Whatever is Foreseen in Joy: Wendell Berry and the Corona-Crisis

There’s a poem that I regularly come back to when I’m anxious, worried, overwhelmed, and feeling particularly powerless (something that happens to me more than I’d like to admit).

It’s called “X” by Wendell Berry:

Whatever is foreseen in joy

Must be lived out from day to day.

Vision held open in the dark

By our ten thousand days of work.

Harvest will fill the barn; for that

The hand must ache, the face must sweat.


And yet no leaf or grain is filled

By work of ours; the field is tilled

And left to grace. That we may reap,

Great work is done while we’re asleep.


When we work well, a Sabbath mood

Rests on our day, and finds it good.

Are you scared about what might happen to you or a loved one from the coronavirus, or are your youth scared? Whatever is foreseen in joy must be lived out from day to day – vision held open in the dark.

This is a great time to re-read large chunks of Old Testament narrative. I would encourage you to start with the stories of Joseph, and the beginning of the book of Daniel. It’s also a good time to re-read the Psalms. Start with Psalm 62, a favorite of mine when my heart is anxious. God’s people are no strangers to dark days, and Scripture shows God’s grace is always with us and at work advancing God’s redemptive plan for us and the world.

Do you feel powerless, not able to do your ministry well from a distance? No leaf or grain is filled by work of ours – the field is tilled and left to grace. That we may reap, great work is done while we’re asleep.

Remember that the power behind your ministry isn’t you. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” These are Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7. See this as an opportunity to remember that the real power comes from God.

I would encourage you to spend extra time in prayer and fasting during the upcoming weeks, imploring God to be at work among your youth while you’re apart. As you do so, remember the God who hears your prayers. Re-read the visions of God’s glory and power in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 1. Read Psalm 93 and Psalm 46.

And as we read, and pray, and remember our gracious and loving God, as Wendell Berry’s poem ends, “a Sabbath mood will rest on our day, and finds it good.”

Mark Howard was a youth pastor for five years before joining Elam Ministries, an organization that seeks to strengthen and expand the church in Iran and surrounding areas. Through Elam, he's had the opportunity to work with Iranian youth as well as talk with American churches about God's work in Iran. Mark has his M.A. in Theological Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School and serves on Rooted's steering committee.

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