I guess for all of us the corovirus pandemic has brought about an unexpected change in our lifestyles. Suddenly there is a revised sense of values as normal schedules have been thrown into disarray, the planned everyday routines that we all have suddenly been overthrown by the need to do life in a totally different way. These are serious days, not to be treated lightly. Days of uncertainty. Days that remind us of our own vulnerability and mortality.
In such days its good to remember that God is still on his throne, the eternally constant and consistent One, the One who knows the end from the beginning, the One in whom we live and move and have our being. It is good to be still and know that he is God in the midst of the uncertainty, the One on whom we can all depend. A God who draws near in the time of trouble. A God who hears our hearts cry. Not only that we need to remember that he is the One who commands our destiny and our times are in his hand.
Some no doubt will say, where is he in all this? Why did he allow it to happen? Is it a judgement on modern humanity? Big questions that people have wrestled with down the ages, even those who’ve know God well.
The Psalms explore some of these questions and their accompanying emotions. They tell it like it is in all of its reality and rawness – they are a good tonic for the soul in a world that at times can seem so superficial, clichéd and full of platitudes.
The psalmist knew God, his presence, protection, provision, blessing etc. yet there were times when he wondered where God was, and wondered what he was up to. There were times when he complained to him and went on a rant about his circumstances! They are a great resource for doing life with God and I would encourage you to go read them, you’ll find great encouragement and hope. Not only that as they were crafted by those who went through all the ups and downs of life they’ll craft and shape you as you read them, reflect on them, and pray them.
One thing we do know is that God doesn’t go into self isolation, he wasn’t like the gods of other nations who kept clear of humanities messy existence, not wanting to be polluted by it. No, God, the true and living God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, the Almighty God, who made us for himself, to know him, live in relationship with him, has from the beginning felt humanities isolation and pain.
We see it in the garden when mankind hid from his presence and he promises a saviour.
Later on we see it when his people were in bondage in Egypt and their crys went up to him and he promises deliverance.
Later still when his people were exiled in Babylon and they couldn’t sing the songs of Zion in a strange land and he promises they will return to their own land.
We hear it in the words of the prophets when time and time again they would express God’s loving and merciful heart for his people.
And then. And then a time came when God stepped into the midst of our darkness and need in the person of Jesus, taking on real flesh, living here, feeling its darkness, experiencing the pain and disappointment, and finally coming face to face with man’s worst enemy, death itself. Something that still staggers my soul – the eternal, almighty, holy God humbling himself to human existence, becoming dependent, being tempted in all points like we are, and dying in order to bring about our salvation and reconciliation… To borrow from Charles Wesley, “God contracting to a span, incomprehensibly made man” !
But that’s not all. Before Jesus finished his ministry here on earth he said that he would not leave us on our own, or as orphans, but he would send One just like himself to be with us, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity who would remain with us in the now and not yet of the Kingdom that has come and is coming in Jesus until the job was done.
So God through the Spirit also enters into our present pain and struggles and as such is able to help us in our weakness. In fact Paul says that in the midst of it all the Spirit intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. (Romans 8:26,27). We may not know how to frame our prayers, but we have One who dwells within us, and prays with groans that cannot be expressed in words and the Father knows exactly what he is saying.
Wherever we might find ourselves at this critical time, whether we are suffering or know someone who is, we may know that God is a very present help in the time of trouble. That he is with us by the Spirit granting faith, grace, strength, wisdom, help and hope.
There will be a time when this passes and some sense of normality returns, how soon we don’t know. Ultimately as God’s people we look for an even better day, a day when God will renew all things. Sin, sickness and suffering will be no more and sorrowing and sighing will be lost to history. Death banished, and everlasting joy will be our portion.
In the meantime, amidst all of the questions and uncertainties, he promises his people, “I am here. I am with you. Do not fear. Trust in me. I will give you aid.”