Where to Look When Everything Seems Uncertain
We are living in upside-down days.
Jesus talked about how crises like the one we’re in will characterize the last days:
“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ … You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.’”
– Matthew 24:3, 6–8 ESV
To be clear: I’m not saying that these are the last days. Jesus told his disciples that it was not for them to know the times or the seasons, nor the day and hour of his return. But this passage helps us understand how to interpret life when it feels like everything that once was certain has suddenly become uncertain.
We should pay attention when a global pandemic strikes. Whatever else God is doing, he is waking the world up to our fragility of life and the reality of divine judgment.
Crises that rock our foundations are like birth pains. Birth pains can’t tell you the exact moment of new birth, but they indicate that the time is getting shorter and a new reality is coming. As the time of judgment draws near, we can expect things like this to only increase.
So, we are wise to discern in these times a divine warning God is giving to people on earth: The world we live in is temporary, and all our foundations are faulty. Everything in which we place our trust is crumbling.
I’ll confess: This sudden turn of world events has been humbling. When I first heard about COVID-19, I thought this would go in the category of “near misses” I’ve grown accustomed to. You learn about an asteroid that comes close to earth, but so far they’ve always gone right past us, and life goes on. Or, you hear about epidemics and wars in other countries and assume, “Nothing like that will happen here.” Our medical system or our military can keep us safe.
And then, suddenly, you aren’t so sure.
Think about how something that none of us can even see, that a month ago none of us were worried about, has brought our nation to a screeching halt. Many experts say that even if we do a good job of containing this virus, the economic impact of the shutdown will be staggering.
How fragile we truly are.
When we look to Scripture, we see God doing this sort of thing rather often. He uses moments of crisis to wake people (or nations) up:
Jacob was brought to his knees through a desperate fear for his personal safety.
Moses found God through the loss of his career and his home, having been driven out of Egypt into the wilderness.
For the mighty Syrian general, Naaman, it was a health scare—being diagnosed with leprosy.
For King Nebuchadnezzar, it was the loss of his power and his sanity.
In all these cases, God put them flat on their backs so they would finally look the right direction. He was using their circumstances to tell them, “Wake up! Do you realize how fragile life is and how helpless you will be if you stand unprepared before the judgment of God?”
God is doing the same in our nation now and giving the same warning to us.
When our foundation gives way, we often turn to our family, our health, and a country with great prosperity, state-of-the-art medical care, and strong national defense to assure ourselves that we’ll be OK.
None of those foundations seem as secure anymore. Truth be told, they never were. According to Christ, they are all faulty foundations, false hopes, sinking sand.
There’s a song I love that will fill my mind in the coming days:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
None of us knows whether our lives will end today, in six months, or in 60 years. What we do know is that our lives will end.
For many of us, there are seasons when it is easier to forget that painful truth. It’s tougher to forget these days. But pondering death makes a person take a good, hard look at their foundations. And that’s a good thing.
Our hope is built not on medical salvation, nor on economic prosperity. Our hope is built on Jesus. That’s a foundation better than anything life can give and that death could take away.