I know you know where this is coming from. There is a union in this world right now in that we are stripped down. Stripped down as calendars are cleared, doors are closed, livelihoods and lives being taken. That type of unity is largely uninvited and unwelcome. We see immediate effects, while it also brings layers of unknown.
It's really been only about 10 days since the United States starting seeing real impact from this viral pandemic. In just over a week, I have seen what something invisible can do to what we, as humans, have been spending decades building. In one week, our sands completely shifted and we lost our footing. Truly how is that possible? Businesses are closing doors, laying off staff, markets have crashed...in about ONE WEEK. It is just nuts to be witness to this. It is heart breaking to see our families at such loss in so many ways. I also can't help but to stand in awe of something that reveals (very clearly) a reality about our world and our hope...and it is revealed to every person on this planet today:
A) We live in a world that is perishing. Regardless of our knowledge of the Bible, whether we believe it to be true or not, we see it. Plants wither, health fades, money is spent or lost, death is imminent even outside of a pandemic. Our world and what we do here doesn't stand the test of time. Nothing tangible lasts forever. Nothing from the secular world that is intangible lasts forever, either. Everything secular has a lifespan, then it begins to fade: whether it be thoughts on life, philosophies on happiness, perception on humor...it all changes and evolves, become irrelevant or obsolete as it is influenced by a sweeping thing called culture.
B) We stand on something that is unchanging. We stand on something that is not impacted by the "waves of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). We stand with someONE that we are taught holds all things together...
I stop there...in case that never resonated before. I'm going to take a minute because it is resonating big time for me right now. Through Jesus all things were created, for Him and through Him...and IN HIM all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17). This, to me, is such evidence that we are on such sinking sands without Him; we can't accomplish anything without Jesus HOLDING IT TOGETHER. It has taken an invisible (that manifests itself in physical ailments, and sadly death), thing over an incredibly brief amount of time for there to be a very real stronghold working to disintegrate what we have "built". Truly, now more than ever, I see how it is Jesus who keeps the universe from crumbling. His common grace that allows us to even walk this earth and build one brick on top of the other. Not to get too dire here, but this has reiterated to me - proved to me - how fragile our existence truly is.
OK, so wow I have laid it out there. We can do nothing apart from Him. (John 15:5) We are dust without Him. It takes a BLIP to shut. things. down. I want to point us to what we do have. We have the truth...we have a true hope...
The Bible teaches us over and over that God is faithful to His promises. We have a promise from God that tells us that this is not it. It doesn't end here with defeat and death and dismay. This world is broken and He will return and make it all new (Revelation 21:5). We don't know when or how, but we know He has made that promise.
He promises that the work of Jesus Christ is ENOUGH. He promises not forsake us EVER. Not today, or tomorrow or eternally. No matter what we do, what doubt we have, what sadness we cling onto, no matter how bad we feel like we have failed...the blood of Jesus means the price for our salvation, for our eternal right standing with God, was paid in full. We cannot ruin that...and we can rest in that beautiful, unshakable promise.
He promises to give us His Holy Spirit as a counselor, comforter and guide as we become a living temple of God when we put our trust in Jesus. His Holy Spirit is in us to remind us of our hope, remind us of the scripture we have tucked away in our heart, remind us to go to our knees...and the Holy Spirit works deep works in our hearts and intercedes with the prayers we should be praying to the Father...even when we can't seem to figure out what we should be asking. (Romans 8:26-27)
God also promises His children that He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). This good is salvation. This good is sanctification. This good is ultimately that all things are to work together for the building of His Kingdom and His glory. This good is eternal good. This good doesn't perish. This good that all things are being worked together for can give rest to our spirits when things seem a little chaotic or unpredictable. God isn't surprised and He is not out of control. Ever.
God stands by these promises and all the promises He lays out in the Bible. Resting in His promises and being reminded of them makes me realize how much bigger God is than this virus - bigger than a job loss or income cut or health issues. He is bigger and He is working it all for good!
He is our Good Shepherd. He is with us. Intimately. Not just high up on the clouds watching and swooping down once and a while. He is walking with us; His Spirit lives in us. He hears us in our struggles, our heartache. He wants us to cry out and desires to take us THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death to the other side. (Psalm 23). And our Father shapes us into His perfect Son as we walk through this valley called life; especially in the moments that feel like darker and deeper valleys. The other side of this is higher ground; a higher ground that is perfect even if it looks different than we thought it might. Coming out of each valley, and ultimately coming out of this broken world, brings our soul to a higher ground: closer with our Savior; embraced by and our hearts fully wrapped around the One we were made to be with.
What would I do here without God's people surrounding me? During this time, I feel the magnitude of not having them close enough to hug. To sit down across from and talk about what unites us beyond life stage, geography, occupation, political party, flesh and blood....sitting down and talking about Jesus, opening up His Word together, marveling over what He does in and through our lives. Sharing those moments in person...I will never take those for granted again.
Raising my hands in worship next to a sister or brother in Christ. Singing praises and hearing the voice of the congregation alongside mine (I wish in tune with mine...but my voice is rarely in tune...Jesus loves it anyway :) ). A glimpse of God's Kingdom here on earth when I am surrounded by my heavenly family.
And while I have lost the physical presence of most of them (I am so thankful for my encouraging husband and kids who I get to hunker down with for now!), I praise the Lord for the time and place in which I live where technology means that I still get to have those conversations. I still get to see smiling faces as they talk about how the Lord has calmed their soul. I still get to hear their voice or read their typed words that tell me about how God is working in the middle of something that is seeming to tear lives apart.
God's mission of un-abandoned, rescuing love. His heart rescue mission for His children has not stopped. In fact, that is what I am so encouraged by today. That God has not only kept His promise to not forsake His children, but more children are finding life...real life in Jesus...while the world is attacked by an invisible enemy. More people than ever are watching streamed church because they can sit down at a kitchen table with the one who invited them, or click on a link without going into an unknown situation or place. More people than ever are leaning in to hear of hope because they've been stripped of everything else. More people than ever carry a boldness with the truth they know in Christ, and are sharing with others because this level of brokenness is paving pathway after pathway to gospel conversation. God's mission is more alive than ever.
One thing this virus cannot strip us from: Jesus. He is bigger, He is more powerful, He loves too deeply for this to not have purpose. Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39), and nothing can shake God's plan. Let us rest on this solid rock. Let us see this as the tragedy it is, weep with others in grief, feel the feelings...but not with hopelessness, rather with a firm footing on our true hope that remains unshakable.