Forming Faith Blog

Repentance and Fatigue (December 6, 2020)

A woman sitting on cement stairs, showing fatigue.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. And it’s not just because I should go to bed earlier (though that’s true). Beyond the normal stresses of work and home, we are in a historic, global pandemic. It’s stressful even to go to the grocery store. Many of us are under some sort of public-health orders that restrict our normal lives and have been since March. Cases of COVID-19 are increasing, over a quarter-million people have died so far, and hospitals are getting dangerously full. It looks like things are going to get a lot worse in these next few months.

Long-term stress—especially long-term acute stress—causes fatigue. Quarantine fatigue and “COVID blues” (situational depression) are very real and serious conditions. This fatigue can permeate our lives, including our spiritual lives. Any spiritual habits we have had might be interrupted, and any disciplines we have been intending to start, seem now far, far away.

[God] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

Joel 2:13
Response to a Plague

It’s something the creators of the Narrative Lectionary could not have known about, but there is an interesting parallel between Joel’s context and ours. Joel is writing to the Jews who have returned from exile in Babylon. And now they are facing a locust plague. We are facing a different kind of plague. I am a little unclear, but it is possible that Joel thinks that his locust plague is an act of judgment by God. However, it is also possible that he is just calling the people to cry out before God for deliverance. Either way, this suffering is an impetus for the people to repent and return to God. We will read Jesus’ take on that during Lent (Luke 13; 2/28/2020).

[God] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

Spiritual Guilt Trip

What does this mean for us, as we confront a virus, not a locust swarm? Jesus makes it clear that tragic events are not punishments for sin (Luke 13:1-5). Any time is a good time to turn to God, and this is no exception. It is important to encourage each other in self-care, which includes spiritual disciplines. However—and this is a big however for me—this is not the time for causing a spiritual guilt trip. People are likely feeling that already. The Law is already weighing heavy on us. What people need right now is the Gospel.

[God] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

Good News

The good news—for us as the Church—is that the Good News is kind of our thing (or should be). None of us need to be reminded of our failings or burdened by what we “should do” (even if we really should do them). What we do need to be reminded of is that:

[God] is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

God loves us as we are: fatigued, depressed, stressed, lacking in spiritual discipline, even sinful. God loves us, full stop.

Preach and teach and worship-lead as you feel called to do, but I suggest including this piece of Joel 2:13 repeatedly as a refrain so it can become ingrained in our week.

In case you need to hear it again: God loves you. Be gentle with yourself, child of God, and be gentle with others.

Free Resource

As something to offer this week, we have a free activity from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (NL) curriculum. This “Handprint Prayer” activity is a simple prayer help that can be done by families, groups, or individuals in any setting.

May God provide you with rest.


Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Our Faith Formation Resources

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