Melissa Affolter

Content & Green Site Coordinator, Counselor

A common refrain in the counseling room is the heaviness of not being able to make sense of life or feeling an overwhelming measure of anxiety or sadness about it.

Much of what brings people into counseling has not changed from what it was pre-pandemic: 

  • relationships marked by turmoil
  • navigating significant decisions
  • feeling alone
  • confusion about ourselves or how we relate to others 
  • devastating losses
  • addressing the impact of trauma
  • growing in self-awareness and seeking personal change

So what has changed? Many of us continue experiencing the common (even expected) problems of life, now couched within this strange and uncomfortable space of what the past two years have held. Months of isolation, disrupted routines, and fractured relationships, combined with intense political and social upheaval, have left us bewildered about a way forward. Experts and scholars are regularly weighing in about the toll this pandemic is taking on our well-being. To be sure, this season will be studied by psychologists, sociologists, and economists for decades to come. 

In John 10:9-10, we find this well-known statement from Jesus, highlighting the unique gift of his presence. The enemy’s presence is sinister and suffocating. But Jesus’ presence promises eternal fullness and fulfillment — abundance

“I am the gate. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”

For many right now, we do not feel like our experience of life is abundant. Instead, life may feel empty, dark, or lonely. Perhaps it feels like we are going through the motions of each day, wondering if we will simply have to “white knuckle” our way to the end. We feel helpless and powerless to change. We long for the green pastures he says we can find in him. In order to experience the life he has promised us, we know we are in desperate need of something we do not possess in and of ourselves. 

The abundance referenced in John 10:10 is not about our life situations going well or being without hardships. Throughout the four gospels, we read of how Jesus consistently offered his presence and his power to those he interacted with along his journeys. When we look at accounts such as the healing of Lazarus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the feeding of the 5,000 and the calming of the stormy seas, we always find Jesus coming near with comfort and providing healing or help. His presence and power drew people into the pastures of abundant life, life that was ultimately marked by his eternal presence! These are themes we can integrate into caring for our own souls, helping to reframe our intrusive thoughts or quiet distressing emotions. 

What are some specific ways we can reflect on the presence and power of Jesus that we need in order to live within his green pastures?"

  • Spend time reading passages from the four gospels where we can observe and reflect on the presence and power offered by Jesus. What does his presence bring to the situation? What are the qualities of his power, and how does that power specifically change one’s circumstances or perspective?
  • Consider ways we can seek out the green pastures Jesus offers, coming away from the noise and into his presence. Meditate on Psalm 23, incorporating creative elements of imagery to usher in the peace of those pastures. There are numerous ways to do this, a few examples would be Psalm 23 Pictures to Pray, and Psalm 23 Imagery Exercise.
  • Notice our limitations, and pay attention to the changes in our capacity during different seasons. Jesus stepped away from the cacophony of voices and demands (Luke 5:16), which allowed him to return and engage from a place of life. Rather than focusing on feelings of helplessness, we can steward those feelings to propel us deeper into the power of Christ.

Melissa Affolter has served in various aspects of counseling and discipleship ministries for nearly twenty years in the local church.

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