Pestilence, Disaster, and God’s People

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The uncertainty and question marks of the days in which we live span  the expanse from “How much of society will get shut down?” to “Anyone have any toilet paper?” to “How many will die from this?” It doesn’t take much imagination at all to conjure up endless possibilities of where this virus could take us. One of the most significant consequences of the state of the current state of our world is the panic which has so quickly set in. I’m not going to deny that uncertainty breeds fear and fear does breed panic. It IS fairly normal. While we don’t have many answers on the medical or scientific level, it is critical for us to keep our eyes looking above the seemingly barren landscape of no toilet paper, no sports, and significant health issues. 

As we face the panorama of uncertainty, here are four truths for us to hold onto.  

1) God can and will sustain His people amid great grief and turmoil. 

The Bible is filled with a seemingly endless array of dramatic and sorrowful scenarios involving individuals as well as entire nations; none though would probably be greater than what is found in the first chapter of Lamentations. In graphic terms Jeremiah describes the pain and misery as Judah is led away into captivity by the conquering Babylonians. The life and glory of their nation had been stripped away and all that seemed to remain was sorrow and turmoil. Many were to be led away to live in a foreign land, their homes destroyed, their lives stripped away. Those left behind were to live in the broken down ruins of a once great nation. 

The promise of Jeremiah 27 and 29 though, was anything but hopeless. God was bigger than the Babylonians. God was better than their turmoil. While their eyes could only see uncertainty, there was no uncertainty in the hands and mind of their covenant Lord. In the worst of times, in the seemingly most desperate of situations, God was able to sustain and bless His people. It is in God we must find our stability. 

Now, let’s be clear, God allowed Judah to be conquered, captured, and deported because of her sin and unfaithfulness. I am NOT saying the current state of our world is God’s judgment for sin. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. In one sense, it really doesn’t matter. What DOES matter, above all, is that we keep our eyes and hope fixed on God. He can and will sustain us amid painful days. Our lives may become exceedingly inconvenient and painful, but God is faithful and will bear us up during whatever may come. 

2) The misery and trials of God’s people drives them to seek Him. 

The book of James is without question a hallmark for properly responding to suffering. Chapter 1, following the call to “consider it all joy…when you encounter various trials”, implores those so suffering to do two specific things: Seek the Lord for wisdom and receive the Word.  

Our lives are filled with trials of all sizes and magnitudes. No matter how insignificant or how life-altering they are the answer is still the same. We are called seek the Lord through prayer and reading His word with a heart of expectant faith and humble submission.  

God is never flippant nor whimsical with the trials He allows (or in some cases sends) upon His people. God allowed Job suffering beyond what I can possibly imagine to both vindicate him as well as to reveal Himself at a greater level to him. Jesus fell asleep in a boat knowing a storm was brewing; a storm so powerful it was able to terrify a group of seasoned boatmen. He did so to force them to cry out to Him and for Him to demonstrate His ability to provide for them when situations were bigger than their ability to cope. 

Without speculating what the coming days will look like, let us be faithful to not only trust the Lord, but to seek Him. 

3) Trials, inconveniences, and suffering are opportunities to reflect the Savior. 

One of the greatest lessons Jesus taught His followers was that of being humble servants. In Mark 10:45 He told them, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.” 

Paul, essentially continued this line of instruction when taught the Philippians what it meant to follow Jesus when he wrote, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:3-5).  

Let us look to mirror the heart of our Savior as we walk whatever this road turns out to be and wherever this road leads. No matter how inconvenienced we may be, no matter how we may have to suffer, may people see Jesus in us and experience His grace and kindness through us. A self-centered life is never of God but especially now.

4) Trials, inconveniences, and suffering are opportunities for the gospel. 

Without question, people will be experiencing hopelessness and despair at any number of levels. Questions about the future can rattle even the strongest and most secure. Let us be ready to point them to a faithful Creator and a merciful Savior. Let us be ready to lift the heads of the weary and frightened by pointing them to what is above and beyond this earth. 

Let us not forget the image of Paul and Silas sitting in prison singing praises to the Lord (Acts 16) and while chained as a prisoner the gospel was never chained (2nd Timothy 2:9). Let us seize this opportunity given by God to arm ourselves with the gospel and bring hope to a needy world. 

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