One of my greatest challenges in shepherding others is taking time to reflect upon God’s continuing faithfulness to so many people in so many different situations. My default posture for shepherding tends to be “Next problem up!” On the one hand, this is beneficial because I am rarely surprised when another shepherding issue arises. We live in a fallen world, and so long as we do, there will always be a “next problem up.” On the other hand, I am so busy evaluating the present and preparing for the future that I forget to reflect upon the past. In other words, I tend to insulate myself from past hurts by isolating my thoughts to the present. And doing so often causes me to doubt and, sometimes, to despair.
By failing to look backwards, I forget how many times God has answered the prayers of his people here at Covenant PCA. I forget how God has strengthened my faith (and yours!) through the ups and downs of our lives – in families, as a congregation, and in other relationships as well. Because I forget to do these things myself, I often fail to remind others of the need to look backwards, to relate knowledge of God’s faithfulness in the past to assurance of God’s faithfulness in the present.
Too often we tie the benefits of being parts of Christ’s body to what we are doing now, rather than relishing the joy, sense of mutual purpose, and even the joint struggles we have shared over the years. When we fail to reflect together upon what God has already accomplished among us – not just in CPC-related matters but in terms of salvation and our place in redemptive history – we can begin to feel isolated. “Things are worse than they’ve ever been” … “Christians today face unprecedented challenges” … “Why can’t things be like they were [this many] years ago?” … Have you thought or expressed such things? If so, stop!
“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” ~ Eccl. 7:10
When, as believers, we forget the past – whether our own pasts or the Bible “stories” we know so well – we isolate ourselves from the living proofs of God’s faithfulness, both to us at CPC and to his people throughout the ages. When, as a congregation, we fail to verbalize our experiences and fresh understandings of who God is and what he has done, we isolate ourselves from the eternal (e.g. not time-dependent) benefits of the body of Christ. And when we isolate ourselves from these things and one another, doubts abound and faith withers.
When I have missed (or skipped!) corporate worship for any amount of time, a sense of spiritual discombobulation, disorientation, and dryness grows within me. Have you ever experienced the same thing? If so, there is a reason why – “Isolation is the soil in which unbelief grows.” I read that line in the following article:
Though the article is not directly related to what I am writing in this post, I still recommend you read it. That one line – “Isolation is the soil in which unbelief grows” – is quite profound. Isolation of any type does indeed breed doubt, despair, and unbelief. Forgetting God’s past faithfulness, neglecting Christian fellowship and opportunities for mutual encouragement, missing corporate worship – all these things and more are ways in which we as believers can be tempted to isolate ourselves.
Brothers and Sisters, beware isolation – the soil in which unbelief grows! Do not think of today’s events as isolated incidents. Do not view today’s problems as being altogether different from the struggles of saints in previous ages. Do not forget God’s faithfulness to his people throughout the ages as recorded in Scripture. Do not isolate yourselves from the body of Christ. God created us to be relational creatures, so let us learn to relate to events and to people properly and biblically. Relational knowledge, not isolated facts, is the good soil in which faith grows!