by SommerAnn McCullough

We are living in wilderness times. This pandemic has brought fear, isolation and uncertainty into our daily routines.

I have been struggling to find hope and motivation in these challenging times. It is even harder to remember to give myself grace.

“At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.

Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.

For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’” (Jeremiah 31:1-6)

In the book of Jeremiah, the people of Israel are living in exile. Stripped of their everyday routines, they feel alone and forgotten.

But, in these trying times of isolation, they still find “grace in the wilderness.”

They know God will keep God’s promises. That there will come a day when “again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of merrymakers.” This isolation is not forever. This exile is not forever.

Finding grace

How can we find grace in our wilderness? In these challenging times, how can we embody God’s promise that “I have loved you with an everlasting love?” How can we bring God’s grace into the present?

In Acts, Paul reminds us of our calling to share God’s grace with those around us. But, showing God’s grace during these trying times can feel impossible.

“And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:22-24)

All of our emotions are heightened during this time of sheltering in place. Family members or roommates can get on our nerves. Frustration piles up more than usual.

It is difficult to give ourselves grace when our family, work and social spaces have become one. Extending God’s grace and patience to our families, friends and colleagues can feel out of reach.

Paul reminds us that our ministry is to testify to God’s grace, especially in these challenging moments. No matter what the future may hold, pointing others toward God’s grace and sharing the ministry of forgiveness, love and acceptance, is our calling.

The next time a family member returns from a grocery trip without a must-have item or a colleague upsets you, take a step back. Inhale, exhale and think about how to extend God’s grace at that moment. We can try to bring love and compassion to a challenging situation instead of reacting out of fear and frustration. Remember that it is up to each of us to embody God’s ministry of grace, especially in these times of uncertainty.

Closing prayer

Dear God, full of grace, love, and compassion, please strengthen me during this time of isolation and fear. Help me not only to find grace in my own wilderness but to extend your grace to those around me. When I am frustrated and lose patience, please teach me how to embody your forgiveness and reflect your love through my actions. Amen.

Discussion questions

1. Where is one place you can find grace in your wilderness this week?

2. How has the pandemic affected your relationships?

3. What are three ways you can share God’s grace with people in your life this month?

SommerAnn McCullough is a feminist follower of Christ, and a member of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square in Chicago. She is passionate about spreading the radical Gospel of Jesus Christ, and encouraging women to live out their faith in their daily actions. Follow her at @sommergracefully for more inspiration and resources to help you discern how you can align God’s purpose with your everyday life.