Inevitably, when something bad happens, one of the first questions we ask God is, “Why, God?!” This situation with Covid-19 is unique, compared to what most of us may call “normal, everyday suffering.” As of this morning, Saturday March 28th, 192 out of 195 nations have experienced at least 1 reported case of this deadly virus. The majority of the world is on lockdown.
My husband and I were on a Skype call with our Compassion International child (now grown adult) in Ethiopia. He is stuck in his house. Where he lives, there is no money for stocking up with food in case of an emergency. Our indigenous missionary friends in India messaged last week that they were trekking out into town from their village to try to gather whatever food they can find to last them for weeks during their forced government quarantine in their indigenous huts. Our sister in law from London reports that she is on a lock down where they can only leave to go to the store or to get some exercise once a day. Our friend from South Korea messaged us back in February for special prayers as the virus crept in closer to the area she lives in.
The whole world is watching the numbers of the pandemic tally tick up exponentially and somehow, due to the internet, we are all connected in this trial. We stare dumbfounded as the world markets crash, and there seem to be very few households untouched by the loss of income and the prospect of an uncertain financial future.
Runs on grocery stores have led to a lack of basic supplies like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, bread and meat. While 5 star restaurants are shuttering their doors, and fast food establishments are moving to drive through only formats, grocery stores are hiring new workers to keep up with the demand. They are also limiting quantities to prevent panic buying and empty shelves. When I went to Martins, they said I could only buy two packs of meat. Not two packs of chicken and two packs of hamburger, two packs total. I pondered how I was supposed to shelter in place and not go to the store more than once a week at that rate.
One by one, shocking the nation, school districts have shuttered their doors, initially with a 1 week closure, then extending to the end of March. Finally, governors, like Governor Northam of Virginia announced a suspension of the academic year. All buildings are closed and continuity of learning has moved to online platforms like Google Classroom and Zoom. Parents, all over the globe, suddenly find themselves at home from work, homeschooling through a pandemic, with no toilet paper.
College students, not paying attention to the news, ventured out to spring break beaches, only to find themselves on the national news and social media platforms as menaces to society. Many students got on their flights to their destinations on March 12th, only to find the nation on lockdown by March 16th. College and high school seniors are swimming numbly in a sea of disbelief and grief as graduations are cancelled. No prom. No year book signings, no spring baseball, soccer or track. No goodbyes to roommates or friends.
Sports have stopped everywhere. The NBA suspended their season – a jaw-dropping, historic move, after two players on the Utah Jazz tested positive for Covid-19. To add to disbelief, the NCAA followed suit, cancelling March Madness games. Sports fans across the nation with no where to go and no sports to watch on T.V. have resorted to making brackets out of best fast food, best store bought ice cream and favorite televangelist. The NHL cancelled their season and by the end of March, Japan has postponed the 2020 Olympics to 2021. With no sports to comment on, across the pond, a British sports announcer is quickly making a name for himself on Youtube commentating on everyday life in London, like two dogs racing in a park and people trying to get groceries at the local market.
So, where is the goodness of God in all of this? I haven’t even mentioned the escalating fears over limited PPE (personal protective equipment) in hospitals, the lack of a vaccine accompanied by the great sadness and grief of the toll on humanity. Not only is there a death toll, but an emotional toll also hangs in a dark cloud of fear over every person who grieves the loss of routine, jobs, purpose, goals, dreams and aspirations.
Let me share a true personal story of how God has put this into perspective for me. Thursday evening, January 23rd, a group of women from our ministry met together to pray for the annual March for Life convening in Washington D.C. Dr. Kathi Aultman joined us, as she flew in for the event. An abortion doctor, who used to be staunchly pro-choice, Dr. Aultman now spends her time testifying before legislatures and educating the nation on the truth about abortion and its real effects on women, as well as the innocent unborn. Our group of believers pressed into the throne room of the Lord, as we gathered around a dining room table, asking God to bring revelation to the hearts of the nation. Woman after woman, several who have personally been touched by abortion, begged the Lord to open the ears of the people in our nation to hear the truth. We were hopeful for a move of God.
In the middle of the prayer time, as I was joining in the cry for open hearts and ears, my prayers were interrupted with this sentence, “They will not hear, they will not see, they will not understand. I have been speaking to them for years. They will not listen. Therefore, I am bringing judgement on America.” The message I was receiving was unsettling. I heard the words, “Fire is coming.” (I’m not sure what that meant), and I heard this, “The streets of America will be empty.” Then I saw an empty city street. I pushed back at the thought.
Lord, how could the streets of America ever be empty in judgment? What crisis would cause this? Surely not war. Nor could a stock market crash empty the streets. I then again saw a picture of an empty neighborhood street. I told the women in the prayer meeting what I saw. I also had the impression from this message that the coming judgement would be a time of testing for the church. The context of the time of prayer was that there was judgement coming because of the sin of abortion. At least that was what I took from this, as the words and picture I received were in response to our prayer for God to pour out a move of his Spirit to bring repentance for abortion.
Moving forward from there, February seemed to be an intense month for most in my inner circle. From a round of Flu B going through our close group of friends to several unrelated hospitalizations and other trials, many in that prayer group were forced into more urgent prayer. We all supported each other through that time, agreeing that during difficult times we are more likely to see our complete dependence on the Lord. One friend said she heard the word “battle” during this time and said that the Lord showed her we were gearing up for a time when we would need to fight spiritually.
February 7th I left school to drive an hour and a half to one of my son’s last in-season basketball games. On the way, in the dark, I felt a strange urgency to pray. As I prayed in the Spirit, I had another encounter where the Lord gave me what I will describe as a direct message to my mind. Some people may call this a prophecy, but I don’t consider myself a prophet. I am just someone who was driving and praying. I heard that, “America’s time is short. Everything will change in an instant. Terrible times are coming. The church has left the ways of many generations. This generation has spurned the truth of Jesus that has been held for generations. They have made up their own ‘truth and doctrines.’ They have thrown away the ancient ways and follow after their own ideas and flesh.“
I was told to pray for my family’s protection in the coming wrath. I asked the Lord, “What’s going to happen to the church?” I heard, “She will lift up her head. She will be refined, tested and tried, but will see God’s power in a brand new way. She will see the Lord’s provision and work in the middle of the trials.” I felt led to pray that the Lord will give us specialization to minister to people in the middle of the coming judgement and trial. Also, the Lord encouraged me to stay in the Word of God. I urge you to make time every day to discipline yourself to pray, read the Word and fast. We need to be in the Word and disciplined about it. It needs to be such a regular part of our lives, because the deception is so thick. We need to be encouraged to know God.
This brings me to where we are NOW. If in my wildest dreams I had imagined a judgement by God on the world for 70 million innocent babies killed, would this be my call? Not in a long shot. I would probably have imagined something more along the lines of an eye for an eye. But, what has our good God done? He has allowed a virus to spread across the earth that is toppling all the idols of our world and has given the people of the world time at home to ponder their condition and to seek his face.
What are the idols that have fallen? To name a few…
- Goal Setting
All of these things are good things, in and of themselves, but in modern times people in the church have put these things ahead of their trust in the Lord and his sufficiency. Please don’t think for a minute that God is against education, freedom or health or even sports or a career. He isn’t against them anymore than he is against public worship. Yet, see what he says in Amos 5:18-27:
“Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness and not light–pitch dark, without a ray of brightness?
‘I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But, let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-falling stream!’
‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your god – which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,’ says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.”
No one, including God, would say worship or music or assemblies are a stench to God – unless they become an idol which replaces God himself. When God calls for justice and holiness, yet we allow injustice to abound in our lives and still sing worship songs at church, without addressing injustice, God is appalled. When God calls for us to repent of our sin, to turn from it and trust in Jesus, yet more and more churches are afraid to use the word “sin” because it isn’t positive enough- God is appalled. When we are unwilling to talk about sin and to call people to repentance, there is no room for Jesus or his real purpose to come to earth in the first place (to die for our sin and rise again). When God says do not kill, yet churches condone and even bless abortion clinics where mothers are lied to and babies are murdered, God is not happy at all.
When the Christian leaders teach people to make their own “vision boards” and to visualize what they want and to go get it and describe this as faith, God is offended. God is left out of the picture of our goal-setting. Instead of seeking God’s will for our lives, we set our own agendas. I’m not even talking about atheists or unbelievers. I’m speaking of the family of God.
The Lord says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans.” (Prov. 16:3 emphasis mine) He says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” (Prov.3:5) Yet, we don’t talk to God. We don’t teach our children to seek him for guidance on where to go to college or what career path to take. We teach them to hustle and go to church when convenient.
Yet, God. In all of our offenses and all of our arrogance as a nation, God has given us the discipline of a good father and not an angry far away God. He has given us a quarantine time at home with our families.
We are given more time – not less.
We are given a reset.
We are given an opportunity to be alone with the Lord, in solitude, without our idols.
We are given the faces of our spouse and children to enjoy and to learn to love and communicate with again.
We are given a gift in the storm.
God is a good father. He loves us. How many know his love? How many know of his patience and his sacrifice? He sent his only Son Jesus Christ to take the burden of his wrath for our sin and rebellion upon his sinless body. He carried our eternal punishment. All we need to do is to trust in him – to turn from our sin and embrace his grace and forgiveness.
Some may ask, “If God forgives me when I trust in Jesus, why would I need to go through discipline?” I’m glad you asked.
Hebrews 12:5-13 says, “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disables but rather healed.”
Notice that the last verse gives us the purpose of discipline – our healing. Sin cripples us. When we repent and allow the Lord to have his perfect way in us, we can experience an incredible healing. God has dealt with us in mercy and in love. We are disciplined, but not destroyed. His goal is our reconciliation and our restoration.
The question is, what will your response be to the call of God? How will you spend your quarantine? Will you seek the Lord? Will you repent? Will you mend broken relationships with your spouse and children? Will you ask the Lord what he wants to teach you? Will you ask him what idols you have been putting ahead of him? Will you ask him to reveal truth to you and to show you the lies you have been believing? He will lead you in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Trump and Congress may be sending out a 2 Trillion Dollar stimulus package to millions of people to give us a temporary fix to the economy, but God has given us a weeks’ long – possibly months’ long – stimulus package of time. What will you do with this wonderful gift of time? Seek Jesus. Repent. Put your faith in him for an eternal healing and a filling of power that will last beyond this quarantine and into the future.