What Do We Do Now?
This article appears in the Cook County News-Herald Spiritual Reflections Saturday March 28, 2020.
I am writing this column at 10:51 in the morning on a bright, sunny, beautiful Tuesday morning March 24, 2020. The snow in the parking lot outside my office window has begun to melt revealing tire stripes of dark, smushy, gravelly mud. It is beginning to look and feel like spring. Sort of.
I am writing from my office knowing that there will be no quick trip to Java Moose today for a quad shot, cold press, extra hot with praline mocha. There will be no meeting with friends at one of the local restaurants. There will be no conversing with customers at Oddz & Endz. There will be no gathering with my church family for worship or Bible study. There will be little face to face contact with anyone today (other than with my wife, whose face I never get tired of!)
As community responses to the COVID-19 pandemic continue, we are waiting to hear whether Minnesota governor Tim Walz will impose the extreme measure of “shelter in place” to advance the battle against the spread of this virus. We raise many questions as we face the days ahead. We ask, “What’s next?” and “What do we do now?” I have no insight into what is next, but I can offer some advice regarding what we do now.
There is a verse of Scripture, a promise God gave to ancient Israel, that was intended to foster hope in days of crisis, trauma, and uncertainty. God is speaking here: When I shut up the heavens and there is not rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:12-14, ESV)
Think about it. Australia has had the worst drought in their recorded history, bringing with it the dire consequences of continent-wide wildfires. Massive swarms of locusts are devouring lands of Africa and the Middle East, especially the Horn of Africa-Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia-along with Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and India. The coronavirus pandemic embracing the globe is by definition the manifestation of a pestilence (which, according to the Cambridge Dictionary is any very serious infectious disease that spreads quickly and kills large numbers of people.)
It would appear God offers four bits of advice for facing the crisis of our time: humble yourself, pray, seek God, turn from evil ways (which, in a word, means repent.) A people who humbles themselves willingly concede that it is God who is in control, God who has the answers they need, God who has the will and the power to alter the current circumstance. A person who humbles herself or himself in this context is a person who acknowledges that God is God and they are not God.
So, what do humble people, people who by faith recognize and trust that God remains in control of all that happens in the world, do next? They pray. For many people, prayer is nothing more than a pop quiz aimed at God to see whether He will give them what they want, when they want it, and it is most often posed by them with the expectation that He will fail. But for the humble person, for the person of faith who believes God to be all He reveals Himself to be, who trusts in the goodness of God and His sovereign grace, prayer is a humble invitation offered to God that prepares the heart to receive in life what God deems best to give.
The prayer of faith sets before God what we think we need and deserve but relies entirely on the divine wisdom to graciously supply what we really need in spite of what we deserve. The Bible boldly asserts the withering truth that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, that each of us, from birth onward, by nature and by choice, acts contrary to the purpose for which God created us. Beyond the fact of universal sin, the Bible reveals the universal consequence of personal sin: death! The wages of sin is death . . .
Put these revelations together and you find that every single one of us deserves only death. That means that anything we receive from God that isn’t death is an undeserved grace. The prayer of faith is the response of the sinful, unde
serving, humble heart to God’s offer of divine grace, undeserved favor. And so, God advises the humble, pray.
What can you do now? Humble yourself and pray. Seek God. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to display the reality of Himself to you in your current reality. Turn away from a self-centered life and turn to mercy and grace and compassion. Humble, pray, seek, turn and the God who does not lie, who cannot lie, will hear from heaven and heal the land.
This is God’s Good News.