I awakened with the sun, long shadows stretching across the dew-drenched grass. Pink azaleas opened wide to receive the morning as birdsong filled the air, almost drowning out the drone of distant traffic on the highway just over the distant rise.
We have been promised suffering this week. This week of all weeks, in which our Savior walked the Via Dolorosa and lay down His perfect, spotless, sinless life for us…
for a wretch like me.
Suffering is not new to the follower of Jesus. In our country? Maybe we have managed to cover it with filters or push it aside in fierce determination to look at the bright side. But, historically, the path of the Christian is the path of the cross. Countless millions have died for the faith that we have claimed will keep us safe. We quote Psalm 91 like it is a talisman, forgetting the promise that in this world we will suffer (John 16:33) but also forgetting that, whatever happens today or this week or this year is temporary. Our battle with death and disease is going to march forward until that glorious day when we see our risen savior face to face.
Do you know that He loves you? When the news is bad and your beloved friends and family fall ill to this pandemic, does fear rise in your throat…
like it rises in mine?
I’ll be honest. I have battled extremes regarding this virus for three weeks now. I waffle between “God’s got us” and the intense need to protect my family from the pestilence that has invaded the very air we breathe. I hear calls to repent, 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted out of context (again) and judgments pronounced on the hot-spots of infection. It’s enough to look at our culture and think, “Uh-oh…we are doomed” because, let’s face it, we have been running at break-neck speed from God for centuries.
But the Lord is with us. He is. Not once are we promised we will avoid disease and death because we are Christians. No, we are promised just the opposite. But with that grim promise comes a glorious reminder…
And I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear! Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows!Luke 12:4-7 (HCSB)
You are not forgotten. We are entering into what has been the norm for most of the world since the Fall. Our American knowledge and prestige cannot protect us from a microscopic invader that is now here to stay. At some point, we will all be exposed to it. And, in the midst of it all, the Lord reminds us that His love has not wavered. He makes sure that everything we endure matters for eternity if we will allow Him to do so. Why? Because He loves us.
No part of me believes this is a judgement from God. My heart aches every time I hear someone say that. It is another in the stack of viruses we will battle from here to eternity. It is terrible, it is scary, but it is not from God. Now, will He use it? You bet He will.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (HCSB)
All things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. Now, that is the key. Are you walking in the calling God has placed in your life? If so, then no matter what happens He will use the suffering you endure. He will make it matter.
We live on this side of the Cross, friends. On the grace side. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, you are no longer under Law. You have been justified, which means God looks upon you through the filter of the blood of Jesus…He sees you as perfect and sinless because the blood of Christ made you perfect and sinless in Eternity at the moment of your salvation.
This is SO important. I cannot stress it enough. If we run around thinking we will get the virus if we don’t figure out why God is mad at us, we will end up in the fetal position in our closet. We have nothing to fear, because we are loved.
In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:17-19 (HCSB)
Bask in the love of the Father this week. Awaken with the sunrise and allow it to warm your face. Let the birdsong remind you that your Father sings over you. He loves you. He became a man in Jesus Christ so He could pay for every single sin you would ever commit. That means YOU do not have to pay for them. It is finished. You are free.
What then are we to say about these things?Romans 8:31-39 (HCSB)
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died,
but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God
and intercedes for us.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
Because of You
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
In all these things we are more than victorious.
What are “these things?” Read the passage again. Did the suffering of the persecuted church end because they quoted the right scripture? Did disease and hunger halt because they had enough faith? No. His promise was not to end death and suffering on this side of the veil. His promise was (and is) that nothing will separate us from His love.
We live on the grace side of the Cross. We are safe and we are loved because Jesus made it so, not because we behave.
Remember that as you walk through Holy Week. Jesus paid it all. We love and serve one another, not to earn His approval, but because He loves us. We have an incredible opportunity, in the sudden absence of the modern church as our world has known it, to BE the church as God always intended it. His love flows through us and splashes wildly onto the world around us if we will but relax in Him and allow our loving Father to use our lives and our suffering. The Spirit of God is moving in the middle of this pandemic. Just watch. Be willing to be used by Him. Don’t let fear cripple you. Whatever happens in the coming days we can be assured of this…
He is worthy, and we are loved.