LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH

Dustin

Pastor Dustin

COVID

To kick off this new year, we began a new teaching series called “Love Is ____.” (you can click here to watch the messages). In this series, Pastor John shared a challenging thought for us to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”  Now, I don’t feel that I have mastered much in my life. However, I do think that I have mastered Pastor John’s challenge.

Almost two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Covid-19, and since then, I have been quarantined in isolation in my bedroom. I’ve only been out of my bedroom once, and that was to see my doctor. My life had come to a screeching halt, and I have officially eliminated hurry from my life.

I want to thank everyone for your prayers as I have battled through this virus. Although I have had my challenges in these past two weeks, I am grateful to share with you that I am feeling better, and I am excited to get back to my regular rhythm of being a husband, a father, and a pastor.

For this extroverted pastor, isolation was a hard and difficult challenge to accept. The past two weeks felt like God wanted to sit me down and teach me a couple of things that I wanted to pass along to you.

The first thing God reminded me of is that we are made for relationships. I had to isolate myself due to Covid-19, but sadly too many Christians isolate themselves either intentionally or unintentionally. It’s important to understand that your faith is personal but it’s not private.  We are hardwired for relationships, both vertically (with God) and horizontally (with each other). The Hebrews writer shares with us, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” Hebrews 10:24-25. This is why at Journey, we are passionate about small groups and Rooted (click here to learn more about our groups) because it’s a place where you can live out your faith with others. When connecting with others, not only will you bless those you connect with, but in turn, you yourself will be blessed. 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Satan hates Christian fellowship; it’s his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in. He attaches far more importance to godly fellowship than we do. Union is strength, he does his best to promote separation.” What a great reminder. I am grateful that God has blessed me with so many people that care for me and have reached out during the past two weeks. I had one particular friend check in on me every other day. I know this particular friend is a busy pastor and leader, so I told him that I appreciated him reaching out, but it wasn’t necessary and that I’d reach out if I needed something. His response messed with me (in a good way). He said, “Dustin, when you hurt, I hurt.” Wow, I was stunned and humbled by my friend’s show of love and support at a time I needed it most. That’s the power of community. We are called to love and be loved.

The second thing I felt God bring to my attention was my restlessness. The hardest part of being sick and isolated was my inability to work, to do ministry, and to not be able to be the husband and father I normally try and be. I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing my job, wasn’t taking care of my family, and wasn’t actually doing anything. I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing what I was called to do as a pastor. I felt guilty that I wasn’t being a good leader and making a difference or moving the ball down the field. After processing this a bit, I think it’s safe to say that I was carrying an unhealthy weight of unproductiveness. Please don’t misunderstand me; scripture is clear, over and over, we are called to work hard and not be lazy (Colossians 3:23, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Proverbs 6:10-11). However, there is a difference between working for God vs. trying to seek God’s approval through what you do. The important truth is there is nothing you and I can ever do to work for or earn God’s love or approval.  I could write a New York Times best-selling book that helped millions of people find God, and God still wouldn’t love me any more than He does right now. I could build one hundred orphanages in the poorest parts of the world and God still wouldn’t love me any more than He does right now.

In his book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen shares, “There is that voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on you, my favor rests.’ It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: You are no good, you are ugly, you are worthless, you are despicable, you are nobody.”

Friends let me remind you today that you are God’s beloved. He loves you. He finds pleasure in you. You make Him smile. He has your picture on His refrigerator, and He puts a star by your name. May we not forget what Jesus tells us in John 15:16, “we did not choose Him, He chose us.” God chooses you, today and every day.

May your heart and soul be at rest, at peace, and full of joy because you are His beloved, and there is nothing you can do to change that, and that’s good news worth celebrating.

Dustin Aagaard

Associate Lead Pastor