Therefore, this is what the Lord says:
“If you return, then I will restore you—
You will stand before Me;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
— Jeremiah 15:19
The first time I heard this verse I was at a funeral for a friend who had committed suicide. I whispered to my mother before it began I would not want to be a pastor, charged with leading us through a painful service. He opened our time with this promise about extracting precious from worthless and we all took a collective deep breath. It was so refreshing no one was trying to pretend this wasn’t hard. It was hard, but God was still doing precious work in our midst, we just needed to be looking for it.
I’ve grieved over the last two years what we’ve lost in the pandemic. But, I have a choice to pick up what feels heavy and watch it strengthen me, or let circumstances pin me down. It’s more than looking on the bright side of things — which somehow implies when we grieve a loss or a sin, we are living on the dark side. Looking for God’s hand in the middle of hardship isn’t about mood or personality; it’s about wisdom. It’s not an attempt to brush over what is painful; it’s an exercise in finding perspective, context, wisdom and hope.
Learning to Look Up
There are verses that implore us to “sit in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6), and “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), and “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2), and they are poetic and lyrical. But what do those words even mean? How do we live in this broken world, getting our feet tripped up all sorts of places, and not look down more than we look up? When we find our story has taken on a dark chapter, do we close our eyes and muddle through? Do we just stay there, examining the scars? Do we wait until our story has a bow on the end and can be considered a “testimony?”
There is a promise God is working on our behalf, and a conviction the Enemy doesn’t get the last word. Whatever we might be experiencing today is just one chapter in a story He is writing and the story isn’t over yet.
He is extracting the precious — promises, lessons, intimacy with Him in seemingly worthless circumstances, so we can be called His spokesmen. There are far more sticky situations in my days than miraculous moments. I want to experience challenge and train my mind to set my thoughts on Him.
As Christians, we should be marked by our radically different approach to life. We have access to a God who offers us peace, but some days the most conflicted people I talk to are believers. The world says “follow your heart” and “speak your truth,” but I know my heart and mouth can deceive me. I say, set my mind on Him, and in renewal, my heart will follow. He gives me His perspective to see the precious among the worthless.
The precious extracted in this season has been generosity, investment, simplicity, approachability, sacrifice, thoughtfulness, service, kindness. I want more of that. I have been telling my family: if we do this right when this season of pandemic is over, we’ll understand how critical “we” is over “me.” This virus is costing a lot, and we should demand something of value in return — empathy for others, connection with family, an outward focus — those are gifts we can appreciate for the rest of our lives.
Beth Guckenberger is the author of nine books, including adult and children’s titles. She travels and speaks regularly at conferences, youth gatherings and church services about reckless faith. Her style is based in story-telling and she draws from her vast field experience as a missionary, Bible teacher and parent for illustrations of biblical concepts. You can keep up with the latest from Beth at back2back.org or on her website at recklessfaith.com.