Only when we realize that our lives are brief will we begin to adopt the right attitude, valuing God and living for the things that truly matter. Don’t miss the perspective that a brush with COVID-19 can give you: if you handle this moment well, you will gain a heart of wisdom. You will die, like everyone before you, and it will happen sooner than you think. So enjoy every moment, because it won’t last long. And remember that “everything we enjoy in this life, no matter how temporary, we enjoy as an appetizer for that feast to come” (Remember Death).
Big Idea: Let this crisis teach you that God is sovereign, life is hard, you are mortal — and that you can cry out to him.
Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law posted a message in our private family group:
Hey Family, I don’t want anyone to panic but I can tell you that most employers in North America and preparing for a month of quarantine. … We are most likely 2-4 weeks from a month long school and work force shut down but maybe just stock up on some water and non-perishable foods early this week. A month without school, commerce or utilities may be a 1/100 chance but we are making the choice to error on the side of caution.
We didn’t know what to make of his advice at the time, but he was dead right. This week, in the space of a few hours, everything changed. Everything was canceled. New restrictions are in place. Things will eventually return to normal, but things will look different for the next few months at the very least.
I’ve been comforted this week by examining how previous generations have reacted to pandemics. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:
- Martin Luther, in 1527, has taught me to take necessary precautions and then trust God as we serve others. “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid persons and places where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence … If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but go freely, as stated above.”
- Francis Grimke, in 1918, taught me to ask what God could be teaching us through the pandemic so that we don’t waste the opportunity. “What is the meaning of it all? What ought it to mean to us? Is it to come and go and we be no wiser, or better for it? Surely God had a purpose in it, and it is our duty to find out, as far as we may, what that purpose is, and try to profit by it.”
- Thomas Brooks, in 1720, has taught me to use a time like this to remind myself of my mortality. “A time of mortality is a special call to all rightly to number their days.”
Take precautions. Serve others. Ask what God is teaching us. And number your days. All very good advice! We don’t just face disruption right now. We face an opportunity, a massive opportunity that I don’t want to miss.
And that’s why I want to look at Psalm 90 with you today. Psalm 90 is a psalm of lament written by Moses in response to a huge national crisis. Some disaster had hit the nation, and Moses wrote this psalm to ask God to pity the people and bless them.
Side note: I’m so glad that the Bible has given us so many psalms of lament, 42 of them. As someone has said, lament is a way of “disburdening our cares to him, and thus, as it were, pouring out our hearts before him” (John Calvin).