Article by: Hannah Miller, High School Youth Pastor

As I write this, it is a hot and smokey day in August. Last night, as I walked around Wal-Mart shopping for some camping supplies with my Mom, the store was abuzz with back-to-school shopping. Kids were loud and excited, and moms were tired and frazzled as they held tightly to the school shopping list, carts of supplies, and their sanity. I have noticed an odd excitement, and perhaps a little bit of apprehension, in people during this season. Back-to-school shopping feels different this time, and I have heard so many parents voice their excitement and fear. It’s not just the parents and students who are feeling this mix of apprehension and excitement either! I think we are all feeling it to some extent.

After over a year of fighting Covid-19 and battling all of the things that came with a global pandemic, we have every right to feel this mix of joy and frustration, fear and excitement, and exhaustion and energy. If the past months of pandemic life have taught us anything, it’s that we don’t have control. Control was this illusion that was broken as we watched the world turn to chaos. How interesting is it, however, that these mixed emotions that we feel today are nothing new?  This past year we have laughed, cried, raged, and rested. No one had control over the situation, and we realized that we never did.

You see, these mixed emotions are a part of life on this earth. We will always feel both grief and joy, peace and chaos, excitement and frustration. Why? Because we aren’t in control, and we have never been! We are continually batting our desires and the will of God; Our way and his way. Today, our choices are the same as when Adam and Eve stood in the Garden of Eden: God or us. God’s desires or our desires. Sadly, we so often choose our desires. We allow our feelings to dictate our decisions and choices instead of asking God to tell us the way we should go and the things we should do.

The book of Jeremiah talks about this. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and warned his people that they would be captured and exiled due to their idolatry and backsliding. The prophet Jeremiah continually calls out for the nation to repent and turn back to God. In chapter 42, some of the leaders come to Jeremiah and say, “Pray to the Lord your God on our behalf, on behalf of this entire remnant (for few of us remain out of the many, as you can see with your own eyes), that the Lord your God may tell us the way we should go and the things we should do” (Jeremiah 42:2-3, CSB). These men acknowledged that God was in control, and it was his direction that they needed and sought. God was in control even as everything about life was being thrown into utter chaos. God has always been in control, will always be in control, and nothing can ever change or alter that. His plans for our world and for each one of us will always prevail. This isn’t something that should spark fear. He is a good God, and he has good things in store for us, but we have to be willing for his ways to trump our ways.

As we step into this new season of “normal,” we can agree that some good things came out of the past couple of years. I can speak for myself and say that God taught me so much. He pointed out some idols in my life and set me on a more steady path toward him. He revealed that trusting him and giving him control of our lives is the best decision we can make. Even amidst heartache and pain, God is still good and is still working.

Jeremiah 31:21 says, “Set up road markers for yourself; establish signposts! Keep the highway in mind, the way you have travelled”.

“Keep the highway in mind, the way you have travelled.” Can I encourage you not to go back to the normal we had before? This can act as a reset for us. Going back to some of the bad habits, negative attitudes, and destructive behaviours will be subtle, so let’s not wake up one day and realize that we have slipped back into old habits and behaviours. We need to set up road markers and signposts, reminders of the way we want to go and the good things that we have learned through this season.

We are forgetful people, and as our jobs pick up again, our lives get busy, and our fun increases, we will slowly shift back to “normal” if we aren’t careful. Instead, maybe the quiet, the stillness, the slowness, and the disciplines we were forced into last year would be good for us to continue! Perhaps we need to hold on to some of the new rhythms, structures, and Sabbath moments we found during the past year and a half!

So, I ask you: Where do you need to set up road markers and signposts in your life? Where do you tend to get off track and lose your way? Maybe now that work has picked up again, you find that making money is starting to replace time with your family. Maybe now that we can gather, you find that you’re starting to spend more time with your unhealthy friends instead of the ones that draw you closer to God. Maybe now that church is in person, you find it you are forsaking community for convenience. Only you know where you need signposts and markers; I can’t place those for you. Only you know the places on the highway where you tend to lose your way. Therefore, before our seasons get too busy, stop and reflect. Pull out a journal, sit in the presence of God, and ask him to show you where you need to put up signposts and road markers in your life. Talk about it with your friends and family. Perhaps you need a friend to hold you accountable, or you and your spouse need to set up signposts together, your family needs to talk about it, or you need to reach out to a pastor or counsellor to ensure you don’t fall into your old ways.

I love what Isaiah 30:21 says: “Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” I pray that you seek God, hear his voice leading you in the season ahead, and walk in his ways!