This month will mark two years since most of us first learned about the COVID-19 pandemic. We have endured a difficult 2020, an equally difficult 2021, and now in 2022 we continue to experience the stresses and strains of this crisis.
In many ways, life is hard. I was recently reflecting on how easy it can be to lose hope in a time like this, and yet, our hope is Christ. In him we not only have life, but we can have it to the full, even in years like 2022.
James 1:2-5 reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
James is the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is writing less than 30 years after Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. He has endured and witnessed numerous crises and persecutions that befell the early church (see the early chapters of the book of Acts), yet he still has the faith to say, “Consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
James goes on to say that persevering in the face of difficulty has the potential to give us maturity. He adds that whatever we lack, particularly if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, and he will answer those prayers.
As the Christian Reformed Church, we endured 2020 and 2021. We have some pain and scars as a result. It doesn’t feel like joy. While we have learned a lot, many of us may not yet feel as if we have grown in wisdom as a result of these trials.
And yet we pray. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, churches, classes, and denominational ministries have engaged in fervent prayer. This prayer continues as we move through 2022.
For the past year and more, we have been in a season of prayer for the denomination as we consider the weighty matters that must be addressed at Synod 2022. This synod is especially weighty because it is the first synod to take place since 2019 and thus has a voluminous agenda, and several of the agenda topics are ones that have potential to cause debate and even division.
But we serve a God who is more weighty than any agenda and of more consequence than our most consequential issue. To this God we lift our prayers and ask for wisdom.
We know that we continue to be in the midst of spiritual warfare that Peter described in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” And we know that prayer is a weapon that we can use in this spiritual battle. This issue of The Banner includes several stories about how, in the midst of overwhelming challenges, CRCNA people are turning to prayer and seeing God answer those prayers in amazing ways.
May we continue to prioritize prayer as a necessity for all of life and ministry, and may we also be able to say with Martin Luther, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”