by Ellen Jeter Walker
As each of us is dealing with the reality of this Corona Virus Pandemic, we are watching in real time the dramatic impact on families and individuals as we each face life and death. Mixed with this reality of death are monumental changes to the world economic system, to health systems, government and political systems, education systems, communications, hospitality, travel, food and energy resources, and constrictions on fundamental freedoms. There are social customs and lifestyle changes that will be forever changed and yesterday has now become the “good ole days”.
There is a lot of speculation on the internet about the end of the world and are these troubles part of the fulfilment of the Revelation prophecies. I would suggest to you that these are only “birth pains” and should not be the focus of our attention. There are some bigger things happening that we may not see because we are so narrowly focused on ourselves and the immediate situation. I would propose to you that what we see happening is not God’s judgement or wrath upon this world, but rather His mercy. Judgement will come later.
When each of us is faced with life-threatening situations, the conventional wisdom is that we have one of two choices – FIGHT or FLIGHT – face and challenge the threat or try to escape. But there is actually another choice – FAITH. I say that cautiously because you may misunderstand this alternative. It is not a simplistic choice, coping mechanism or pie-in-the-sky illusion. Faith is the acknowledgement and complete trust in the God who created this world, who is in control of this world and who knows absolutely everything that is happening in this world. Nothing happens in this world without His knowledge and His authorization. He alone controls everything and His reality is the only thing that matters.
So how is this pandemic an act of mercy when people are dying and the world is getting turned upside down? To answer that we have to understand that pain and suffering are an essential part of life. It is easy to believe that prosperity, comfort, fame, power, leisure, indulgence, pleasure, long life and good health are the ultimate goals of this life. Somehow we feel entitled to these things. This is a lie. The important things are peace, love, joy, compassion, kindness, service and faith. These things do not have a physical price tag and cannot be earned or achieved by our personal efforts. They come from experiencing sorrow, suffering and hardship, through which we learn to persevere with humility and dependence upon the strength, power, presence and wisdom of God.
The world has been given a “time out” by God. Much like a child is disciplined, a “time out” is a time to stop and think about what is happening, to evaluate our behavior and then to make adjustments. We would normally take this “time out” as part of our observance of Lent in preparation for Easter. But today our culture has so distorted this time of reflection, I believe God has intervened to make us seriously look at our sinful condition and the price that was paid by Christ Himself to cleanse us from all sin and to present us faultless before God.
God has gotten our attention with this virus. We need to take this time while we shelter in place, to examine our hearts and what we are doing with our lives. This testing is far more important than testing for the Corona virus because it has eternal ramifications. Each one of us has been infected with the sin of this world and we don’t even know we are carrying this contagious problem. Our love of pleasure, our love of entertainment and leisure, our love of money, our love of comfort, our love of ourselves has so contaminated our way of living that we think it is normal.
God is giving us this opportunity for our good, as hard as it may be. So does faith demand that we sit by and do nothing? Absolutely not.
It is time for personal introspection. What is most important for me? Do I seek God’s will and His presence in my life? Has my life gotten sidetracked? Are there things that need to change? There are a million questions to ask yourself, the most important being Do you know Jesus as your personal savior, Lord (master, King) and friend?
It is time to evaluate the traditions of our churches in the light of God’s command to make disciples, to love each other and to turn the other cheek. Does our programing encourage personal growth and service or keeping of the law. Are we entertaining instead of worshiping? We need to be sure that we are in the business of proclaiming the sovereignty of God, extending compassion to others and yielding to God’s will instead of our own.
It is time to consider the way we interact with other people. Are my conversations mostly superficial or do I take time to care for the people I meet? Am I willing to be inconvenienced to talk to someone or to help with their problems. I am already seeing a change in the Christian community. We are finding new ways of loving each other while social distancing. The internet used to be a platform for voicing harsh and even abusive opinions. Now people are writing and videoing words of love and prayers and coming together in worship. It is not the same as being there in person, but it is a step in the right direction.
The people of God have prayed for a Great Awakening. This may be the beginning, at least in your heart. Don’t let this crisis “opportunity” go to waste. Learn to be grateful. Learn to be compassionate. Learn to be humble. Learn to honor God in all things and give Him the glory due His name.
“A time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home… I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16: 32, 33
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
By Ellen Jeter Walker, wife of a retired pastor, former journalist, musician, Bible teacher/speaker and author of “An Audience of One… Worship for God’s People” and “The Secret War… The Struggle For Your Last Freedom.”