God's Message For Us In Covid-19
What in the world is the message of Covid-19? Good question. Sometimes I can't figure out the simplest things in life. It took me two years and eight months to figure out that I was to propose to Becky. Had to have all my ducks in a row first, of course. Becky knew right away. I once ordered a "pepperoni pizza" in Germany only to be served a pizza covered with red peppers. During my doctoral exams in Basel I uttered those unforgivable words, "Ich weiss nicht" (I don't know). Can you relate? Of course you can. Who hasn't scratched their head when faced with tough questions?
One of life's giant-sized questions is facing us today. What is God doing during Covid-19? While we may speculate, we don't really need to guess. Has any other time been so conducive to solitude? To self-examination? To taking stock of our lives? To going deeper than we have ever gone before? Today Chuck Swindoll embarked on a 2-part series at Stonebriar Community Church with the title, "The Priority of Solitude." I'll link to it below. You need no ephod to know where Chuck's going. Covid-19, he says, is "the most abnormal, unusual time in which we have ever lived." If we're not careful, we'll miss its significance. Chuck drives home his point with a quote from Malcolm Muggeridge: "Any happening, great or small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us. And the art of life is to get the message."
To help us get that message, Chuck gets up close and personal with us. He tells the story of the months he spent overseas courtesy of Uncle Sam. He was unprepared for the deployment. He didn't want to leave his wife alone at home. He couldn't imagine there being anything worthwhile about the place where the military was sending him. He was happy where he was. The message God had for him during this time? Merely the most life-changing message of his life. In Chuck's words, the Lord was saying to him "I want to remove from you every crutch, everything you normally lean on, so that I can have your full attention, because my plan is to change your whole course of life." The result? Chuck came away with a new sense of calling:
It's so easy, says Chuck, to be riveted to Covid-19, to the statistics, to the news, to the impact of the virus. But with strong emotion he adds, "That's NOT the message! That's NOT what God wants us to hear!" The Covid-19 virus stops us in our tracks. It pulls us out of the fast lane. It pushes us into isolation and we're left to ourselves. Traffic has stopped. Business has stopped. The movement of life, the rhythm of life, has stopped. "We have been pulled over for an extended pit stop in this race track called life."
"Let's not miss this message," says Chuck. This is time to "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7). Godliness isn't automatic. It doesn't come miraculously. Discipline is involved. "It won't come easily, and it won't come naturally. But it can come at a time when we're all set aside from the normal activities of life, if we are aware of it and see it as a priority." Quoting from Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipleship, Chuck brings it all home:
It's time, concludes Chuck, to "go deeper in ourselves, to take stock of how we've been living our days, our years, and we pause and go through the disciplines involved in probing deeper and deeper in our relationship with our Lord."
Today I thought of Chuck Swindoll not so much as a famous pastor but as our national chaplain. I ask myself, "So Dave, have you learned this lesson -- the lesson of Covid-19?" This lesson begins with disconnections. It continues with self-awareness. And it ends with finding God -- and yourself. "You'll never know that Jesus is all you need," writes Max Lucado in his book Facing Your Giants, "until Jesus is all you have."
No, we never saw the storm coming. Its arrival jolted our complacency. It destroyed so much of what we love. The devil's stirred up nothing but trouble, fear, and death. We're all living in the Covid-wilderness. We want to go to church. We want to attend that game. We want to eat out again. We want to return to the classroom. We want to visit grandma and grandpa or see our grandkids. We want normalcy.
That day is coming. Maybe even sooner than later. But in the meantime, we don't have to travel to a faraway country for 16-17 months to face a life-changing encounter with God. A pandemic does the trick just fine. Yes, it will require some work on our part. But never have we had more time for solitude and self-reflection than today. Maybe God will do for us what He did for Chuck those many decades ago. Isn't it time for us to take that long inward look we've been avoiding all these years? Assemble a meeting of three parties: Yourself, God, and your Bible. Let Him speak to you as never before.
As Muggeridge reminds us, Covid-19 is a parable whereby God is speaking to us. And the art of life is getting the message. Chuck Swindoll gets that message. May God help us to do the same.
May 10, 2020
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.