Peace in troubled times

Staying afloat?

You might be sick of hearing about a tiny virus threatening our way of life: health, economy, sport, travel, theatres, cafes, pubs, even churches.

How do you find peace in troubled times?

Waiting for it to arrive feels like standing in the surf waiting for the wave to hit. We don’t know how big it will be. We don’t know if the wave will will overwhelm us.

When we feel we’re not in control, we panic. My heart goes out to people panic buying as an attempt to reassert some control.

Truth is, we never were in control. We’re part of something much grander than our individual selves — an astounding ecosystem of people and creatures of all kinds with whom we share the planet under God. Peace comes from knowing that God has provided enough for all of us. Even the birds. They aren’t storing up toilet paper.

God is in control, so I don’t need to be. We’re not denying the present struggle, we’re finding security in the one who will still be in charge when the hard times pass. And pass they will. Our leader has declared it:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Fear exaggerates the monster. A small hand near a lamp casts a big shadow. Calming our fears lets us respond appropriately. So how big is this really?

With appropriate preparation, the majority of Australians won’t get coronavirus. Some of our acquaintances will get symptoms, and recover. A small number of people (maybe 1 or 2 in 1000) will die, mostly people who were already frail or dealing with chronic medical conditions. To put it in perspective, this isn’t the end of the world, but it is worth the effort to keep it at bay.

So, what can you (a person of faith) do? We’re going to practice social distancing as a way of caring for each other, and we can do that without becoming disconnected from each other. The way we speak to God and to each other though this time is important.

Prayer is the primary way of giving our heavenly sovereign the concerns we have in his earthly realm. Any who recognize him as sovereign are invited to approach his throne:
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Powerless people approaching the powerful throne. That’s life-giving.

The temptation is to take power back into our hands. You might be doing that if:

  1. You want to tell God what to do: Prayer is presenting the need to God, not demanding or advising God to resolve it in a particular way. He has the throne, and he has the well-being of the realm in his heart.
  2. You want to pronounce judgement: The virus is not divine judgment. You might find some Old Testament verses to support that idea, but that’s not our message today. In the covenant before Christ, God treated people the way you treat children (Galatians 4:1-7), and with children it’s normal to emphasize or even threaten consequences. That’s not appropriate in the new covenant. Jesus disagreed with those who viewed catastrophes as divine judgment (Luke 13:1-5).
  3. You want to promise immunity: Please lose the posts proclaiming that your house is protected by the blood and nothing can touch you. We’re living in a world where there are many troubles, and there are no magic words or charms to prevent those troubles reaching us. Consider what happened to Jesus. And his apostles. God is leading us to a better world, but God’s children still suffer in the present (Romans 8:18-27).

God has not called us to triumphalism, terrorizing people, or twisting God’s arm. He has empowered us to intercede where the world is groaning:

Romans 8:26–27 (NIV)
26 The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Peace be with you.

 

What others are saying

Elizabeth Cheney:

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”

Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.”

Daniel P. Chin, Should Your Church Stop Meeting to Slow COVID-19? (Christianity Today, March 2020):

Because our church activities can facilitate the transmission of this virus, our churches should “first do no harm,” a dictum I learned in medical school. Using the tools described above, which are based on our current understanding about this virus, our churches can have a response plan in place to quickly protect ourselves and the most vulnerable among us. By implementing such a plan, our churches can play a major role in stemming the tide of this epidemic and reduce its harm on society.

Sheridan Voysey, “Lord God, fill me with your Holy Spirit” in Coronavirus is Going to Demand Much of Us. Here’s Something to Help (March 2020):

I receive your love,
and release my insecurity
I receive your joy,
and release my unhappiness
I receive your peace,
and release my anxiety
I receive your patience,
and release my impulsiveness
I receive your kindness,
and release my indifference
I receive your goodness,
and release my ungodliness
I receive your faithfulness,
and release my disloyalty
I receive your gentleness,
and release my severity
I receive your self-control,
and release my self-indulgence

 

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview College Dean

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