So, my dear family, this is my appeal to you by the mercies of God: offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Worship like this brings your mind into line with God’s. What’s more, don’t let yourselves be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you can work out what God’s will is, what is good, acceptable and complete. [Romans 12:1-2 (NTE)]
Like Job, we want to know “Why?” Wanting to understand the inexplicable, there are some who claim this pandemic is a sign of the end times; indeed, it is a terrifying time. When Jesus spoke of the end times, however, He warned His disciples to be wary about the signs and not to be misled. When we start looking for signs, we begin reading meanings into things that aren’t necessarily there. While we know that chaotic and difficult times will pave the way for Jesus’ return, we also know that chaos, difficulty, and even pandemics have been characteristics of life since the exile from Eden. I don’t know if this is a sign of the end times but I am cautious of doomsday prophets who claim to know what God is doing. Let us remember Jesus’ own words: ”No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” [Matthew 24:36] If neither Jesus nor angels knew, I doubt a mere mortal does! Whether or not the Australian wildfires, African locusts, and COVID-19 are precursors of things to come doesn’t change what’s happening or our reaction to them.
“Do you suppose,” said a friend, “that God got so sick and tired of our bickering, conflicts, and complaint that He’s sent us all to our rooms as punishment?” Indeed, there are some who say this pandemic is God’s judgment upon his sinful children. He’s used plagues before and it wasn’t just the Egyptians who suffered them at His hands. After the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, God sent a plague upon them; when they complained of no meat, He struck them with another plague; and, when they complained about Moses and Aaron, a plague that killed 14,700 quickly followed. When David sinned against God by taking a census, 70,000 innocent people died in a plague. Since God used plagues to discipline His children in the past, we might wonder if COVID-19 is His punishment for our sins. We simply don’t know and I would be cautious of anyone who claims to know the answer; Job’s friends got in trouble for that very thing! God made it clear to Job that the “why” is really not ours to know.
Perhaps, rather than sending us to our rooms as punishment, our loving Father has given us a “time out” for an attitude adjustment. Could this be God’s version of a “market correction” when, following a drop of 10%, the value of over-priced stocks are adjusted to more accurate levels? Instead of stocks, however, could this be a time to correct our priorities: a time to reevaluate their value and adjust them to more godly levels? When viewed in the light of this pandemic, many of the things we once thought important have become meaningless and some things we took for granted have become precious. Just as a stock market correction is a reminder for investors to reassess their holdings, this pandemic may be a time for us to reassess our priorities and values. What is worth keeping and what should we let go?
Jesus told us that wherever our treasure is, there will be our heart. Perhaps we’ve been sent to our rooms to examine our hearts: to see ourselves in a spiritual mirror to determine how much like Christ we look, how attached we’ve become to the things of the world, and determine who and what comes first in our lives.
None of us can divine God’s purpose; He didn’t tell Jesus or Job so I don’t think we can expect to know. Rather than asking “why?” theologian and author Timothy Keller says the question we should be asking is this: “Is God to whom I look to and trust in when bad things happen?”
You must keep all earthy treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let Him have your heart. [Charles Spurgeon]