We here in the United States have always considered ourselves to be the Biggest, Baddest, Strongest, Smartest, Richest, in other words the Best nation and people in the history of the world. Then came COVID-19, and the civil unrest because of the last straw in police brutality with the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the realization that this nation was not the bastion of equality we paid lip service to.
At first we put on the appearance of unity in the face of these issues because we thought they would go away like so many other things in the past. But this time they didn’t go away. COVID-19 didn’t disappear; it got worse. The protest against racial injustice didn’t just last a few days or weeks they continue day after day. The facade of unity started to fade. Before long there were accusations, feelings of anger and mistrust, shaming and basically a nation and world that came unhinged.
1. We Are Not as Strong as We Thought
The late singer and songwriter Rich Mullins got it right in the title and chorus of his song released nearly 25 years ago, “We are Not as Strong as We Think We Are.”
Americans have lived for decades with convenience, luxury, perceived strength, and an overall sense of world peace. Then a microscopic virus, a biological warfare of sorts, wreaked havoc on our health, our economy, and our peace of mind. Never have we been stripped so completely of our confidence, conveniences, capabilities, and our peace of mind than now. And this anxiety is not only found in the world, the church appears to be struggling, too.
May we, as Christ-followers, be the first to humbly admit, as the Apostle Paul did, that God’s grace is more than enough to sustain you.
2 Corinthians 12:6-10 NLT If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2. Only God Can Give Us the Peace We Need
We are an anxious, fearful, and worrisome species. It’s natural for us to worry when we can’t see a clear or prosperous future. Yet, Scripture tells us
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
If you’re trying to figure all this out, or create your own sense of peace and serenity, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
Only God can give you and me the peace that comes from knowing this did not take Him by surprise. He is sovereign. And when all seems out of control, we can not only look to, but rest in, the Only One who really is in control.
3. Only God Knows Our Future
We have learned to rely on predictions--trusting in the weather forecast, the economic forecast, the stock market trends (which always bounce back, right?), rising and dropping interest rates, political polls, even predictions of coming natural disasters like hurricanes. But our predictions are guesses at most.
We still don’t know how to predict the future. We can still get blindsided by poll results that didn’t pan out. A year ago, even six months ago, no one could’ve predicted we’d experience a global pandemic, a ban on international travel, a national and global lockdown and a sudden plummet of the best economy this nation had ever seen.
No one could have predicted the government would prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people at a time, preventing graduation ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and every type of religious service in the country.
And yet, God knows the plans He has for us.
Jeremiah 29:11 NLTFor I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
I need that hope right now. And I can’t imagine a tomorrow without the presence and promises of God. There is much peace and certainty in being able to say “God, no matter what happens, You hold my future securely in Your hands.”
Jeremiah 1:5 NLT “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
Romans 8:29 NLT For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
The world, at large, needs that kind of hope right now, too.
4. Only God Provides Assurance and Security
Many people felt isolated during this time. Some still do. If you felt you were all alone, that can be debilitating, fearful, and depressing. But God says in His Word,
“I will never fail you; I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Scripture assures us there is no place we can go where God’s presence will not follow. (Psalm 139:7-12). The Lord goes before us, walks alongside us, and has our backs.
Psalms 139:7-12 NLT I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
Isaiah 33:6 says “And He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge” (NASB).
During these uncertain, unstable times, He is our sure foundation. While we long for a national or world leader to give us the assurance that “this will all go away and we can return to life as normal” only God knows the future, and can guide us safely through it.
That is security during uncertain times.
The virus is real. Whether or not you have been personally affected is not the point. Even healthy people who wash their hands regularly, wear a mask and are trying to distance themselves are still being affected.
That means, as we do what we can to stay healthy, God is ultimately in control of our health and wellbeing. He is the Only One who can fully insulate us from an invisible contagion all around us.
David said “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8, emphasis added).
While we may be looking to a political administration, the Center for Disease Control, or the finest medical experts in the world to come up with a vaccine, God is the Only One who can give us the assurance that we are truly safe.
6. Only God Can Lead in a Mess Like This
In the past few months, I’ve witnessed countless Californians head to Arizona to flee the golden state’s shelter-in-place mandates. I know of U.S. residents desiring to leave the country altogether until we have a new president to “bring the chaos under control.”
Truthfully, only God has the answers, only He can govern our hearts and our world in truth and justice. Only God can get us out of this mess or guide us through it.
We’ve grown accustomed to doing our own thing and when the government says “shelter in place,” “keep a 6-foot distance” and “wear a face covering” it flies in the face of what we feel are “our rights.” We either mistrust leadership altogether, believing this is a plot to strip us of our personal rights, or we follow blindly thinking because someone is in a position of authority, they know best for us.
Jesus’ heart broke as He saw humans “confused and helpless like sheep without a shepherd”
Matthew 9:36 NLT When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Just like the people of Jesus’ day, we are confused and helpless during this time, willing to follow whoever offers a chance of hope or change.
Never have we needed to listen for God’s voice as much as we do now. God, what are you saying to the church during this time? God, what are You wanting us to do differently so that we can shine Your light in this darkness? God, when do we listen to You and not the government? And when do we submit to our leaders and be an example of good citizenship?
We need discernment. We need clarity in a time that can be confusing and fearful. We need the truth. We need Jesus, who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life”
John 14:6 NLT Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
7. Living for the Temporary Doesn’t Cut it Anymore
As Americans, in particular, we have put too much stock in our leaders, and our comforts and our “security” on this earth. Even as believers, we had grown comfortable until life on earth wasn’t comfortable anymore. I found myself at the breaking point recently when I realized I had enjoyed a great economy, a thriving business, and many luxuries, comforts, and conveniences of living in the most prosperous nation on earth.
Then I saw it all go to pot. Crashed economy. Civil unrest. Racial tensions. Political divisiveness. Hate, anger and unrest abounded. I found myself saying “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” And then I realized why I had been so affected by all this: I had lost my longing for heaven.
Colossians 3:1-2 advises, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Matthew 6:33 tells us “seek first His kingdom (not a prosperous life on this earth) and His righteousness (not your own conveniences), and all these things will be added to you” (NASB).
And Jesus told us “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB).
This world and its comforts and conveniences will pass away. And therefore, we need God and an eternal mindset of the glorious riches that await us as heirs of Christ.
Ephesians 1:3-8 NLTAll praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.