Sadness is starting to set in. The pain of social distancing is being felt by individuals, families, and companies across communities. The gut-wrenching pain being experienced in New York and other parts of the country is heartbreaking as people lose their loved ones. Conversations about the future are pure speculation. And a couple weeks after social distancing, I feel sad, and maybe you do too. And that’s okay.
Paul, as he was writing from prison, contemplating his own suffering, emotions, relationships, and work; is torn emotionally. He doesn’t seem to be stable emotionally and he is writing to a group of people in need of encouragement, wisdom, and hope. What he writes next is gold.
“Whatever happens…” – Philippians 1:27
Think about that, whatever happens–
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves…” – Philippians 1:27
We cannot control what happens. And we cannot always control how we feel when things happen. Nor should we fight it, deny it, or box it up somewhere while posting the 5 minutes we were sort of happy to Instagram. Especially, when all the other moments of our day have not been that.
But here is what we can do, and should do. We can conduct our consumption, words, and actions. Conduct is not the same thing as control. Think of the conductor of an orchestra, they cannot control the actual notes or instruments played by any part of the symphony. But rather they are a guide through it, it’s their job to lead, and oversee the performance to the end. You are responsible for how you live and lead in this crisis.
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” – Philippians 1:27
Here is what Paul is saying. You can’t control what happens, but you can control your conduct. And your conduct should be worthy of the greatest news in all of history. How you are conducting yourself presently should reflect your faith in the greatest hope the world will ever know. And your greatest hope is not a recovered economy, life back to normal, it’s Jesus. Are you conducting yourself in a manner worthy of Jesus?
Here are three things you can control in this crisis:
1. What you consume. Watching, listening, and reading are three examples of how we consume. You cannot always control what you think, but you can control what you consume. Part of the chaos right now is the uncertainty of our thought life. And the sources of those uncertainties: pick whatever article you just read, your favorite news channel, public figure, a social media post, or your spouse. Or maybe you are the check-out type. You have binged all kinds of entertainment content, subconsciously coping rather than engaging with what you are thinking and feeling. Watch what you consume. Daniel comes to mind. He was taken into captivity, not his choice, and they were forcing him and his friends to consume foods they considered unclean. He decided to offer a test for the guard over him. If he and his friends consumed something different, more pleasing, then they would be healthier. The guard approved and here is how it went.
“15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead” – Daniel 1:15-16 (NIV)
As you conduct yourself, your family, your business through this crisis, what are you consuming? Is it nourishing you? Is what you are consuming or watching worthy of the gospel of Christ?
2. What you say. Your words matter. One of my favorite quotes of all time is “People will not remember what you say, but they will remember how you make them feel.” And, your job right now, to your family, your co-workers, your social media followers is to make them feel valued and at ease. Don’t believe the lie, despite what you are feeling: anger, sadness, depression, overwhelmed, discouraged, or anxious, your words have power! You are capable of helping others feel valued, loved and put at ease, even if internally you are unsure, unrefined, or uneasy. This also applies to what you post on social media. What is the message you are sending the world? Is it real or fake? Is it loaded with emotion and opinion or compassion and empathy? I love how Solomon puts it:
“Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life…” – Proverbs 18:20-21a (NLT)
Who needs to feel like they just had a good meal after speaking with you? Is how you are speaking to those around you worthy of the greatest news ever?
3. What you do. We can know what is true. What we do with that knowledge, how we conduct ourselves in response to it, now that’s wisdom. It’s wisdom that everyone is searching for on Google. Acting wisely is what will bring you peace, rest, and comfort. Making wise choices for your health, family, finances, relationships are nothing new, but the stakes just got a lot higher. How you plan for the future just became more important. How you treat your family just became more important. How you work, and what you work on right now, also fits into this category. Wisdom is doing what is best, with the information you have, for the people entrusted to you.” James reminds us how to spot wisdom in his letter:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. – “James 3:13-14, 17
How would a great — parent, leader, ‘your job title’ or co-worker — conduct themselves in this crisis? Do that. Where is your wisdom coming from? Are your actions in line with verse 17?
Paul instructs you, that no matter what happens — you should conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus. You can do that! You cannot control the present circumstances. But you can choose what you consume, what you say, and what you do. Let it be worthy!
– Tim Rives