These are strange days, days of fear, days of hysteria—in other words, days that simply bring all our latent anxieties up to the surface, anxieties that were there all along and are now made visible to others.
What do we need to remember in these days of alarm?
- The World of the Bible. Now we know how the people of God felt throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament. The prophets and many of the psalms speak to people who are caught up in mass hysteria or subject to pandemics. Maybe the current cultural moment is precisely the hermeneutic we need to read the OT deeply for the first time, which can otherwise feel so foreign.
- Our True Trust. Times of public panic force us to align our professed belief with our actual belief. We all say we believe God is sovereign and he is taking care of us. But we reveal our true trust when the world goes into meltdown. What’s really our heart’s deepest loyalty? The answer is forced to the surface in times of public alarm such as we’re wading into now.
- Neighbor Love. When the economy is tanking, opportunities to surprise our neighbors with our confidence and joy surge forward. Now, now is the time to be outside more, to be loving more, to be showing more hospitality. Love stands out strongest when it is needed most, rarest, expected least.
- Family Discipleship. Our kids’ teachers are telling them to wash their hands longer. Why? Their teachers won’t tell them but it’s because they may die otherwise. Heaven and hell are staring every fourth grader in the face. That’s why they’re being told to wash their hands for 20 seconds. We have an opportunity to instill in our kids a deeper awareness of eternity than they have ever known. There is a salutary effect to all this because heaven or hell awaits every fourth grader, either taken out by a virus next month or taken out by old age decades away–10,000 years from now, the difference between dying at age 10 or age 80 will seem trivial. This is an opportunity to disciple our families into the bracing reality of eternity.
- Eschatological Hope. Maybe this is the end. I doubt it. But maybe. Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour. Maybe the sight of Jesus descending from heaven, robed in glory, surrounded by angels, is right around the corner. If so, hallelujah. If not, hallelujah—we’re being reminded that he will indeed return one day. Either way, let us rejoice our way through the chaos, certain of the final outcome.
- Invincible Providence. No infected molecule can enter your lungs, or your three-year-old’s lungs, unless sent by the hand of a heavenly Father. The Heidelberg Catechism defines God’s providence as “The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.” That truth is like an asthmatic’s inhaler to our soul–calms us down, lets us breathe again.
- Christ’s Heart. In times of turmoil, in seasons of distress, Jesus is more feelingly with his people than ever. Hebrews tells us that Jesus experienced all the horror of this world that we do, minus sin—so apparently he knows, he himself knows, way down deep, what it feels like for life to close in on you and for your world to go into meltdown. We can go to him. We can sit with him. His arm is around us, stronger than ever, right now. His tears are larger than ours.
- Heaven. From heaven’s shore we will see how eternally safe we were all along, even amid the global upheaval and anxieties that loom so large as we walk through them. The dangers out there are real. The cautions are wise. Our bodies are mortal, vulnerable. But our souls, for those united to a resurrected Christ, are beyond the reach of all eternal danger. How un-harm-able we are, we who are in Christ. Be at peace. All is assured.