memorial, Lucas Jackson – Reuters
  • The Last Judgement, from the Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex.
  • Arms stretched to each other, austin-kehmeier via unsplash

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What God Expects from Us Now

In light of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing violence and widespread protests globally, I’m writing a special series on how Spirit-led followers of Christ should respond to racism and injustice. This is the first essay.

Minneapolis rioters burn businesses

I can’t get the image out of mind. On May 25, a white, Minneapolis policeman calmly kneels on the neck of a face-down, handcuffed, black man…until he is dead.

In the days that followed, Minneapolis was set on fire. While peaceful protestors marched in the street and set up memorials, violent ones started burning down buildings, smashing windows, blowing up cars, and looting businesses. And the protests spread throughout the country, and then globally.

For several days, I kept watching the endless stream of video clips of the murder and violence on social media. I’ve been horrified at all the destruction and lawlessness, and distressed, witnessing police shoving and tear-gassing protestors. I can’t watch any of these videos anymore. They are all too disturbing.

What’s going on? How could such a brazen murder by a uniformed policeman of a black man, in broad daylight, happen? Why did this killing ignite protests and riots across the country so rapidly? What kind of response would actually be helpful, rather than our usual reactivity, which tends to reinforce our biases, justify the status quo, or, worse, actually inflame the polarization and conflict?

For the past two months, I’ve been writing essays on the topic, “What can we expect from God now?” In light of the recent murder, extensive violence, and widespread protests, it’s time to turn that question around. What does God expect from us now?

Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA)

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8, NRSV

In the eighth century B.C.E., Micah, the prophet, wrote unsparing words of judgment against widespread idolatry, exploitation, oppression, and other unjust practices of the privileged, powerholders in ancient Israel. In one of the most well-known verses in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), he sums up God’s righteous expectations with the three fold answer to the question, “What does the LORD require of you?” He simply says:

  • do justice
  • love kindness, and
  • walk humbly with your God.

When black people and their allies march in the streets, they are shouting out for justice. They are screaming their outrage. They want the world to hear their stories. They are calling out to people with power and privilege, whom they believe could to do something to help, to actually do something. And when peaceful protests devolve into violence, looting, and arson, white people need to go beyond judging the external behavior to see and feel the depth of the rioters’ hopelessness, rage, and grief.

The issue is not just one abominable murder. And it’s not simply about a corrupt police force, as if there would be no problem of crime or violence if only the police were better people. There are thousands of really good, sincere, hardworking, dedicated police in America; and there are some very racist, violent, corrupt ones, too. Significant improvements are needed in training and law enforcement, but that’s not the whole solution. The issue is also not about law and order, that is, the need to deal firmly with violent criminals who are serious threats to society. There are many criminals, of all colors, who need to be stopped; but controlling all the lawbreakers isn’t going to provide more opportunity, respect, and justice to people who are routinely demeaned, mistrusted, and mistreated just because of the color of their skin or racial/ethnic background.

No, the issue at hand, as I see it, is a whole society blighted by a spiritual disease of the heart (racism, self-interest, blindness to injustice) that keeps manifesting itself at the expense of those with the least power to defend themselves or to right the wrongs. All human beings, of all colors and backgrounds, have that disease to some extent (biblical writers call it, “sin”). Yet, what those of us in position to ensure justice and provide mercy must understand better is that those who suffer the most from this societal sin tend to be people of color, at least in the United States.

They and their allies are right to take to the streets. They are not right to destroy other people’s property, but they are right to protest, call for reform, and even scream as loud as they can. And if whites–those of us in positions of power and privilege—don’t listen, the screams will get louder. And should.

Minneapolis deployed the National Guard

Spiritual Application

Micah’s moral instruction was for the whole community. Justice, loving kindness, and humble submission to God is the calling for all of us, rich or poor, powerful or powerless, white, black, brown, or any color, race, or ethnic group we might be. It’s what God expects from everyone. Each of us has to determine for ourselves what that means in our contexts. Sometimes, the application is obvious. Other times, it takes a crisis to wake us up. We’re there now.

As a follower of Christ, how does your faith apply to blight of racism and injustice? Are you looking deeply into your heart and at your own attitudes and behavior? Are you asking the Holy Spirit to show you where you have harbored racist, indifferent, or even hateful feelings toward those who have a different skin color or ethnic background? Or, are you using most of your energy reacting to the extremists and defending yourself, as if proving that you’re not as bad as some people accuse you of being means that you are actually innocent and not responsible to try to do more to help?

I am not speaking from on high, but as a privileged white person who was raised in a highly racist environment. Even as an adult, pastor, and Christian leader, I confess that at times I have shamefully nurtured prejudice against others whom I did not understand or was afraid of. I don’t have all the answers for myself, let alone for our broken church and society. Racism and injustice are huge, deep-seated problems, without obvious or easy fixes. But I am sorry. I’m sorry for all the ways I’ve contributed to the problem and have failed to take action to right the wrongs when I could have done something.

Since I witnessed George’s murder on video, I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to think about what difference I could make. I don’t know yet. But I do know this. It’s not going to be just one thing. It’s got to start with a real change of heart and attitude toward others who are different from me. And the internal changes have to translate into external action. Action that translates into tangible benefit for those who are suffering from racial discrimination, exploitation, mistreatment, and lack of compassion and empathy. That’s what the prophets, like Micah, called for when they preached repentance to people in positions of power and privilege.

It’s what God expects.

Next week: What would Jesus say about all this?


Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

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What Can We Expect from God Now? (Conclusion to series)

Remember: Trust is a choice.

Monument Valley, Utah, USA

After a long 40 years in the wilderness, Joshua led Israel through some tumultuous times, as the people struggled to get settled in the Promised Land. Before he died, in his final speech, he challenged the Israelites to give serious consideration to their faith, values, and commitment. As they prepared to go forward into a new phase of their lives, they needed to decide, whom would they trust and whom they would serve? His speech included these now famous words, as applicable today as they were then:

Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness… But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Josh. 24:14-15 (emphasis added)

When I (almost) lost my faith in God

One day, in the mid-1990’s, I suddenly realized that I didn’t trust God as much as I once did. I had just experienced ten years of one disillusioning, disappointing, heart-wrenching experience after another. My faith had been shaken. I still worshiped and believed in Christ, but something had shifted inside me. And the changes weren’t all good.

Let me back up to the beginning of the story. Disillusionment with God and ministry began setting in about one year into my first pastorate.

In the mid-1980s, my wife and I served as pastors of a small congregation outside Chicago. During our four years there, we lost one child in a miscarriage, and my roommate from college died at the age of 28. I was working up to 70 hours a week in ministry, but I wasn’t seeing the results I had hoped for. While meaningful ministry was taking place, forces much larger than I were keeping this congregation from becoming the growing, vibrant ministry I had envisioned. I didn’t know why God didn’t seem to be helping more.

Then I got sick. On June 24, 1986, the day after my first son was born, I received frightening news. My doctor called me on the telephone. We had been doing some testing, and now he had the results. He tried to break it to me gently. I had been diagnosed with a fatal skin disease. I had perhaps 10 good years left, he told me.

Hearing this prognosis was like being punched in the stomach. What was going on? God had not blessed our efforts at the church the way I had expected. He didn’t save our daughter from death, and now it looked as though my newborn son was going to be fatherless before he was 10, and my wife a widow.

Then my mother got Alzheimer’s disease, which completely took her mind away. My father was forced to retire early. We watched helplessly as his health declined faster than hers. There was little we could do to help either of them. As it turned out, the stress of caring for her took my father’s life in 1998, long before she eventually died in 2002.

None of this made sense to me. In retrospect, I realized that I had entered into full-time Christian ministry with an implicit contract with God: I thought that if I served faithfully, Lord would take care of me. Now, I don’t know what I thought “take care of” actually meant. Whatever I expected, though, I knew I wasn’t getting it. God had failed my parents, my family, my church, and me, so I thought, and my disappointment had begun to turn to doubt and bitterness.

An unexpected breakthrough

In January 1995, I chose to attend an eight-day spiritual retreat. We worshiped, we prayed, and we did some soul-searching. I was looking for some guidance from God about my future. I was completely surprised by what I received.

The second night I suddenly realized that I didn’t really trust God anymore. There had been too much disappointment and pain, and I blamed God. From my perspective, God had let me down.

I was at a crossroads, and I knew it. I realized that to go forward, I was going to have to decide: was I going to choose to trust God or not? I could no longer serve as a Christian leader and teacher while secretly doubting God’s goodness and activity in my life. I had seen the problem, and now I was going to have to choose: continue to be alienated from God and bitter about my mother’s disease and all the other losses in my life, or choose to trust that God was somehow still active in my life for good in ways that I could not fully understand or discern.

In a moment that felt like the equivalent of scales falling from my eyes, I could suddenly see what I had been blind to. I realized I would never be able to prove that God loved me and cared for me, or that he didn’t. Instead, I needed to make a choice. I was going to walk down one spiritual path or another (disbelief, bitterness, or trust), so which one was I going to put my faith in?

When all this became clear to me, I knew in an instant what I would choose. I was sick of carrying around bitterness in my heart, and I was eager to resolve the cognitive dissonance I had been experiencing. Instead of blaming God for my difficult life experiences, I could trust in the God of Jesus Christ and the writers of the Bible. This God was not a stranger to me, but someone I loved and had come to know in many meaningful ways over the years.

Lessons Learned

This painful, difficult experience taught me some very important lessons, which have served me well ever since.

  • It was my expectations of God that had failed me, not God. In other words, my false expectations that God would spare me from suffering, sickness, and death set me up for disillusionment and disbelief. According to Scripture, God promises to protect us and care for us in general, but not in every circumstance. We can be grateful for all of God’s provision in life, but we should not think that Christians will be exempted from human suffering.
  • Trust is a choice in the midst of life’s painful and ambiguous circumstances. We cannot determine whether God is trustworthy strictly on the basis of our experience. There are too many data points when we feel alone, neglected, abandoned, or at the mercy of other forces. No, if we try to add up all the reasons to trust God on one side of the ledger (plusses), and all the reasons not to trust God on the other side (minusses), we will never be able to logically draw a conclusion based on our experience. Instead we must conclude the evidence is inconclusive. Our options are either to abandon faith or “leap to faith,” as Christian philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once famously argued.

The late professor and best-selling author on Christian spirituality, Henri Nouwen, wrote about the choices all of us have in the midst of life’s ambiguous circumstances. He said,

Where there is reason for gratitude, there can always be found a reason for bitterness. It is here we are faced with the freedom to make a decision.  We can decide to be grateful or to be bitter.

Life of the Beloved. Spiritual Living in a Secular World, p. 61

When we look at our suffering, our losses, all that is wrong with the world, and all the problems and difficulties we must face, we may feel powerless at such times, but we’re not. We have the power to choose our attitude. We can decide to cling to the God we have known and loved, even with so many unanswered questions and hardships. We can look at our circumstances through the eyes of faith. We can choose to be grateful for how we see God at work in our lives, and let the rest go.

Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Spiritual Application

The answer to doubt and disillusionment with God is not ignoring your doubts. It is not pretending as if you do not have questions or pain in your heart. It is not trying to force yourself and others to believe by simply preaching louder and more forcefully.

No, the answer to doubt begins by acknowledging that there are many things you do not understand about God, yourself, and this life–and perhaps never will. Yet, no matter how dark it gets, how lost you may feel, or how much you have suffered; when you reach the end of your ability to reason your way to God, you can still choose to put your trust in your Creator and in Jesus Christ. You can still leap to faith.

And as you do:

  • You will experience more of the peace the surpasses understanding.
  • You will be freer to use your energy for constructive purposes.
  • You will be more gentle and kind to others, and more available emotionally to help and support them.  
  • You will be able to listen better to whatever God wants to say to you in the midst of your uncertainty and suffering.
  • You will be on your way to experiencing the joy of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

2 Thess. 2:16-17

Upcoming: A new series of essays on next steps for navigating the ongoing global crisis as Spirit-led followers of Christ.



Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.


To read previous essays in Burmese or certain Chin dialects, visit us at fhlglobal.org.


CONTEXT: I CREATED THIS ESSAY SERIES IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 GLOBAL CRISIS. EACH ESSAY EXPANDS ON THE PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS OFFERED IN THE SPIRIT-LED LEADER: NINE LEADERSHIP PRACTICES AND SOUL PRINCIPLES (HERNDON, VA: ALBAN INSTITUTE, 2005), PAGES 184-90.


Photo Credits:

  • Photo of man at crossroads courtesy of Vladislav Babienko
  • Photos by Timothy Charles Geoffrion (www.thiswalkinglife.com): highway in Wyoming desert; sunrise at Grand Staircase, Escalante National Monument, Utah; and Crown Jewel of the Continent, in Glacier National Park, Montana. Thank you!

Help us spread the good word! Please share these essays with as many people as possible. If you have been personally touched or encouraged by one or more of these essays, please help spread the word by supporting our efforts to translate and distribute them around the world by making a donation to Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries, today.

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Filed under Faith, What can we expect from God now?

What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 7 of 7)

Spiritual Truth 7: Expect to be renewed, as you accept your limitations and wait on God.

In the waking dream that I wrote about in my last essay, I saw a huge wall of water that looked as if it were going to break at any moment and wash me away. I could see all my anxieties spread out on a blanket on the ground in front me. I wanted to fold the blanket around them, as I usually do, to lift them up into God’s hands. But I couldn’t. It was too heavy! When I looked more closely, I realized that there was a huge boulder in the middle of the blanket. How was I going to lift that up?

At first, I didn’t know what to do. Then, for some reason, I began to slowly approach the big rock. I cautiously put my hand on it, and much to my surprise, it began to shrink. It turns out that it was actually an earth-filled piece of ice, which began to melt with my touch. The smaller it became, I the lighter I felt.

Afterward, I realized what the dream meant. When our anxieties feel too heavy to lift to God, we may need to face our worries head on first. Instead of just reacting to them, denying them, running away from them, or simply being a prisoner to them, we can gather our courage and approach them directly. As we name (“touch”) them, we are likely to learn something about them and ourselves that will set us free from their power. They may turn out to not be as big or threatening as we thought, or we may gain insight as to how to handle them better. Or else, we may simply let them go.

The combination, then, of consciously addressing the nature of our worries and trusting God to act is freeing and renewing.

Spiritual Truth 7: Expect to be renewed, as you accept your limitations and wait on God. (Heb. 2:15; Isaiah 40:28-31; Eph. 3:20-21)

In one of the most often-quoted chapters of the Bible, Isaiah 40 offers words of comfort to the people of Israel, who were languishing in captivity in Babylon. They could do nothing to change their circumstances. They were stressed, afraid, and felt a huge weight of guilt. They were suffering the consequences of their sin and poor choices. So, Isaiah writes these now famous words:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Isa. 40:28-31, NRSV

There is so much hope and encouragement in these words. You and I get weary and exhausted. Yahweh (the LORD) never tires and his strength is inexhaustible. As we hit the wall or sag under the weight of our worries, we must look beyond ourselves to the Creator of the universe. The everlasting God is the one who can lift our heavy burdens and renew our spirits.

We must “wait for the LORD (Yahweh)” by admitting our limitations and human frailty and by putting our hope in what only God can do. And when we do, we will often feel lighter. We will find that we can open up our hearts and minds to the Spirit again. We will become refreshed and more energized. We will be better able to fulfill our purpose in life, to know, love, and serve God. In Isaiah’s imagery, we will “mount up with wings like eagles.” We will “run and not be weary.”

Let anxiety be your teacher

Anxiety is a normal part of human experience that often feels stressful and burdensome. However, if we let anxiety be our teacher, it can reveal something about our situation and our fears that could be helpful.

For example, when we feel anxious, it often means that something important is at stake. We, or someone or something we care deeply about, are threatened. If we stay in the anxious thoughts and feelings, we’ll be miserable. But if we let our anxiety guide us to a deeper understanding of our own values and needs, we may gain new insight into what’s going on and if, what, and when we can do something about it. 

Practically, I have found it very helpful to divide my anxieties into one of three categories. First, I have to face and name them. Then, I need to first decide for each one, is there something I can do about this concern? Depending on my answer, I put it into one of three categories: Act, Wait, or Let Go.

Category 1: Act.

If there seems to be something I can do, the worry goes in Category One: Act. For example, when COVID-19 started spreading everywhere in the USA, I worried about whether or not my family and I were going to get sick or even die. I immediately realized that, while I could not control the spread of the virus, we could try to protect ourselves. As soon as we took action to do what was within our power to do (e.g., to wear masks, wash our hands regularly, socially distance ourselves from others, avoid crowded places, etc.), our anxiety levels started going down. The danger didn’t go away, but our anxiety lessened because we were doing something to help ourselves.

Category 2: Wait.

If the worry is something that I can’t do anything about now, because I’m waiting on information or someone else’s actions, then it goes into Category 2: Wait. For example, will I be able to conduct my scheduled workshops in Myanmar and Vietnam this fall? Will I be able to teach again at Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT) second semester? When will it be safe enough for me to travel internationally?

I can’t know the answer to these questions now. I have to wait to see what the Myanmar government decides, whether the virus can be contained, and what kind of safeguards can be put in place. For now, instead of worrying about what I think the authorities should do or about what I’m going to be able to do, I need to tell myself, the time is coming when I will know the answers. Until then, I need to wait. I need to turn my attention to what I can do something about (Category 1) and to wait to see what God is going to do.

Category 3: Let go.

Finally, many times, the thing I am anxious about is completely out of my control, and there is nothing I can do. For example, I’m wondering, are my students and colleagues in Myanmar and my other global partners going to be O.K? Will there be an economic depression? Will the world ever fully recover from the pandemic? These kinds of issues are ongoing. They will probably remain as a threat indefinitely. Waiting for answers could go on forever. So, I tell myself, I will cross that bridge when I get to it. Until then, if there’s nothing I can do, I’m going to let it go. It’s O.K. I don’t need to hang on to a worry that I can’t do anything about.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Old city of Jerusalem, Israel)

Spiritual Application

How heavy is your load these days?

If you can gather your worries together and put them in God’s hands, do it! But if the weight seems too much, or your circumstances too overwhelming, try this: Muster your courage and move toward your anxieties. Name (touch) each one, and ask it, “What do you want me to know about you? What can you tell me that might help me to cope better?”

Is there something, anything, you could do to help alleviate your worries? If so, it is time to Act. Do what is within your power to help yourself. If, on the hand, there’s nothing for you to do now, then, tell yourself to Wait. Wait for the time when action is possible again and focus your attention on better things in the meantime. Finally, if the worry is completely outside of your control or the dangers are ongoing, then Let go.

The more you face your own human limitations and accept that you are only responsible for what is within your power to do, the freer you will become. You will stop trying to carry burdens that are not meant for you to carry. You will rest more peacefully in the Father’s immense love. You will spend your days living fully, being creative, and sharing Christ’s love and light with all those you most care about.

In your own strength, you are going to reach your limits. That’s why you get weary and exhausted. So, stop trying to lift what is too heavy for you, and stop worrying about things that may never happen. Put your burden into God’s hands and wait for him to act in his way and timing. Stop worrying so much about what you cannot control or do, and let the Holy Spirit renew your heart, soul, and mind. The old cliché, “let go and let God,” is actually quite biblical…and helpful. It’s also the way to greater peace and joy.

Now to him who by the power at work within us

is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,

to him be glory in the church

and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Eph. 3:20-21

Next week: In the conclusion to this essay series, I will be sharing my personal story of how I learned to trust God again after personal tragedy.


Help us spread the good word! To reach more people who need biblical and practical words of encouragement in the midst of the COVID-19, global crisis, we are translating these essays into 10 different languages spoken in various parts of Myanmar, India, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). If you have been touched or encouraged by one or more of these essays, please help spread the word by sharing it with others, and by supporting our efforts to reach more people by making a donation to Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries, today.


To read previous essays in Burmese or certain Chin dialects, visit fhlglobal.org.


CONTEXT: I CREATED THIS ESSAY SERIES IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 GLOBAL CRISIS. EACH ESSAY EXPANDS ON THE PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS OFFERED IN THE SPIRIT-LED LEADER: NINE LEADERSHIP PRACTICES AND SOUL PRINCIPLES (HERNDON, VA: ALBAN INSTITUTE, 2005), PAGES 184-90.


Photo Credits:

  • All photos, copyright ©Jill Geoffrion, www.jillgeoffrion.com. Used with permission. Photo of multi-ton, dolmen was taken in the Eure-et- Loire valley, France.

Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

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Filed under Faith, What can we expect from God now?

What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 6 of 7)

Truth 6: Expect more peace, as you put your anxieties in God’s capable hands.

On some days, the stress seems to be getting worse, not better. I’m continuing to have trouble sleeping well at night. This past Thursday, as I was tossing and turning in bed, I suddenly imagined a huge, translucent, 50-foot wall to my left. On the other side of it, I could see a mountain of water, which looked as if could burst through at any moment. I don’t know what I thought would happen next—wash me away? drown me? hurt me in some other way? I don’t know if I was awake or asleep, but it was frightening. The dam was about to break, and I didn’t know what I could do to protect myself.

When I feel anxious like this, my peace and joy disappear. I used to bite my fingernails when I was younger. Now, I mostly get tense or freeze up. I have trouble concentrating or connecting with others emotionally. If it gets bad enough (like the other day), I can hardly hold a conversation or look the other person in the eye. We’ve been staying-at-home for nearly eight weeks. While I’m getting used to living this way, and even enjoy the extra time at home and with family, the stress is always there. And, it’s building.

What can we expect from God when so much is frightening or unknown about the future? What can God do for us when our anxiety becomes so great that we cannot function normally and we cannot be the kind of person we would like to be?    

Spiritual Truth 6: Expect more peace, as you put your anxieties in God’s capable hands. (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Apostle Paul knew very well that many Christians, in spite of their strong faith, still struggle with anxiety. It’s human. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be prisoners to our worries. So, he offers this fairly simple formula, with the promise that if we follow it, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. What is his formula?

Do not be anxious about anything,

but in every situation, by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving,

present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7, NIV

If we break down Paul’s guidance into a step by step process, we can easily see what we need to do, whenever we are feeling anxious.

  1. Recognize that you may be more anxious than you realize. Typically, symptoms include feeling nervous or tense, fixating on something you’re worried about, becoming irrationally fearful, feeling tired or weak, having trouble sleeping, and so forth. If you’re feeling anxious, don’t deny it or try to pretend to be something you’re not. Recognizing your anxiety is the first step toward becoming free from it.
  2. Reach out to God. When you are in distress, your loving Creator and Savior is there for you. The primary goal of prayer at these times is to get out of yourself and make a connection with God, so that he may lift you out of the black hole of your anxiety. Pour out your heart to him. Seek the comfort that comes from drawing closer to him and resting in his presence, as I discussed in my previous essay.
  3. Ask God for everything that you want and need. Make a list and tell God what you are worried about and everything you would like him to do. This is not like clutching a rabbit’s foot or rubbing some religious statue or carving, hoping to unleash magic powers or to compel God to do your will. It’s true, Paul assures the Philippians that “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19), but he does not promise that just by praying you will get everything you ask for. No, what he promises to those who makes their requests known to God is peace.
  4. Be thankful while you are asking for help. Don’t give all your attention to your worries and wishes in your prayers. Choose to focus on what you’re grateful for as well as on what it is lacking in your life. “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” At our family mealtimes, before we pray, everyone shares one thing they’re grateful for from the day, one way they’ve seen God at work in their lives, or one experience that has drawn them closer to God. It’s a great “upper” to the mood around the table. There always many reasons why we might feel anxious, angry, or sad, so sharing words of thanksgiving breathes some fresh life into everyone’s mind and heart. A good friend told me recently that she is trying to consciously “choose joy” every day, no matter what else may be weighing her down. The attitude we choose makes a difference.

Paul knew very well that if we allow ourselves to dwell on our fears and problems, we will become more anxious, not less. If, instead, we consciously and systematically replace our anxiety with prayer and thanksgiving, the result will be greater peace. As I’ve already said, in praying this way, we should not deny our anxiety. On the contrary, we need to fully recognize the power it is wielding over us and talk to God directly about our all our fears and worries. Likewise, praying with thanksgiving is not just positive thinking or minimizing our concerns (as important as it is to think positively). Rather, this kind of prayer links our spirits with the Holy Spirit, so that we can receive the kind of spiritual help God wants to give us in our distress. What brings us peace is God’s Spirit, who ministers to us through prayer and sets us free from the burden we’ve been trying to carry alone or in our own power.

Praying with Burmese family (Yangon, Myanmar)

An apt analogy

One time, when my elder son was only about six years old, he got very sick. Every time we tried to give him some water to drink, he would vomit it up. We watched him get weaker and weaker as the day went on. The doctor advised me to bring him in to the hospital, but I thought I could nurture him back to health. As it grew dark, I made my bed on the floor next to his. I kept thinking that if he could only fall asleep, he would recover. But it wasn’t to be. I would doze off, only to be awakened by his coughing and restlessness, over and over again.

As it became clear that he would not be able to sleep or keep any liquids down, I became more and more worried. Finally, in desperation, I called his doctor one more time, who again implored me to bring him into the emergency room. This time I listened. When we arrived, at 2 or 3 a.m., I put the nearly lifeless body of my son into the doctor’s arms. The doctor took one look at him and then quickly admonished me, saying, “You should have brought him sooner.”

How foolish I had been! I risked the life of my son. Instead of getting him the help he needed, I chose to simultaneously fill my mind with false hope and stew in my anxiety. I was stuck in my way of thinking and behaving. He and I were both paying the price.

I have thought of that night many times over the past 28 years. It was a real lesson to me about how to handle serious medical problems. More important, it’s been a continual reminder to not try to carry all my burdens and anxieties on my own shoulders. When I finally put my son in the doctor’s care, I felt great relief. I didn’t know for sure if my son could be saved, but I knew that I had gone to the best possible place for help. (Thankfully, he did recover and is now a very healthy 33 year old man.)

Spiritually, my experience became an apt analogy for how to handle all my worries and serious concerns. Today, whenever I notice that my anxiety level rising, it’s a call to prayer. Just as I gathered my son in my arms that one frightening night, when he was so very sick, and took him to the doctor, I now routinely scoop up all the things I’m worried about and put them into my Father’s hands. And time and time again, I soon feel relief and freedom from my distress. The peace I have known is just as Paul described. It “transcends all understanding” and guards my heart and mind from the crippling power of overwhelming, all-consuming anxiety.

Spiritual Application

How are you handling your anxiety these days?

The Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Philippians are words for you, too.

  1. Acknowledge your anxiety.
  2. Reach out to connect with God, even if you can only say something simple like, “Father, help me,” “Jesus, take my burden,” or “Holy Spirit, set me free.”
  3. If you can pray more specifically, share all of your worries and concerns with God. Ask him for everything you want and need. Give him all of your burdens…and leave them in his hands.
  4. Consciously replace your anxiety with thanksgiving as you pray. Count your blessings. Let yourself feel grateful for what is good in your life. Choose joy.
View of the Grand Tetons from the Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming, USA

As we have said repeatedly in this series, you cannot know what God will or will not do with your requests. But that’s not the point here. When you are weighed down by anxiety, Paul says, gather all of your worries and put them into the loving hands of your heavenly Father. Draw near to God, count your blessings, and lean on him to support you in ways that only he can do. This is the pathway to true, abiding, inner peace.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever,

for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 26:3-4

Next week: How your anxiety can teach you what you most need to know


Help us spread the good word! To reach more people who need biblical and practical words of encouragement in the midst of the COVID-19, global crisis, we are translating these essays into 10 different languages spoken in various parts of Myanmar, India, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). If you have been touched or encouraged by one or more of these essays, please help spread the word by sharing it with others, and by supporting our efforts to reach more people by making a donation to Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries, today.


To read previous essays in Burmese, certain Chin dialects, or Hindi, visit our “Resources Library” on fhlglobal.org.


CONTEXT: I CREATED THIS ESSAY SERIES IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 GLOBAL CRISIS. EACH ESSAY EXPANDS ON THE PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS OFFERED IN THE SPIRIT-LED LEADER: NINE LEADERSHIP PRACTICES AND SOUL PRINCIPLES (HERNDON, VA: ALBAN INSTITUTE, 2005), PAGES 184-90.


Photo Credits:

Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

2 Comments

Filed under Faith, What can we expect from God now?

What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 5 of 7)

Truth 5: Remember—nothing can separate you from the love of God.

Smoke rising above Inya Lake (Yangon, Myanmar)

I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night more often than usual. I just can’t seem to sleep as well as before. Sometimes, it’s a bad dream. Other times, I can’t get out of mind the people who are suffering from war, hunger, or looming economic collapse. One very early morning this past week, I woke up feeling empty and drained. I had hit a wall. I tossed and turned in bed for a long time, trying to pray, trying to go back to sleep, trying to decide if it would be better just to get up. It was going to be a hard day.

So far in this essay series, we have emphasized the hopeful messages in the Bible for those who are suffering or facing crisis. There are many reasons to be encouraged in spite of our circumstances. As Christians, for example, we can look for God to actively lead and guide, to produce character and hope, or to use us to help others in some way.

But what do you do when your darkness is just dark? What if you can’t see anything good coming out of your suffering? What if you expect only more of the same—more uncertainty, more loss, more pain? Or, what if you just don’t have any more energy to try?

Spiritual Truth 5 Remember—nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Hebrews 2:18; 13:5; Romans 8:19-28, 38-39)

“Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 13:5 NIV

These words from Hebrews are usually interpreted as a promise of God’s ongoing presence and provision. And rightly so. This is why we don’t panic in hard times. This is why we keep reaching out to God for help in our times of need.

At the same time, the promise of God’s abiding presence is also meant to remind us to look beyond this life’s troubles. The Apostle Paul taught us that all creation is groaning, waiting for the redemption of the world. Likewise, we, too, are groaning, looking eagerly for the day our bodies will be completely delivered from suffering, decay, and mortality. (Rom. 8: 19-23)

In other words, sometimes, we must wait for heaven to find the relief we are longing for. As Paul explained, this is the very definition of Christian hope:

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Rom. 8:24-25

To Paul, the most important gift of the Christian faith is not how much God can fix or improve our earthly lives. Rather, our most treasured possession is our eternal bond with our Creator, our Father in Heaven, which comes through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If this bond of love is secure, and it is, then no matter what happens to us in this life, we’re going to be O.K. We have an amazing, wonderful relationship with God that extends throughout eternity that no one can take away from us. By God’s grace, through faith, we have a precious and secure hope that can carry us through the darkest of days.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul asks rhetorically. “Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (8:35). The answer, of course, is, No. No one. Nothing.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 NIV

The power of prayer

As I lay in bed on that difficult morning not long ago, not knowing when I would find the motivation to get up, the prayers from Psalms 61 and 62 kept coming to my mind. “Lord, you are my rock…. Lift my feet to the rock that is higher than I.”  Whenever I feel so empty or sad, what helps me the most is reaching out to God. I may not have many words to pray, but I keep asking him to do something inside my mind and heart that I cannot do on my own. I pour out my heart to God.

In moments like these, I am not praying for solutions, healing, or even deliverance. I’m just looking for some comfort, maybe renewed strength, or just an ability to feel some joy again. And answers come. Not usually right away. I need to listen and respond to the still, small voice of the Spirit; and in time, help comes. I follow the prompting to open my Bible, get up and go for a walk outside, reach out to good friend, talk to someone who loves me, or turn my attention to someone who needs my love or help in some way. Or, maybe I find the freedom to just sit with my sadness and not feel compelled to try to make myself happy, as I wait for the Holy Spirit to restore my peace and joy.

Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah, USA

The one to whom we have entrusted our lives for salvation, whose sufferings we share throughout this mortal life, is also the one who is able to comfort us in our time of trial.

Because [Jesus Christ] himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hebrews 2:18

And when we do not know what to pray or we can’t find the words, Christ’s Spirit prays through us and for us. Paul put it this way:

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, 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

Spiritual Application

What are you doing when you feel low and are struggling to strength or motivation to get up and get going ? As the COVID-19 crisis continues on, how are you reaching out to God to help you through the darkest days?

Pour out your heart to God. Pray in the Spirit. As Christ prays with you and for you, you will come to realize that you are not alone, not abandoned, not hopeless. Even though you may not know what to say or ask for, the Spirit will transform your tears, gasps, and grasping into requests that fit with God’s will for you. You may not feel bubbly happiness every time, but your mood is likely to shift. You will be able to cope again. Your peace will return. Your ability to love others will re-emerge. And joy will not be far behind.

Devils Tower National Monument, Devils Tower, Wyoming

Contemplate the photo above. What do you notice? What do you feel? Meditate on the words of the Psalmist:

From the end of the earth I call to you,

when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock

that is higher than I…

For God alone my soul waits in silence,

for my hope is from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honor;

my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;

pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. Selah

Psa. 61:2; 62:2, 5-8

Whatever painful experiences you are going through are simply not the final word in your life. Christ is. The Lord’s love and presence will not spare you from all suffering or from death, but he can and will hold you securely in his loving arms for eternity.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13


In the midst of Covid-19, Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries is needed more than ever. We depend on the generosity of our supporters to keep the ministry going and growing in both the joyous and the tough times. Please consider making a donation to support the publication of these essays and our ministry in Myanmar, if you are able.


To read this essay in Burmese and certain Chin dialects, go to “Resources in Burmese” in Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries’ Resource Library, or look for it on my Facebook page, later this week.


I created this essay series in response to the COVID-19 global crisis, though the biblical teaching is applicable in many troubling situations involving human suffering. Each essay expands on the practical suggestions offered in The Spirit-Led Leader: Nine Leadership Practices and Soul Principles (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2005), pages 184-90.


Photo credits:


Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

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What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 4 of 7)

Truth 4: Expect to share in Christ’s sufferings. Expect to share in his glory

In many places around the world, Christians suffer for their faith. It comes in many different forms, from mild to intense, from subtle to overt. Christians are routinely subjected to rejection and marginalization in social settings. Sometimes, they are also victims of more serious attacks, such as false accusations, hatred, opposition, physical abuse, and are sometimes even killed. No one wants to suffer like this, but, at the same time, sharing in the sufferings of Christ has been considered a privilege by Christians in every generation. It’s also expected.

The good news is that sharing in Christ’s sufferings is also the pathway to our glory one day.

Spiritual Truth 4: Expect to share in the sufferings of Christ. Expect to share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-18, 29-30; Phil. 2:5-8; Luke 22:42-44; Heb. 5:7; 12:1-2)

Children of God share in Christ’s sufferings

We are never commanded to suffer or to share in Christ’s suffering in the Bible. Rather, the Apostle Paul talks about it more as an expected experience for those who faithfully follow Jesus. For example, in his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

(Romans 8:14, 17, NIV)

And, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul points to Jesus as our role-model. He writes:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

(Phil. 2:5-8, NRSV, emphasis added)

We are not supposed to seek suffering, but we are called to follow Jesus. With faithfulness to him will come suffering for us. Why? Because when we say yes to God, there’s often a cost. When we say no to temptation, we might have to live with unfulfilled desires or feel we are missing out on something we want to do or experience. When we choose holiness and godliness, we may be left without our crutches and the (false) comfort they bring. When we devote ourselves to serving Christ and the Gospel, we and our families often have to make sacrifices. When we hold firm to our faith in Christ among nonbelievers, we may have to endure their hostility, rejection, marginalization, or worse.

Jesus carrying his cross (Chartres Cathedral, France)

Jesus knew the costs of devotion to God’s will very well. So, he made it clear what the call to discipleship means:

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

(Luke 9:23-24, NRSV)

We can no longer follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, as his original disciples did; and none of us can die with him on the cross. Jesus was not asking for that. He was calling us to follow him on the path that leads to life. He was teaching us to relinquish our attachment to serving ourselves and living life in our own way, and instead put him at the center of our lives and devote ourselves to serving him and the Gospel, accepting that suffering will come with our calling. In this act of “losing” our life, we will save it.  

Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Chartres Cathedral, France)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus famously prayed,

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, but not my will, but yours be done. An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly….

(Luke 22:42-44)

The writer to the Hebrews interprets the story this way:

Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

(Hebrews 5:7)

What does this mean? Since we know Jesus went right from the garden of Gethsemane to the cross, within a matter of hours, in what sense were Jesus’s prayers heard? He was not saved from death, at least not from the painful ordeal of the cross, prior to his resurrection. Jesus, the most faith-filled and faithful human being who ever lived, who was also the Son of God, was not spared from suffering and death, even though he poured out his requests for deliverance in prayer. Why not?

He was not spared, because it was not God’s will to deliver him. God chose the Son to die for the sake of saving the world. That was more important than sparing Jesus from suffering.

Jesus, in his obedience to the Father, accepted this fact. He submitted to the will of God. And, so, “he was heard” by God. In his hour of trial, he received from God what he needed to fulfill his calling. Jesus’s anguished prayer was not in vain. Though his prayer to be delivered from his suffering was not granted, he received strength to face his suffering.

We will share in his glory

When this life is over, and our all our suffering is finished, we will inherit the fullness of God’s salvation with Christ. All we see that we were indeed children of God, led by the Spirit of God. This will be our moment of glory.

As so Paul can say with confidence:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

(Romans 8:18, NIV)

We do not deserve this glory, nor can we glorify ourselves. Rather, our glory comes from God’s glory being revealed in us. By grace, the Father made us his children. He gave us the ability to put our faith in Jesus Christ. He enabled us to pick up our crosses daily. His Spirit taught us, empowered us, and led us. And by his grace, he enabled us to say, Yes to God, Yes to Jesus, and Yes to sharing in Christ’s suffering along the way. By God’s loving work in our lives, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all glorified, and so are we. Consequently, Paul could say:

For those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

(Romans 8:29-30)

Spiritual Application

In the west rose window of the Chartres Cathedral, we gaze upon Christ sitting on the judgment seat in heaven. What do we see? What does a glorified body look like? If we look carefully, we will see his nailed-pierced hands and gaping gash in his side, with blood flowing from all his wounds. In some way we cannot fully understand, Christ’s shed blood covers the sins of the world for those who put their faith in him. We deserve condemnation, but we will be forgiven. We expect punishment, but our Judge will greet us as a self-sacrificing Savior.

Look at the stained glass window, pictured above. Jesus’s palms are open, showing that he will be there in heaven to welcome you. His wounds reassure you that he has paid the price for your sins. You are beloved by the Father. You are being conformed to the image of his precious son, Jesus Christ. You are indeed a child of God, in whom the Holy Spirit is now working and will continue to lead, guide, comfort, and strengthen you throughout this life. Then, one day, when you arrive in heaven, you will share in Christ’s glory.

None of us wants to suffer for our faith. But if following Jesus faithfully means sharing in his sufferings, what will you choose? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He’s your Lord and Savior. The writer to the Hebrews gives this fitting word of exhortation:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [the Old Testament heroes of the faith], let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and … run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1-2, NRSV, emphasis added)

May God give you the grace and strength you need today to face your fears and your suffering, to continue on the path of faith and faithfulness, and to fulfill God’s will for your life.


[To read this essay in Burmese and certain Chin dialects, go to “Resources in Burmese” in Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries’ Resource Library, or look for it on my Facebook page, later this week.]


This essay series was created in response to the 2020 COVID-19 global crisis. Each essay expands on the practical suggestions offered, “Trusting God,” chapter eight in The Spirit-Led Leader: Nine Leadership Practices and Soul Principles (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2005), pages 184-190.


PHOTOS from Chartres Cathedral ©JILL K H GEOFFRION, HTTP://WWW.JILLGEOFFRION.COM


Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

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What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 3 of 7)

Truth 3: Expect God to strengthen your faith, build your character, and lovingly restore your hope through your suffering

Ahhhh! When can I get out of this house? When is life going to go back to normal?!

Currently, some 95% of Americans are required to stay at home. Globally, billions are on some form of lockdown. For some people, it’s been OK. For most people, even if they welcomed a nice break from their normal life, are feeling more and more stress as the crisis continues with no end in sight. After weeks of living in close quarters 24/7, loss of work, fears of what’s to come, the pressure is mounting. Last week, protests started springing up. The people are taking to the streets. All this on top of 2.5 million (verified) people who have been infected, and over 160,000 deaths in just a few months so far.

In such times, what are Christians supposed to think, feel, and do?

Under different but equally difficult circumstances (such as beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment), the Apostle Paul famously said, “Now, these three remain, faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). So, what does faith look like today? Where can we find hope? Where is love?

When I look around, I am deeply grateful for the action-takers among us. The heroism and dedication of countless doctors, medical workers, researchers, and other public servants, some of whom are literally risking their lives to save others, is humbling and inspiring. Furthermore, the creative expression from artists, musicians, and poets; the compassion and generosity of rich and poor alike; and the kind, thoughtfulness of so many individuals comforts and encourages me.  

Then, there are the positive thinkers, who are refusing to be imprisoned in their hearts and minds, even if their bodies are locked down. These inspiring, glass-half-full folks are seeing opportunities everywhere and are making the most of them—more time with family, space for creativity and music, quiet and rest, reading and reflection, communication with friends, and so forth. They are learning new things and finding meaningful ways to show Christ’s love to those near and far.

Job’s suffering, depicted on the North Porch of the Chartres Cathedral, France

However, for multiple reasons, not everyone can be an action-taker or a positive thinker. For those hit hardest by the coronavirus, lockdowns, or closure of businesses, there is a great deal of pain, fear, and loss. Some feel like Job, whose children were suddenly killed and health destroyed. All he could do was sit on the ground, weeping or calling out to God, grappling with a tragedy beyond comprehension. A growing number of people globally are grieving the unexpected death of loved ones or the shutdown of their lives and livelihood. They perceive no rhyme or reason in their suffering. They have no idea what hit them or where to go from here.

If this describes how you’re feeling, please know that, sometimes, in the midst of our suffering, we just can’t rise above our distress or despair. Sometimes, we cannot be hopeful, no matter how much we may want to be a positive thinker. And it’s OK. Faith in God doesn’t always mean being upbeat and emotionally stable. Faith in God is not just for the action-takers and positive thinkers. Faith includes trusting that he’s holding you even when you don’t have the emotional strength or wherewithal to hold on to him.

But there is hope.

Spiritual Truth 3: Expect your loving God to strengthen your faith, build your character, and restore your hope through your suffering. (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28-29; 2 Cor. 1:8-9; Lam. 3:22-24)

In the biblical book of Romans, Paul does not offer an explanation or defense of God for human suffering, but rather focuses on how a loving God works through human suffering for good. He writes:

We…glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5, NIV

Paul knew very well that when any of us suffer extensively, we can easily reach our physical and emotional limits. We may reach out to God for help, but when we’re not healed or our suffering persists, we may despair, panic, or want to abandon faith in God. But it is at just such a low point that many of us have been wonderfully surprised by God. We may unexpectedly feel peace. We may suddenly perceive his love through the kindness of those around us. We may find new motivation and power to finally put aside the sin that has been controlling our lives. We may unexpectedly see beauty in something or someone just when we may have lost hope of ever feeling that way again.

Through these kinds of surprising touches from God, our faith in God is rekindled. Our ability to persevere faithfully in the midst of our suffering increases. Our encounter with the goodness of God refines and strengthens our own moral character. Our spiritual vitality is renewed. We perceive God’s love for us in a fresh way. We see Christ’s love being expressed through us, and we feel purpose, meaning, and joy. Hope suddenly springs up within us again—now, not because we have been healed or delivered from our troubles, but because the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see God’s loving, caring presence in the midst of our circumstances. Right when we were about to give up—or actually had given up already—God touched us.

As the Holy Spirit works in our lives in the midst of our suffering, we will realize that we are not abandoned. We have somewhere and someone to go to in our darkest hours. We may weep, wail, confess sin with a broken heart, or simply shuffle along in grief, as Israel did after the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem (586 BC) on their way to captivity in Bablyon. Yet, with them, we will reach a point where we also can say with Jeremiah, the prophet:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24, NIV
Mary and John, grieving as Jesus’ body is removed from the cross

Spiritual Application

Are you experiencing overwhelming loss, hopelessness, or fear right now? Or, if not you, then surely there is someone you’re living with or whom you care about, who is. If so, this is not an easy place to be. But there is hope. There’s a bigger reality than what you are perceiving and experiencing at the moment. God may not be delivering you from all your trouble or distress, but that doesn’t mean God is irrelevant. On the contrary, it’s in your powerlessness and despair that God can produce some good in your life that would not be possible under different circumstances.

In the context of talking about human suffering, the groaning of creation, and our sometimes inability to even know how to pray, the Apostle Paul offers these words of perspective and hope:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.

Romans 8:28-29 NRSV

And what is the good God has in mind?

The “good” is not necessarily your healing, prosperity, or anything else that you be asking for in your desperation. The ultimate good that God produces through your suffering is to make you more and more like Jesus Christ, God’s son—more and more full of faith, hope, and love.

Your greatest desire will probably always be for relief from your suffering or for some miracle in your life. Mine usually is. Yet, none of us knows what God will or won’t do. Are you willing to live with that uncertainty, yet keep reaching out to God? Are you willing to let go of expecting God to act as you want him to act, and yet never quit expecting him to work through your suffering for good, according to his priorities and values?  This is our faith. This is our hope.


[To read this essay in Burmese, go to “Resources in Burmese” in Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries’ Resource Library, or look for it on my Facebook page, later this week.]


This essay series, “What We Can Expect from God Now?” was created in response to the 2020 COVID-19 global crisis. It focuses on how believers can better trust God in troubled times. The essays expand on the practical suggestions offered in Chapter eight, “Trusting God,” in The Spirit-Led Leader: Nine Leadership Practices and Soul Principles (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2005), pages 184-190.


PHOTOS from Chartres Cathedral ©JILL K H GEOFFRION, HTTP://WWW.JILLGEOFFRION.COM


Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

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What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 2 of 7)

Truth 2: Expect God to be at work in your life, leading and guiding you….

Contemplating, after walking 500 miles on the Camino (Finisterre, Spain)

[For this essay in Burmese or Mizo Chin dialect, please contact me at tim.geoffrion@fhlglobal.org or see my Facebook page later this week.]

It was early March. The COVID-19 crisis was mounting globally. No confirmed cases were yet reported in Myanmar, but the novel coronavirus was spreading throughout the world and heading toward my home state in Minnesota. I was in Yangon, preparing for a month of ministry to approximately 200 pastors in three weeklong workshops, in Mandalay, Kanpetlet (Southern Chin State), and Sittwe (Rakhine State), respectively. What should I do? Should I play it safe and get out of the country immediately? What was the most loving thing to do, as a husband and father? What was the most responsible thing to do as a minister and teacher? Should I press on to conduct these workshops for the sake of these pastors, who had been counting on this training for themselves and the benefit of the churches they serve—or get home, ASAP?

In retrospect, the answers seem clearer. But at the time, as is often the case in the midst of impending crisis and uncertainty, the “right” choices were not so obvious. In this situation, for me, the values of caring for my family, protecting my own health, and fulfilling my ministry commitments and responsibilities were in raging conflict within me.

For so many of us, we pray for guidance in such circumstances, but the answers don’t always come readily. Our inner turmoil makes us feel anxious or confused. If the crisis is big enough, instead of making a Spirit-led decision, a fight-flight-(or) freeze response might kick in. That is, we may boldly ignore the danger and attack the problem head-on but may do so blindly or foolishly. Or, we may run away as fast as we can, only to discover later that we had panicked. The danger was not as great as we feared, and we missed the opportunity to serve those who were counting on us. Or, we may become so anxious that we freeze, unable to make any decision; but by our indecision we fail to make a measured, wise, timely response. Any one of these fight-flight-or freeze instincts may be quite natural to us and common, and sometimes even helpful in times of danger; but Spirit-led decision-making relies on more than impulses, intuition, or personal intelligence.

Spiritual Truth 2: Expect God to be at work in your life, leading and guiding you; and act accordingly. (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5-6)

What trust in God looks like

As my wife, staff members, ministry partners and I agonized over these questions, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I needed to trust God to guide us in our decision-making. Instead of having to bearing all the weight of these unanswered questions on my shoulders, I felt relieved remembering that I was not alone in this anxious time of uncertainty. God was there to help. I needed to believe it, and act like it. Solomon put it this way nearly 3000 years ago:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own

understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

If we rely (exclusively) on our own wisdom and understanding in times of crisis or difficult decision-making, we may easily misread the situation or jump to the wrong conclusions. The biblical path of discernment, in contrast, leans heavily on God as leader and guide. First, we are told to “acknowledge” the Lord God in all our ways—that is, we have to slow down, humble ourselves, and surrender our will to God’s. Then, we must “trust in the Lord with all our hearts,” meaning, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide as we proceed with gathering information and weighing our options. Clearly, this kind of trust is not passive. It’s involves actively reaching out to God for wisdom to see things clearly and to better perceive what cannot be seen with our eyes or minds alone. It is only through this kind of God-centered discernment process that we can hope to make the best decisions. James talks about the process this way:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6 NRSV

It’s not our circumstances that make us unstable, it’s our lack of faith. In times of crisis, Spirit-led decision-makers do not abandon reliance on God, who is often more silent than they might like. Rather, they both take responsibility to assess the situation, seek help in discerning the best course of action, and then make thoughtful (not impulsive) decisions when they need to and simultaneously trust that God is very much present and active to lead and guide them, often behind the scenes, so-to-speak.

This both-and approach requires creating enough space to quiet ourselves and take time to listen for the Spirit’s voice through Scripture and prayer. We will reach out to reliable spiritual guides, pastors, mentors, co-workers, and friends for input. We will not try to push our way forward, regardless of warning signs. Neither will we run away out of fear, unless we must protect ourselves from imminent danger. We also will not get stuck, frozen, unwilling to think things through and make a rational decision in a timely manner. We will fix our eyes on Jesus, considering his example of faith and sacrificial service in setting our priorities. We will trust God with our whole heart, and then take action when as the way forward becomes clearer.

A Spirit-Led Leadership workshop was held for 56 pastors in Mandalay (March 10-13, 2020). Tim is dressed in traditional Burmese garb, appropriate for teachers and leaders in the culture.

My experience

March in Myanmar reassured me again that God does indeed lead and guide amid upsetting and confusing circumstances. I had to stay fully engaged in the decision-making process, and I had to manage my fight-flight-freeze types of impulses so that they didn’t take over. Yet, the more I kept putting the workshops and decisions into God’s hands, and the more I was willing to listen for the quiet voice of the Spirit and listen to the voices of others around me, the more I was able to hear what I needed to hear and to see what I needed to see. Over time, answers emerged.

The final itinerary was different from any of the scenarios I was first considering, but the result was 12 Spirit-blessed days in Myanmar and a timely return to my family afterward. Graduation week at MIT was full of meaningful connections and ministry. Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries staff member, Saw Newton, and I conducted the Spirit-Led Leadership workshop in Mandalay, as planned. Then, when circumstances suddenly changed again (civil war and unexpected crises), it was time to go home. I arrived back into the loving arms of my wife, Jill, three weeks early. I felt grateful for how God had worked through the ministry, peaceful about letting two workshops go for now, and equally assured that home was where I now needed to be.   

Spiritual Application

In the midst of needing to make difficult decisions, do not expect God to necessarily give you the answer you’re looking for right away. Instead, fully engage in the process of decision-making while trusting God to guide you along the way. Face the crisis or important decision at hand, surrender your will to God’s, release your attachments to your plans and original desires, ask for the ability to see whatever you need to see. Then, when it’s time to act, don’t be afraid to make a decision or to change plans, if need be.

No, you will not always make the “right” decision, but your judgment is much more likely to be Spirit-led with a both-and approach. And, no matter what, you will learn from the experience. As you engage in the hard work of making difficult decisions, earnestly seeking God in prayer, and trusting God with your whole heart, your faith will grow, too. You will become stronger and more capable of making good decisions in the future. Ultimately, through this kind of God-centered approach to discernment and decision-making, you will grow closer to God and will become more capable of serving as Spirit-led elders in your community when they need you the most.


This essay series, “What We Can Expect from God Now?” was created in response to the 2020 COVID-19 global crisis. It focuses on how believers can better trust God in troubled times. The essays expand on the practical suggestions offered in Chapter eight, “Trusting God,” in The Spirit-Led Leader: Nine Leadership Practices and Soul Principles (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2005), pages 184-190.


Photo Credit:

  1. Photo of man siting by the water, two photos of men walking in the woods, ©JILL K H GEOFFRION, HTTP://WWW.JILLGEOFFRION.COM

Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

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