It was about a year ago, February 2021, that I found myself deeply discouraged. Now depression in February is a regular thing for me — having grown up in sunny & hot South India, the gloomy grey and bitter cold of winter in Ohio does a number on me. Every time.
But this was more. I found myself struggling with the motivation to even get out of bed in the morning. I’m a pastor, and the pastoral calling has been very difficult these past few years. We’re facing the pain of bitter political divisions within the church. We’re struggling to understand and respond to ongoing patterns of racism wisely and well. We’re trying to sort out the complexities of communal life during Covid.
It was pretty dark in my heart.
And then in the midst of the darkness, I sensed Jesus saying to me: Your calling is to be a witness, not a persuader.
You know these moments, when you sense God speaking directly to your heart. You know how it is — you hear these few words and you know deep down within — this is true, this is real, this is good. It was nothing I expected to hear at all — in fact, at first I could not even see how it was relevant to my condition. But the Spirit brought understanding, and these few words became life to me.
I felt released from burdens and responsibilities that weren’t mine. I felt released from trying to fix things, or persuade those around me that this particular policy was better than that other policy in this present crazy moment. I felt released from a pressure to succeed, to move things forward, to fix what was broken. I felt released to simply settle down into the heart of God, and bear witness to the wonder of the Father’s love revealed to us in Jesus by the Spirit — which is, after all, why I felt compelled to become a pastor in the first place.
I’m still there. His words have set me free. I wobble regularly and often. I find the complexities of the present cluttering my heart — but then the Spirit reminds me of my freedom to simply be a witness to the love of God in Jesus. And my heart settles down once more.
When I was a child in Sunday school in India, we learned this lovely little song, retelling the marvelous story of the blind man in John 9. “This one thing I know: God in mercy pardoned me, broke sin’s fetters and set me free! Once I was blind, but now I see — this one thing I know!” I don’t know much, but this one thing I know.
I don't know the answers to all the questions of our times. I don’t even know all the questions, to begin with. But when I recenter into Jesus, and remember the astonishing love of Father, Son and Spirit — one in heart in redeeming our sin-shattered world, I find the life of the kingdom springing up within me, and not even this present winter storm can take that away from me.
This one thing I know: God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, Jesus… that whoever believes in him may not perish, but enter into the life of the kingdom, here and now, and daily. And this I know — that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. And this I know — there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And this I know: what shall separate us from the love of God? Nothing, in all creation.
To this I bear witness, as I am called to do. As are you.
What a privilege! What a gift! Thanks be to God — Father, Son & Holy Spirit —One in love for us!
Pavi Thomas is a lead pastor at Heritage Christian Church.