Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things.
Henry Ward Beecher
These are confusing and troubling times.
Advancements in a multitude technologies have brought us in real-time to the front row for global catastrophes. We’ve become accustomed to political injustice, international terrorism, war, immorality and death.
The disaster has now leapt from the arena of television and film into our backyard. As COVID-19 takes its slow march around the United States, it is backing us indefinitely into the corners of our living rooms. We’re overtaken by fear, suspicious of politicans, panicked by media drama and drowning in a sea of conspiracy theories.
While we sit, powerless, unable to anticipate the future, I must ask: is there any purpose in all of this?
For our God, who is sovereign over human affairs, imagine that He is holy — uniquely and perfectly good. He has been watching His creation hurdling toward secular humanism, materialism, greed, and apathetic immorality for many centuries. Perhaps He has sent messengers to guide us, to turn our wayward hearts back to Him, and they have either compromised themselves with worldly greed or, if they were true, were rejected as outdated. Imagine a father, watching his children destroying themselves, destroying one another, so furiously and so loudly that they could no longer hear His gentle rebukes.
Troubled times have an unparalleled way of causing us to take stock in our lives and re-evaluate why we do what we do. While it may not be the most popular evangelist tactic in the theologian’s handbook, I’d be remiss to withhold from you this critical element of God’s revelation to us: growth, repentance, and restoration are not sometimes born of suffering — they are only born of suffering.
Truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Jesus, John 12:24
God will allow suffering into our lives to tear down the idols in our hearts, to do away entirely with our false sense of security and demonstrate to us that to our very core we are desperately dependent on Him. There are no atheists in foxholes, goes the old truism, because when we are out of options, we cry out to God and hope he is listening. Why? Because He has set eternity in the hearts of men.
Now, more than ever, we must make our appeals to the Lord. Not just for help and comfort but also for forgiveness. Whether you’d consider COVID-19 to be a natural consequence of living in a fallen world, a judgement, or a wake-up call, we’ve all been given a state-mandated opportunity to pause and reflect where we go from here.
There is such phenomenal opportunity. Adversity can harden the hearts of the wicked, but it can break the hearts of those whom God is calling to Himself. To be broken before the Lord is to be availed strength that is the envy of kings.
For the Lord draws near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
The Hebrew word for broken-hearted is “nishbar lev,” a complex phrase the captures the distress of our inner thoughts and will, manifested by actions.
It means, “one who is inwardly shattered and realizes that they are not in control.”
If COVID-19 has revealed anything to us, it’s that control is an illusion. My husband left the mainstream workforce a few years ago hoping to have autonomy over his schedule; now, he is at the mercy of a statewide lockdown. Retirement fund and stock portfolios have been taking it on the chin. We are fearful of the future and are facing, for many for the first time, the harsh reality of death. We are broken in light of these circumstances. Nothing could be better.
There is such hope for us! For the Lord ‘draws near’ to those who recognize their need for Him. In Hebrew, He is ‘karov’ — close enough to touch. God is tender toward the needs of the afflicted.
A broken reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not put out.
We are facing times of trouble. Join me in prayer for the Lord’s deliverance. I have great faith that He will do a marvelous work in all of those who cry out to Him in their affliction, and bend the knee to His loving authority:
“Lord God, please forgive us as a nation for our neglect of Your commandments, and the failure to honor the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior and King over all the earth. Please forgive me, as an individual, for the ways I have erected idols in my heart that have taken the throne which rightfully belongs to You.
We beg you to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness, for Jesus’ sake, to create a new heart in us that would love and serve You above all else, and love our neighbors — the rich and poor, the widows and orphans, parents and foreigners, friends and foes — as ourselves.
Please deliver us from the COVID-19 pandemic, protect us from destitution and disease, and in so doing, glorify Your great name in our nation, and the world. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Brooke Demott is a freelance writer from the town of Oswego. She can be reached at email@example.com.