The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. – Psalm 118:6
What can illness do to the Christian? Is it not in the sovereign hands of the Lord? Every pain and every distress is under the supreme authority of our God. Even if Satan and his legions are involved, they are only permitted to go as far as His hand allows, and He could reverse their work in an instant if he decided to do so. Even if the illness is due to sinful choices, is not Jesus the forgiver of sins and restorer?
If we face any illness, no matter the cause, God does not cease to be in control. Did He know this was coming? Does He have the power to stop it? Most certainly. The logic that flows from these two truths is that God is the final decision-maker for everything that comes against us.
What, then, can illness do to us if it is under the providence of God? It can afflict, but not crush. It can perplex, but cannot drive us to despair. It can even strike down, but it cannot destroy.
On the contrary, sickness, sovereignly wielded like a scalpel in the hand of our good God, can only heal us. For all things work together for those that love Him (Rom. 8:28), and disease certainly does not fall outside the category of “all things.” By it, He weans us from the passing treasure of this world, and He teaches us to redeem the time. In all of it, He is spurring us on to holiness, and holiness is where we will find our true happiness.
Lord, we resign ourselves to your perfect will. We will fight for our health because your word tells us our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and anyone who destroys the temple will also be destroyed (1 Cor. 3:16-17). However, we leave the results of our fight in your hands because we know that even if the outward man is wasting away, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
We will not look on the things that are seen but the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). In this way, we will not lose hope, and we will find peace in the pain, deliverance in the distress, and healing in the hurt.
Grocery store and supermarket workers are some of the most valuable members of society right now, and they look exhausted. We must realize that not only are they working extremely hard; they are also vulnerable to cornavirus because of their constant interaction with large groups of people.
Almost every job in society is important. Though most of them tend to be under-appreciated, there are times when events highlight the importance of their role in our way of life. Grocery workers, this is your time. Typically, you meet our demands so well we do not even realize you are doing it, but we notice you now.
Imagine the chaos that would ensue if you were not there to keep things running. I am sure you have experienced anxious customers over the past several days, please be patient with us. For all of us who will be shopping these stores, let us go out of our way to show our gratitude. Grocery store workers, thank you for your work. We appreciate you.
If it were not for the economic distress caused to people and families by so many businesses, schools, and events scaling back due to coronavirus, a cultural slowdown could have been a good thing—kind of like a well-needed sabbath.
Let us face it, we all move too fast, and technology has only heightened that over the past few decades. Now, I do not want to dismiss the sufferings that coronavirus is unleashing on the world. There will be deaths, some people will lose their homes and jobs, and it may take a while for us climb out of what we are facing. With that said, however, there may be a few benefits, and society may have a minute to catch its breath. Since it is happening anyway, maybe we can learn something from it.
Much of the activity we engage in is unnecessary and ultimately exhausting. We are a culture that has virtually lost the ability to pause and reflect. Most people are unable to stand in line at the grocery store without feeling a pang of inactivity that causes them to pick up their phones for relief. Our jobs never end because our email is always in our pocket, and even when we do have downtime, we feel the anxiety of the need to catch up on TV shows, movies, and events. The fear of missing out is a real thing and affects us more than we realize, and with all those options comes decision fatigue. We are an exhausted culture.
There is a reason why God rested on the seventh day of creation. It was not that He was tired, he was showing us, by example, that rest is good. When I was growing up, which was not that long ago, most businesses closed on Sunday. Our culture has entirely abandoned that way of life, and it has cost us. Socrates was right when he said the unexamined life is not worth living. We have so filled our lives with shallow activity that we fail to examine anything other than the next shiny thing vying for our attention and time.
The problem with failing to pause and reflect is that the longer you do it, the more difficult it is to begin again. The first reason is that we have crowded it out of our calendars, and the first thing marketing 101 teaches us is that we are more driven to keep something we already have than we are about getting something we have not needed up to this point. This truth is why marketing often includes phrases similar to “do not miss out,” rather than “get one of these.” Once our schedule is too full, whether it be work demands, social commitments, or even social media engagement, it is always harder to step away than it was to begin in the first place because we now have something we do not want to lose. Trimming your commitments will always be troublesome.
The second reason it is difficult to slow down enough to begin to pause and reflect is, when we start to ponder our current existence, we begin to see how much we have drifted away from who Christ has called us to be, and that is painful to realize. C.S. Lewis once told a story about a night he woke up with a toothache. It was the middle of the night, and he was hurting. Lewis knew that if he told his mother, she would give him painkillers, and he would be able to go back to sleep, but he did not do it. He laid there for hours in pain before the agony forced him to go to her. He said, “Why did I wait so long to go to her? Because I knew, even though she could offer me relief, the next morning, she would have a dentist appointment scheduled to get to the root of the problem.”
Lewis’ example paints a picture of many of us. We have been so distracted for so long; we do not know what it is we have been distracted from. As believers, Jesus has called us to walk with him; to abide in the vine. The reality is many of us have not been doing that. We know pains and anxieties plague our lives, but we are afraid to slow down enough to go our Savior because we know the minute we do, though he will comfort us, he will also call us to make some more significant changes in the way we live.
My prayer is that, though the fallout from Covid-19 is more than I want anyone to face, since we are forced into a cultural slowdown anyway, it will be a time of drawing close to our Savior. A time where we are unable to bury our spiritual pains in a flurry of activity. Most importantly, however, that we will then take those pains to our Heavenly Father, who can heal us with the balm of Gilead. The blood of Jesus can wash us clean from our sinfulness, and even though He may schedule a root canal for us the next day, we will learn, at that moment, that we can trust him no matter where he leads.
Once this cultural slowdown is complete, and we have had a tasted and seen that the Lord is good even amid hardship, my prayer will be that we will return to a new normal. A less frantic life. One more centered on our true calling, glorifying God and enjoying him forever.