We are truly in an uncharted wilderness. Picture a desert with no roads and no trails. There is no sign of what direction to go because there is nothing but an endless sea of sand dunes in every direction. What do we do?
Thirty days ago, I don’t believe any of us would have believed what could happen within a few short weeks. It was beyond anyone’s imagination. Because of the COVID-19 virus, things have changed – not just a little, but they have changed drastically. Who would have thought the Democratic primaries and upcoming presidential election would be largely silenced with no more boisterous political rallies and debates? I would never have considered the possibility of all sporting and entertainment events in the US would be cancelled within days. In some states, businesses have been told to shut down indefinitely with exceptions only for essentials such as food, gas, and healthcare. As of right now, more than 25% of the US population of roughly 350,000,000 in five states are being told to stay at home as much as possible for the next several weeks or indefinitely. If this could all happen within the last two to three weeks, what will we be facing in the next thirty days? We literally have no idea.
I don’t fault anyone about feeling anxious as we wait to see how COVID-19 impacts our personal lives, our communities, this country, and the world at large. Admitting when we are anxious and afraid is helpful. We need to be honest with ourselves and God about what is really going on in our hearts. At the same time, we don’t want to stay there — we don’t want to stay anxious and fearful about something over which we have no control. We need to surrender our anxious hearts to God and allow Him to carry those concerns for us.
During challenging times like this what we truly believe about God is revealed in our responses. Do we respond in fear? Anger? Trust? Anxiety? Faith? Paranoia? Peace?
The fact is we live in a fallen world. Sin is a far more deadly virus than COVID-19. Since the fall of Adam & Eve, we have lived in a physical world marred and deeply flawed by sin. As a result, most human endeavors are rooted in mankind following their pride and putting others down in order to get the desires of their own heart. Sin is rooted in selfishness. It is fueled by greed. Until Jesus returns and destroys Satan, the power of sin and darkness and despair will continue to reign on planet earth.
Because of the brokenness of the world we live in, there are and will continue to be natural disasters, tragic accidents, sickness, and disease. There is pain. There is suffering. As long as we live in time and space, these realities will continue all around us, and Christians are not exempt. This COVID-19 virus is just one example of this. It is equally contagious to believers and unbelievers. It is equally threatening our earthly lives and affecting our very way of life. The virus is inanimate. It is nondiscriminatory. It is an equal opportunity virus. This microscopic virus is creating upheaval around the globe – economically, socially, and medically – it is bringing the most powerful countries and economies to their knees.
Even though we live in a fallen world, God is good. In Psalm 119:68 the psalmist writes “You [God] are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” God is good. God does good. What does He have to teach us about Himself?
God is as good today as He was three weeks ago… three decades ago… three centuries ago… or three millennium ago. God is as good today as He was when He created sinless Adam and Eve and placed them in the perfect garden called Eden. He is the same today as He was in eternity past. And He is the same today as He will be in eternity to come. He is as good today as he was on the day he delivered the children of Israel from Egypt… when He miraculously parted the Red Sea… when He ultimately lead them into the promised land.
God’s goodness doesn’t fluctuate based on what is happening on planet earth at any given time. God was good during the most horrible genocides throughout history. He was good during the deadly plagues that killed millions. God was good when early Anabaptists were hunted like wild animals and cruelly put to death. He was good whenever Christians have been tortured and killed for their beliefs.
Our definition and perception of “good” is flawed by sin. The goodness of God is far superior to what we can grasp with our feeble and finite minds. It describes the character and heart of God.
The REALITY is God is good — regardless of our feelings. Let’s believe it. Let’s declare it. Let’s remember it. Let’s remind ourselves and others — GOD IS GOOD!
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have hope. This is something no unbeliever can truly understand. We believers have changed our allegiance from kingdom of sin and Satan to God’s eternal kingdom. Our sins have been forgiven because of Jesus ultimate sacrifice – His cruel death on the cross and bodily resurrection from the dead. We have peace with God because we have been adopted into His family. We have hope – not fear and anxiety.
Titus 2:11–14 (ESV) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Notice how Titus instructs us to live our lives in the present age. We are live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. This admonition is pertinent for today’s present realities. Why do we live our lives like that? Because we are waiting for our blessed hope – the appearing of Jesus Christ. We have something far greater to look forward to and for which to live.
We live in this sinful and unredeemed world like an ambassador in a hostile country. Our citizenship, our identity, our purpose, is not just here and now. It is for something far greater. We have the promise and hope of life eternal which is given to us with our salvation.
1 John 5:11–13 (ESV) And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
Death for the believer is simply a transition from living in time & space into eternity – we keep right on living.
What is God trying to teach us? Why is He allowing this virus to cause so much disruption? We don’t know the why and probably never will fully know on this side of eternity.
What is He trying to teach us? We don’t fully know presently and we may not know for some time. While we could speculate from multiple angles, I would like for us to consider one possibility. Remember the tower of Babel in Genesis 11?
Genesis 11:1, 4 (ESV) Now the whole earth had one language and the same words… Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
At this point in history, civilization had advanced to a point where they were had learned to accomplish significant endeavors. Because of their success, their confidence and their arrogance soared. They believed they were invincible.
Genesis 11:6–8 (ESV) And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
God understood the potential they had for evil and destruction. He acknowledged their competence when He stated that what they set their hearts to do they will accomplish. In fact, God says nothing was impossible for them to do. So, He intervened. God, in His goodness, created a disruption.
The people’s arrogance, their power, their self-confidence, their aspirations, their goals — they were in control and they were invincible (or so they thought).
God acknowledges potential for misusing their potential and He recognized that it was not healthy and would not lead to good outcomes. So God intervened by causing a disruption that caused them to see that they weren’t as powerful or invincible as they thought they were. It brought these people to their knees – it abruptly halted their massive construction project.
Perhaps God is calling our attention and focus back to Him rather than everything man has accomplished – and that includes what we have accomplished. We don’t know why God is allowing the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we do have a responsibility to respond in a manner that positively reflects the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What is an appropriate response?
Suddenly having our calendars cleared, fewer activities, and less busyness; lets cultivate habits that can intentionally deepen our spiritual lives in several ways.
Let’s cultivate a heart of humility and devout prayer. This virus has brought the world to a relative standstill (in comparison to several months ago). It has literally brought our prosperous economy to its knees – to a place of humiliation. Being on one’s knees is a vulnerable position. It’s not a comfortable position. It is not a posture we naturally choose.
But God calls us to the posture of humility willingly. We are to do so out of recognition for who God is and our own unworthiness before God.
One of the ways we demonstrate our humility lies in our desire and willingness to spend time in prayer, especially for each other in the body of Christ. In our church, we have prepared daily prayer reminder list of members and regular attendees — let’s fervently pray for each other regularly and systematically. We should also be praying for our government, business and church leaders as they have many difficult decisions to be made. As we humbly pray, we are acknowledging our own inadequacy, frailty, and inability to do anything in our own strength. It is recognizing that ultimately only God is in control.
This is also a time we should take time to carefully examine ourselves, make confession of sin, and walk in repentance. Use this time in which our pace has been slowed to humbly ask God to scrutinize our own life for areas of selfishness, pride, or wrong desires. When the Holy Spirit illuminates those dark places in our lives we have a choice: we can disregard the revelation or we can call it the sin it is and confess it to God as such. After we confess our sin, we must turn away from – repent – and purposely move closer to God.
With a less hectic lifestyle and more free time, this is also an excellent time to immerse ourselves is scripture. Take this time to carefully read and contemplate God’s Word. Read it slowly. Think about what you are reading. Re-read it. Digest it. Meditate on it. Intentionally memorizing scripture is one of the best ways to fill our hearts with God’s truth.
It is fascinating how many of the Psalms seem especially relevant at times like this. The Psalms express deep and honest emotions that connect with us when we are going through difficult and challenging times. Read and meditate on the Psalms.
Let’s not forget that this is a time when people around us are truly seeking truth. They are coming to the realization of their own helplessness and their lack of hope. This is the time to humbly share the hope, the peace, and the confidence we have in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Let’s watch for opportunities to express those realities to those who are searching for something more during this time.
We all have our anxious moments, but let’s help encourage each other to surrender those fears and instead intentionally choose to embrace with joy the hope and peace and confidence in Almighty God, the ruler of the universe.