For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29 ESV)
It feels like many aspects of our lives have come to a screeching halt. Numerous events we counted on and planned for have been cancelled. Many of our usual social and spiritual activities have been put on hold for a time. It is important to remember, however, that while many things in our lives have stopped, the Lord’s work has not. His Word is living and active and does not shelter in place. The Holy Spirit does not practice social distancing. The Lord is near to us, and His Holy Spirit remains within us glorifying Jesus Christ by conforming us more to his image day in and day out. The Lord is using this time to make us more like his Son. The Lord’s work in the lives of his people has not ceased.
Our Heavenly Father does not simply work in spite these current trials, but through them. I hope we can all remember what we have been learning in the book of Exodus. The Lord tested Israel through the various trials and tribulations they experienced on their way to the Promised Land. The Lord teaches us and instructs us through the trials of life as His Holy Spirit works within us to make us more like Jesus Christ. This time is not easy, and we don’t need to pretend that it is. These are days filled with suffering, fear, uncertainty, loneliness, and what feels like a never-ending litany of bad news. We need to remember the unchanging Good News that God has saved us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit now lives within us producing His fruit in our lives. This divine work is going on now and will not cease. We would be wise to reflect on what God is teaching us in the midst of these very difficult days. There are many things we can learn during this time, but here are several I have been learning (or relearning) lately.
1. This life is fleeting
The current health crisis reminds us that life, health, and earthly things are fleeting. While these are good gifts from God that we should receive with gratitude and joy, we cannot forget that the nature of this life is that we are but a mist (James 4:14). The fleeting nature of life in this world is often masked by the reliability of comfort and convenience in American culture, but that mask has been removed now (at least for a time), and we can see these earthly things for what they really are: good gifts, but temporary by their very nature. As we are confronted with the fleeting nature of this world may we be more able than ever to say that the Lord, and the Lord alone, makes us dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8).
2. The sacrificial nature of love
We know that we are commanded to love one another (Jn. 15:12; Rom. 13:8). We also know that loving one another involves self-sacrifice because we are to love as Jesus loves us and gave himself for us (Eph. 5:2). You may be feeling the painful sacrifice of loving one another more acutely than you have in a long time. We have had to sacrifice social gatherings, physical displays of affection, and some of our most cherished rituals in order to love and serve one another. Yet, as Christians we cannot use social distancing as an excuse to distance ourselves from the sacrificial work of loving one another. We now have to think hard about how to creatively and consistently love one another during this time. This is hard and sacrificial work! As we feel the sacrificial nature of love more deeply than we have in the past, may we grow in our gratitude for the immeasurable sacrifice of our Savior on the cross.
3. The godly longing to be together
The Apostle Paul and his fellow workers consistently spoke of their longing to be with other Christians in person even when that was not possible (Rom. 1:11; Phil. 2:26; 4:1; 1 Thess. 3:6; 2 Tim. 1:4). One of the marks of God’s people is a longing to gather together in person. Christians throughout the world and history have felt this longing, but many of us may be feeling this in a way we never have before. While this is a painful and even lonely experience, may the Lord use this time to knit our hearts closer together. May we remember how we feel now when we are once again in the future tempted to consider gathering together as boring and mundane.
4. The glories of the new creation
In Revelation 21:4 we read, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This description of the New Creation sounds sweeter than ever, for there will be no more disease or sickness, social distancing will no longer be a reality or possibility, and we will be able to dwell with one another in the presence of the Lord for all eternity. When this current crisis ends, we will still live in a fallen world, death will still be a constant companion, and the next crisis may always be on the horizon. Such is life in this world. Our great hope, as Christians, is not simply a return to normalcy after this health crisis, but the Lord’s return to earth to consummate his kingdom. Come, Lord Jesus, come!
Like many of you, I am praying that all of this is over soon, but I also pray that what the Lord is teaching me (and you) remains. Praise the Lord for his faithful work in making us more like Jesus Christ for his glory!