What God Desires From Us When The World Is Shaking
Few of us would doubt that the world is in the midst of an unprecedented shaking right now. The news headlines of outbreaks and government responses are causing the way of life we have come to consider as normal to grind to a halt. Fear and panic are spreading, mixed in with re-evaluation of how we do life at every level: work, shopping, leisure, medical care, self-care, and yes – spiritual life. Churches worldwide are suddenly thrust in a position to rethink how to, well, do church and continue their core mission of worship, community and outreach.
I’ve seen and thought about a number of perspectives on the spiritual significance of the COVID-19 pandemic. Is this one of the tribulations unleashed upon the world under the seals, scrolls and trumpets in Revelation 4-9 – so that mankind will repent and return to Him? Or is it the opposite: an all-out attack from Satan aimed at distracting humanity from God and keeping the church from meeting and advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it some sort of chastisement by God of nations and regions that are persecuting God’s people most vigorously or have declared Him as irrelevant to our lives? Or is this simply God stepping back and letting humanity suffer the consequences of playing god and destroying the planet in the process? Or is it a mix of all three? Since on this side of heaven we only see in part (1 Corinthians 13:9) we may not ever get to see the full picture – only what God reveals to us.
So it is important that we do not dwell too much on speculating where this fits in God’s unfolding of the end times, but rather on the response that He desires from us.
We get a strong clue from 2 Chronicles 7: 13,14:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among the people (hmmm…spoiler alert!), if my people who are called by my name (you and me folks!) humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.”
In short: a shaking such as a pestilence like the novel coronavirus, is a wake-up call.
- To the unbelieving world to realize Who is God and turn to Him.
- To His people to humble ourselves, examine our lives for things that offend Him, and seek His face in prayer
Voluntary, or mandatory, shelter-in-place measures provide the perfect opportunity for that! We are forcibly curtailing our busy-ness, running around, commuting, shopping, socializing, and anything else that would distract us from God and probably has. This puts us in the same position as prophets, and even Jesus, who frequently retreated to the desert to commune deeply with God. The Greek word for desert is eremos – and it denotes a quiet place, more than a dry and hot place. A place free of hurry and distraction. A pace that enables us to commune with God and hear from Him.
So look at our current situation as our eremos – an invitation to be alone with God and seek His face.
Immediate brick wall for many of us: how do you do that, especially since we can’t actually see His face? I have the following practical suggestions out of my own eremos of being in between jobs and wanting to stay virus-free:
- Examine my life (the Holy Spirit will help if we ask Him!):
– Is there anything that is an offense to God? A sin, a habit, a creature comfort or form of entertainment I delight
in more than Him?
– Is He uppermost in my thoughts and affections?
– Is my life too busy? If so, how can I reorder it so He stands at the center of it and not off to the side?
- Pray and seek His face. Not His hand. We seek His hand when we ask Him to do things for us according to our own wishes. We seek His face when we listen to Him, are open to the impartation of His Truth and perspective by the Holy Spirit, and seek His revelation of how He wants us to pray. In turn this leads to the Father filling us with “joy and peace in believing so we may abound in all hope” (Romans 15:16). In other words: our hope and peace comes from us listening to us more than simply calling out to Him in our anxiousness. In itself that is not wrong – but we will stay anxious if at some point we don’t stop talking and start listening. The irony is that if you only seek His hand, than that is all you get. You miss His face – the revelation of Himself. But if you seek His hand you get both – His revelation of Himself and His work on your behalf!
Here is the biblical proof of that, and a practical clue as to how that happens:
Psalm 46:10 (following references in vs. 6 and 8 to wars, tottering nations, and desolations god has brought to the earth):
“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Be still – cease your own striving
Be still – stop speculating
Be still – so you can listen, so that I can reveal my elf and you will know that I am God
Be still – so that the knowledge of my Almighty Divinity can calm your fears and give you hope
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (no mention of toilet paper here!). Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread (think spiritual food), and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food (hint – not the stuff that goes in your stomach).
Incline your ear and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
Come – make time in your day, a space in your home, and room in your heart.
Cease labor and spending on earthly stuff – it does not satisfy. Here is that self-examination again.
Listen – simply come and ask God: “What is it that you want to say to me today?” Instead of launching in your list of requests.
Your soul will live: when God speaks into your soul and affirms His steadfast, sure love for you as His precious son or daughter, fear, anxiety, stress, confusion – all the things that spell death for our souls – will dissipate. Peace, joy and delight in Him for who He is will flood in and lift you above the shaking that is all around you.
So embrace your eremos.
Try it – I can tell from my own experience that it works, and it transforms your life.
Then pay it forward: encourage those around you to make the most of this opportunity to eliminate hurry, busy-ness, unhealthy delights and dependences, and connect deeply with God.
Listen to the audio of the devotional intro to this 3-19-2020 Prayer Call