Romans 8:35-39; Philippians 4:12-13
Consider the apostle Paul’s life. He experienced the total loss of friendship and relationship when he became a follower of Christ; he experienced serious illness, blindness that deprived him of his ability to see, he was nearly stoned to death on multiple occasions, he was imprisoned, he was shipwrecked and marooned on an island, he was put on house arrest at the hands of the fierce imperial power of Rome. He was ultimately executed for his faith in Jesus Christ.
Consider the early church. First century Christians were persecuted and marginalized. They were forced to meet in secret, were subject to threats on their body, life, and family, and were forced to live with a general, low-grade sense of anxiety throughout their earthly existence because of their faith in Jesus.
We are realizing, for the first time in decades, if we have ever experienced this kind of liminality before, the vulnerability and precarious nature of human life. We are realizing that despite our best efforts there are things that happen in this life (that are happening right now) that are beyond our ability to control or manipulate. The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 is beyond our individual control, and it is beyond our society’s collective ability to control. We are realizing that we are not gods or masters of our universe.
So what shall we do?
Whenever we are faced with things that make us fearful our instinctive human response is to seek to exercise control and power over the things that make us afraid. We think that if we can somehow import security, safety, and control over that which makes us afraid, in this case COVID-19, we will lessen our anxiety and worry.
Instead of responding out of fear, anxiety, or worry we could alternatively respond out of faith. We could acknowledge our fear and worry, which are both real and justified, but instead of trying to make it go away through our faulty attempts at control and power, we could allow that fear to lead our eyes to Jesus.
Life is mysterious. Life is beyond us.
Despite all our human achievements there still remain sickness, suffering, poverty, and death. But as Paul reminds us this reality ought not lead us to fear, but should actually be for us a great source of hope, even strength. No matter what comes – suffering, sickness, death, fear, trembling, anxiety – we are never separated from God’s loving and sustaining presence. In the midst of our life right now, we are in God’s presence. In fact, one of the great ironies of the spiritual life is that our experience of liminality and suffering actually makes our experience of God’s presence, and our hope in God, all the greater.
Nothing can separate us from God on this earth, and nothing will separate us from enjoying God’s presence in eternity, especially not death. Paul reminds us, whatever comes we are promised the greatest gift our souls long for – God’s constant presence. May the promises that we are God’s, in God’s hands, and will experience God’s uninterrupted loving presence for all eternity be that which gives us strength to endure whatever uncertainties of earthly life may come.
We can endure all things, and we are strengthened in all things because of Christ’s presence with us now, and Christ’s presence with us in our future. Nothing will separate us from God, not coronavirus, not social-distancing, not self-quarantining, not economic recession, NOTHING. So do not fear.
God is with us. All will be well. Be still and know God.