Vladimir Putin just had his terms of service as President reset to zero by the Russian government, effectively allowing him to serve two more terms (he’s on his fourth already). Public places in our country continue to be stages for horrific acts of mass-violence. The coronavirus had been declared a pandemic and everything from sporting events to classes to worship services are being cancelled. The stock market is reeling and has plummeted to 2008 levels. Travel is being shut down. What is going on?
Life is full of boogiemen, both real and imagined. There is much that can harm us, and therefore much of which to be wary. At bottom, it would seem that most of us have some fear of dying in great pain or of facing a sudden death unprepared. But there is yet a difference between exercising the prudence of appropriate caution in life and living in the grip of fear that paralyzes us and robs us of our peace.
In the ninety-first psalm, the psalmist wrote:
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge….
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you….
Because you made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent….
What shall we say? Does this mean that those who trust in the Lord will never get sick, that they will never be the ones that are the victims of violence or disease or attack? Hardly. Unless the Lord Jesus returns in our lifetimes, each of us will partake of bodily death. The righteous as well as the wicked live within the brokenness of our fallen world. And while we are called to be good stewards of all that God has given us – including our health – there is no guarantee that the physically fit will outlive the chain smokers and alcoholics. God numbers our days, and he calls us to trust him with each precious one that he gives us. He may call us to serve him with our lives when we least expect it. But he can certainly deliver us from whatever threat may come against us. Our lives are truly in his hands, and the way we face persecution or trouble or terrorism or coronavirus reflects the nature of our faith.
As our Archbishop, Foley Beach, wrote recently: “We witness to our Christian faith when we resist panic, knowing that our times are in the Lord’s hands.” The peace available to us now and always can bear powerful witness in the world to the God who saves us. So while we have today, let us trust God, pray fervently, and love one another with the love we have received from Christ, knowing that death itself has been vanquished and has no power to separate us from the love of God.