None of us will ever forget last night. The time when the Prime Minister was forced to order us to stay in our houses. “Surreal” is a word that I have heard a lot over the weekend. We struggle to believe what is actually going on. How can life change so much so quickly?
And yet the thoughtful Christian will not be totally surprised. When Jesus speaks about what will happen between his first and second comings he says that there will be world dislocating events- wars, famines and earthquakes. When the apostle John sees God’s plan for history unfolding in Revelation 6 the picture is bleak- sword, famine and plague will all feature prominently and their impact will be felt across the world. Of course that is what has happened through history. Epidemics (as well as wars and earthquakes) have appeared every so often- the only difference with this one is that it is being played out in an interconnected 24 hour news world. And it has come as a shock because we thought that as human beings we had defeated such things. But this epidemic has reminded us that we are not in control.
But why has it happened? Various Christians I know have been speculating about the judgement of God. My sense is that is both wrong and right. It is wrong in that it is hard to know with certainty why any given event takes place. But it is right in that the world we live in experiences death all the time because God is rightly angry at the human ingratitude that lives in His world and ignores Him.
One of the most sobering moments for me of the last few days was reading Psalm 90. So much felt apposite. “You turn people back to dust, saying “Return to dust, you mortals.”…”We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation…All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan…Relent LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants.”
It felt like the world today. And the Psalm is clear- it is what it is like to live in a world under God’s judgement.
What do we do with that? Here are two brief thoughts:
1. “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.
We are finite creatures who will die. It is actually healthy for us to know that because it causes us to use our time wisely- not ultimately as independent beings but as those who are accountable to God. I suspect one of the outcomes of this period might be that our lives end up being slightly more serious.
2. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days”
I mentioned on Sunday when we looked at Psalm 142 that our current situation requires multi-thinking. We need to acknowledge the pain of what is taking place whilst holding on to the ultimate reality that the Lord is watching over our way. Psalm 90 requires us to live in a broken world because of God’s anger- and yet know His love in the midst of that such that we can sing for joy. Maybe Psalm 90:14 would be a good prayer for these days. It will be easy to wake up feeling gloomy, particularly perhaps as the weeks go on. We need to pray- “Father help me to wake up each morning knowing that I am loved.” The evidence for that is what we will consider in a few weeks time. God has demonstrated His love by giving His Son to a world under His judgement. Those who trust Jesus will rejoice forever in an unbroken new creation.
Today feels surreal. But God has given us the resources not to be surprised by it but to learn from it.