I arrived back in the States a few days ago, and (thankfully) am healthy and feeling good. I’m now in a self-imposed 14-day quarantine (per CDC recommendation when I landed at Chicago O’Hare).
The velocity of changes that have overtaken the world over the last few weeks is astounding. To say that it has taken us all by surprise is certainly an understatement.
When I left for my (almost month-long) trip around the world the last week of February, things with the Coronavirus seemed reasonably under control – the only real danger spots were China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. And as long as you stayed clear of those countries, a global traveler would generally be fine.
When I entered the first three of the four nations that I spent time in (Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka), they had no reported cases of COVID-19 and the world still seemed fairly normal.
Then I flew to Ethiopia and things globally began to unravel, unwind and disintegrate at breakneck speed. This was also two days after President Trump’s speech, in which he ordered all flights from the Schengen zone – Europe – to the U.S. halted as of Friday night, March 13th. I was scheduled to fly home at the end of March through Frankfurt.
When I left the States at the end of February, the Stock Market was at 28,000. As I write this (one month later) it stands at 21,000+ (but having just risen 13% in the past two days). It had dropped as low as 19,000+ this past week.
Also at the end of February, there were 35 reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 0 deaths. Today (30 days later) there are 61,000 reported cases and 830 deaths.
Globally, there were 80,000 cases worldwide and 2,700 deaths on February 25, 2020. Today there are 453,000 reported cases and 20,500 deaths.
The cascading chaos that was unfolding globally over the past 30 days was truly stunning.
I read a story of a river rafting group that spent 25 days rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon – completely disconnected from all news, phone, email and text (on purpose to go “off the grid” for a few weeks).
When they came out of the canyon, they felt like they walked into a “different world” than the one they left just three-and-a-half weeks earlier.
When I left the States a month ago, national and international flights continued as normal (except for the four countries mentioned above).
When I arrived back in the U.S. at Chicago O’Hare a few days ago, the airport was a ghost town (in mid-afternoon on a weekday). I went through immigration and customs in less than 60 seconds (not an exaggeration). My flight was three-fourths empty. United Airlines (which I flew back to the U.S. on) is cutting over 90% of their flights (as are many other carriers).
As of today, the World Health Organization (WHO) is saying that the USA could become the next epicenter for the virus.
So, what are we as Christ-followers to think
in the midst of times like these?
Here are a few important truths for all of us to keep in mind, both now and in the days ahead…
ONE: Though none of us knows what the future looks like because of these recent developments, here is what we do know:
God is still on the Throne and He is not caught off guard by this virus. He is not in heaven, wringing His hands and pacing in circles, wondering how this happened and how He is going to deal with it. He is still moving history toward its final culmination of redeeming this broken and sinful world to Himself.
God is good and loving. He knows and cares about what you are facing. He promises to take care of you and provide for your every need. Scripture says our job is to seek His Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33) and “all these things will be added to you as well” (v. 34).
This doesn’t mean that we won’t face potential hardship, difficulties and loss. What it does mean is God will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and our lives (and this world) are under His providential control (Psalm 33:10-11).
As Charles Spurgeon said,
“The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is a soft pillow
upon which I lay my head each night.”
God is faithful and can be counted upon to give us the grace that we need at each moment along the way (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB)
Loving those around us well is always the right thing to do (even when that includes social distancing). We all need to figure out creative ways to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14; Matthew 5:43-47)
TWO: These are the times for each of us to remember the “rock memorials” (Joshua 4) from our past where God has shown Himself faithful.
Over the years, Lisa and I have reminded each other of God’s goodness, grace, mercy, kindness and faithfulness through our 40 years of marriage (and ministry).
We have eight or nine significant “rock memorials” that leave a smile on our face and tears of joy in our eyes. It’s always an exercise that leads to encouragement, hope and stronger faith.
I’m confident that we will all get through this. I believe that years from now, we will look back and talk about how “God brought us through” once again.
If you read history, you will see that throughout the centuries there have been Christ-followers who have been through far worse difficulties than anything we are facing, and God faithfully brought them through their trials.
THREE: It’s easy to say we are “walking by faith” when everything is going our way, when the sun is shining, and dark clouds seem like a distant memory (and nowhere in the foreseeable future).
The true test of faith is trusting in God’s goodness, wisdom and providence during times like these. Central to all of the enemy’s attacks on us is trying to get us to “distrust God and His Word.”
Scripture makes one thing abundantly clear:
God calls us to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
And “walking by faith” pleases God (for there is no other way to please Him) (Hebrews 11:6).
Here are a few Scripture verses that I think are appropriate at this particular time, for this season (and I’ve listed several more at the bottom of this post):
“I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
I will strengthen you and help you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
“I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.”
(Isaiah 41:9-10 – NIV84)
“The Lord your God is with you; he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17 – NIV84)
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength…”
(Habakkuk 3:17-19 – NIV)
“…casting all your anxiety on Him,
because He cares for you.”
(1 Peter 5:7 – NASB)
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
because he trusts in You. ‘Trust in the Lord forever…’”
(Isaiah 26:3-4a – NASB)
All that we have been facing in our world these past few weeks reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkien’s quote:
“We all long for Eden and are constantly glimpsing it:
our whole nature is soaked with the sense of exile.”
As Cornelius Plantinga Jr. reminded us in his excellent book, Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be, we live in a broken, sin-stained, sickness-filled world. We live in a fallen place in the midst of a fallen race.
But God promises that He will bring good into our lives and glory to Himself out of the evil, suffering and brokenness in our world (Romans 8:28-29).
God is in the midst of implementing His master plan of redeeming His world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the person of Jesus Christ, God Himself comes to renew the world and restore His people.
And finally, if you want to be encouraged with a great worship song (it’s been at the top of my playlist for this past year), take a few minutes to listen (and watch and read the lyrics) to this Andrew Peterson song, “Is He Worthy?”
This particular video is sung by Chris Tomlin and has the lyrics on the screen (with beautiful scenery behind). I think it will encourage your soul.
See if it doesn’t resonate with you (and what we are facing right now as a world) as it did with me.
God has promised you that “his grace is sufficient” for whatever you may be facing (2 Cor. 12:9). He is faithful to give you what you need, when you need it.
Let’s continue to trust Him and walk faithful to Him, choosing to do the “next right thing” as we move through our days. One choice at a time. One decision at a time. God never called you to carry tomorrow’s burdens today.
And don’t feel bad if you “don’t know what to do.” In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat felt the same way:
“For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
(Corrie ten Boom)“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB)
Scriptures to Meditate on…
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23:4 – ESV)
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
(Psalm 46:1-3 – ESV)
“The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
(Psalms 33:10c-11 – NIV84)
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
(Psalms 20:7-8 – NIV84)
“In the world you have tribulation but take courage;
I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33c – NASB)
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”
(Romans 8:18-19 – NIV84)
“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – NASB)