Remember the good ol’ days, when we could ask folks how they’re doing and a simple, guarded “good” would suffice as an answer? Sometimes they’d turn the question back to us, but again, a smile and a convincing positive adjective seemed, well, good enough.
Once in a while, perhaps sensing a heavier heart, I’d dig deeper below the “good” answer and ask: “Yeah, but how are you really doing?” Silly me. I should have left good enough alone, because those days of needing to dig seem long gone.
There is now no shortage of wordy replies to an inquiry on another’s wellbeing. We’re living on edge right now. Whether you turn to the left or the right, the simple ask of how someone is doing is increasingly taken as permission to spew comments, concerns, or complaints about politics, prejudices, pandemics, or whatever else is trending in the media.
And if we’re honest, it’s isolating us. It’s leaving us worn and weary to check in on people we’re called to love. It’s leaving people we love feeling the same about checking in on us. It’s leaving us alone.
But maybe we can make a move back into others’ lives.
On the Minds of Young Adults
I’ve been pastoring young adults (18-28ish-year-olds) for many years. I call them all friends. Recently I reached out to them in an informal survey. The thought was to skip the how-are-you-doing greeting and make the direct ask: What are the issues on your mind right now?
Some people responded right away. Others messaged me privately. But all their answers were real. Here are a few responses:
- What is happening to my country?
- Will I ever be able to afford to live on my own?
- When will I see my friends again?
- What am I supposed to do next?
- Where am I going?
- Will I be alone for Christmas?
- What are my deep passions; could they become a career? Will I ever have a career?
- How do I balance all this?
- What do people think of me or my opinions?
- Is anyone listening?
You’ve never met these friends of mine. I assure you they’re great people. Many of them love Jesus; some don’t yet. Reading the issues on their minds—each one questioning—I wonder if you hear their hearts. I wonder if you hear the issue, the one behind the other issues. Venture a guess?
Friend, read them one more time. Listen carefully.
Fear is the issue.
Those responses are girded with fears about the stability of their future, fears about God’s involvement and purpose in their present lives, fears about their willingness and abilities, fears about their identity, fears about their value.
Fear is the issue behind the issues. It’s what our society is propagating at remarkable rates right now. The seed bed—global pandemic, racial divisions, emotionally charged election year, etc.—for sowing fear is well plowed and fertile.
Fear is the prevailing cultural message of our day. And it’s just young adults who are hearing the message. It may be young adults who are wrestling it through most honestly and personally, even to my shame. But I think we’re all hearing it.
I imagine the issues on your mind may be different than those listed above. Different ages, different stages, different questions, right? But I suspect the issue behind the issues is pretty similar. It’s the same fear cloaked in different threads.
God is love.
Can I tell you a secret though? Well, it’s actually a Bible verse, and it’s fairly well known, so maybe it isn’t a secret after all. But I often forget, and reminding myself what I’ve known feels like sharing a secret. Here it is:
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a).
This verse is nestled into a short passage wherein love is mentioned 28 times. In short, John says that God is love.
God showed us this most fully when He sent Jesus, His Son, to die for sin and give us new, real, abundant life with Him. The more we live that life with Him, the more His perfect love pours into us. The more His love pours into us, the more it floods out our fears as traits like peace, joy, gratitude, and hope pervade our life in Christ.
The more God’s love pours into us, the more it spills out of us onto our family, friends, and neighbors whose hearts are sunk and trembling in fear.
And this is where we make a move back into others’ lives. I think there are three simple practices—each one born from God’s love in us—that can cast out fear for others.
First, let’s listen to folks. Let’s check in, make the ask, and really listen to responses; listen for the issue behind the issues.
Second, let’s be a voice of truth. Let’s be a source that lands some Bible verses into conversations, giving courage more than opinion.
Third, let’s pray for folks in the moment. Before we leave conversations, let’s usher people into the presence of God and see to it that His love begins to pour into them.