When Your Future is Unclear, Trust in the Lord
Just over a month ago, I was offered a ministry job as the youth group pastor for an amazing church in Laguna Beach, and I was enthusiastic that I could finally step into the world of full-time ministry. But life looks drastically different now. Instead of juggling the life of a graduate student and youth minister, I am back home with my parents as we continue to live through this time of uncertainty. Just like many students across the globe, I chose to return home, but becoming okay with that conclusion was not easy. For the first time as a young adult, I actually had a good chunk of the future planned out, and it made me feel good about myself. Now that life looks a lot different than it did a month ago, my future is halted. As with all this uncertainty clouding most of our futures, we can't put our faith in what normally would bring comfort to a person. The only place that provides me with the comfort I need to get through this is by turning to the lord. So let's look into a passage in scripture where the disciples of Jesus experienced the most uncertainty in their lives. It's in Mark chapter 16, verses 1-8 in the New Revised Standard Version.
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
I learned a lot about this scene from a commentary on Mark's gospel that I read for one of my classes. It was written by Morna Hooker, and her commentary gave me new insights that I want to share with you. She says that Mark is not describing the actual event or place of the resurrection itself, but he wants us to focus on the message of the risen Jesus to his disciples, a vital message entrusted to the women who originally came to anoint him.
This message to the disciples and Peter, in particular, is so important because they were instructed to go back to Galilee. It is only in Galilee that they will be able to see Jesus! This is highlighted because it is a call to the disciples to return and follow Jesus again, but this time with new insight. Through all of the disciples' uncertainty and fear, all signs continue to point to following Jesus, even after his death. Probably the reason the disciples should go back to Galilee is in fact because that is where all of them were originally called. Mark seems to end with that message - not with a neat tidy ending, but with an ambiguous conclusion. And this is for a reason. Mark wants us to stand there at the tomb with the disciples and decide if we will also begin again in our own lives, with a fresh perspective on following Jesus. The disciples failed to comprehend Jesus' identity throughout the Gospel of Mark, but now they are invited to learn more about what discipleship means! Mark's point is that faith is a journey, and disciples will always have more to learn.
As the disciples were sent back to the beginning of their faithful journey of following Christ, what are we to do with this scripture? In light of the tragic events of COVID-19, many of us have been sent back home to where we may have started our journeys of faith too. For some, it might be comforting to know that, but for many others, it is not easy to live back at home with your parents as an adult. Or, because of the world stopping to slow down the spread of this sickness, it has forced us to put our futures on hold indefinitely.
We don't know when life will go back to normal and for every day that life in quarantine continues, the looming fear of job security, health, the potential collapse of the economy, etc. seems to grow too. We fear the virus and uncertainty, and yet this is our reality right now. But when looking at this scripture and applying it to our lives, Mark is prompting us as disciples of Jesus to continue to follow him, especially when the future seems grim or is unknown.
Even though our circumstances may not be as life-threatening as the first disciples faced, it still is very relevant to us to stay faithful and lean on God and our community as we enter a time of doubt and uncertainty. When we can't predict what the future has in store for us, there is one thing that has proven to be evident more than ever for Jesus followers, and it is that Christ has risen! There is nothing that can stop Jesus from delivering people into peace that transcends all understanding. Mark calls us to believe that because Jesus is risen, our fears are conquered and the most important thing is our life as disciples of Jesus. Even though my future is unclear and my ministry hopes are on hold, I am trying to wait and trust just like the first disciples did.
Hooker, Morna Dorothy. The Gospel According to Saint Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011.
|Daniel Perez is a second year graduate student in the Master of Divinity program at Pepperdine University.|