A Long Decade? Or a Few Short Years?
The last few years have been difficult since we were made aware of some new type of flu found in a place called Wuhan on the other side of the world. “Normal” has become a fading dream as the results of that medical discovery have changed our personal world and our greater world. I remember the first time I heard on the news of this new virus: “It will affect mainly older people and those with comorbidities” the young newscaster intoned. He seemed relieved by his words. I was alarmed. “That’s me!” my inner me said to anyone listening. His words were something like, “This will mainly kill older people.” What I heard was, “This will mainly affect people with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel” to dredge up an old saying from the past. I took offense, banana peel or no. And I was a little frightened because my wife and I both fit the demographic.
The news slid rapidly downhill from there. The virus was not contained in Wuhan nor in China. Bans on foreign travel were too late and too few. Masks, double masks, and six feet of separation did little to slow its spread. My wife and I shopped at the grocery store at 7:00 AM as soon as the doors first opened. We stopped eating out, first by choice and then by governor’s mandate. Amazon, Instacart and Hulu streaming became our contacts with the outside world. And even that contact was limited because we wiped any trace of our newfound friends from the packages left on our doorstep before we opened them. Church attendance was replaced by listening to a sermon in our living room, with the comfort of our couch and sweatpants.
But the disease was more than an inconvenience or a disruption of our “normal.” Friends contracted the disease and died. Some of them who were not old, who had no comorbidities, and who were outside the demographic. The silent assassin called Covid-19 seemed frivolous in its alliance with the Grim Reaper—killing a young healthy person and sparing an older person already weakened from cancer.
The disease brought another assassin. This one had its sights set on driving the final nail in civility’s coffin. And we drew up sides: whether to mask or not, whether to congregate or not, and whether to congregate with a mask or not, whether to take the vaccine–or not. Churches split, not over doctrine, not over the virgin birth, but over a 90-cent mask. Neither “side” kept their opinions of those on the other “side” to themselves as Facebook and other social media were full of dripping disdain for those who didn’t share the “right” opinion.
God’s desire that our love for one another prove we are His children was postponed until we could get some of the more important issues of the day taken care of.
After the vaccines were out and readily available, a friend said, “Now that everyone can get the vaccine, if someone chooses not to get it and dies, I don’t care. It is their own fault.” There is something that bothers me every time I read those words. Did the pandemic change us that much? Or did it only reveal who we already were?
Along with the virus came a presidential election filled with an excessive amount of vitriol from both sides and then claims by the loser that the whole thing was rigged. This was followed by January 6th in Washington D.C. Depending on your political persuasion, this was either an armed insurrection or some well-meaning citizens visiting a public building on their day off. As waves of new Covid variants surged across the nation and the world, we witnessed a disastrous pullout of our people from Afghanistan—followed in a few short months by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threats of nuclear war.
This is not the recap of an era, or a decade. This is an overview of a little more than two years. The Bible had warned us that things would get worse in the last days—I just didn’t think that it meant it would happen in my lifetime, or this quickly. Is there even more to come?
How can we not be fearful? How can we not be burdened by the life-changing, world-changing events taking place around us? How can we find peace where there is none to find—anywhere?
Somehow, God knew this day, and others like it, were coming. To give us perspective, He guided the Apostle Paul’s hand to write a letter to the church at Ephesus—and to us. He begins, “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Some Biblical scholars seem to dismiss these words of comfort as a normal greeting of Paul’s day. To make sure that we don’t do the same, Paul adds: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”
He, God the Father, has blessed us with ALL spiritual blessings. The Holy Spirit goes on to list many of those blessings:
- He predestined us for adoption as His children
- He blessed us with His glorious grace
- He redeemed us
- He has forgiven our sins according to the riches of His grace lavished upon us (did you catch the fact that His grace is LAVISHED upon us?)
- In Him we have obtained an inheritance
- He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit—the guarantee that every aspect of our salvation will be come to pass
- He Himself is our peace
The Apostle, through the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s love, His grace, His peace, the hope we have in Him, and countless other blessings.
What does this all mean?
In these past 2+ years, not a single promised blessing from our Heavenly Father has been withdrawn. In the single most important part of our life—our relationship with God the Father—nothing has changed. Nothing. Nada. Not one jot nor one tittle of the Word of God has been altered because of a world full of peace destroyers.
Not only is eternity promised and guaranteed, but grace and peace are promised for us here and now. Are we surrounded by peace? Or course not. Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 KJV Emphasis added). There was never a promise that life in this world would be peaceful but that we could have peace in our inner man regardless of what is going on around us.
There will not be peace around us as long as wars, and rumors of nuclear wars and global pandemics flood our television screens. Not as long as good people are willing to fight over masks and vaccines. Not as long as families are willing to give up on each other over petty differences. Not as long as churches are willing to split over anything and everything.
But peace is available to us; a peace that passes human understanding is promised to us if we take our eyes off this world which is in full-on self-destruct mode and place them on Him—the Author of and Perfector of our faith.
These chapters of Ephesians that are filled with God’s promises are still true. God warns those who would add to or take away from His Word. His Word is settled. There are no new promises made and none withdrawn.
I told someone the other day that I try not to take on fights outside my weight class. Wars, whether rumored or actual, are way outside my weight class. Global pandemics are as well. Politicians with their finger to the wind to determine whether we flirt with WWIII or not are beyond my control. A schizophrenic economy that gives credence to “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times” is too fickle to have faith in.
But what is in my weight class is trust—trust in the Lord who has never failed to keep a promise. And if my trust begins to falter? I only need to ask the Father for more. I stand with the father of the demoniac and say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Does my trust and my prayer for more trust work? Every single time. Unless that is, I read the promises of God’s inseparable love in Romans 8 and decide that God is no longer up to the task. Or if I decide that those words were only for another time and place. But my failings to trust do not affect His promises. It just leaves my inner peace to the whims of politicians and tyrannical despots and manipulations of the financial markets.
I think I will choose Him over them. I will join with Peter who said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” If it is peace that we long for, it is only found in Him.
Jesus, in His first coming, told us about His second coming, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” It is still God’s advice to us today. To those whose citizenship is in heaven—look towards home where peace—inner and outer—will never be interrupted again!
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom 8:38-39 KJV)