By: Mr. Brent Fischer
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea...
‘Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’”
Psalms 46:1-2, 10 ESV
The Time the World Stopped…and Ran Out of Toilet Paper
It’s hard to wrap your head around how much has changed and how fast.
In a matter of days, it's like we've been transported to some strange alternate timeline where a #ToiletPaperApocalypse has caused a spike in bidet sales worldwide, the busiest businesses have screeched to a halt, an already socially-distanced society is being directed to practice “social distancing,” people are selling bottles of Purell for $138 online, and articles are being published titled, "The 58 Best Pandemic Movies to Binge in Quarantine."
And that’s just the tip of the ice-berg.
But despite the bizarre oddities of this peculiar chapter in history, and how surreal it all feels, the reality is, we're not in some alternate timeline. This is our new reality. And it's a lot worse than the TP memes make it out to be...even if for reasons deeper and more long-lasting than the virus itself.
Regardless of how bad it truly is, we’re certainly not in Kansas anymore, and may not be for some time.
Nonetheless, as Christians, this passing world was never our true home; we seek a city that is to come (Heb 11:17-16; 13:14). And so, we are called to be a people of sober-mindedness and hope as we await our Lord’s return (1 Thess 5:1-4; Rom 8:23-25).
We are also called to be the pillar of truth (1 Tim 3:15). As such, we carry a prophetic voice that communicates for God to the world what is happening and why through gospel-lenses (1 John 2:20; 1 Cor 2:16). This involves the wisdom and prudence to neither underreact nor overreact (1 Pet 4:7, 12), but also the counter-cultural love and courage to testify as faithful servants and soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 2:3; Rev 12:11).
In order to help us towards that end, over the next few weeks, I’d like to provide some biblical truths along with practical takeaways that I hope are both timeless and timely during these strange and uncertain times.
My prayer is that, as we lean into God and His word, these truths would comfort our souls and strengthen our faith to be salt and light in this dark and decaying world (Matt 5:13-16).
The first great biblical truth is this: There are no maverick molecules. Our God is Sovereign.
God's Attributes: The Silver-Lining Among Stormy Clouds
It is precisely in those times when trusting God is hardest that we need to trust Him most.
And when we do, like the silver-lining of dark clouds outlining the rays of the sun, we’ll see how the glorious beams of God's character shine brightest amidst the dark clouds of adversity.
In times of greatest change, we see most clearly how "Thou changeth not." In times of greatest trouble, we find "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble" (Ps 46:1). In times of greatest need, we learn how “great is [His] faithfulness” (Lam 3:23). And in times of greatest loss, we experience the unspeakable comfort of His presence as our greatest Friend and Shepherd who carries us through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps 23).
How many of us have proven the words true over and over, “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay!”
The same principle applies to the tumultuous days in which we find ourselves. In times of great upheaval, God is giving us a window-seat glimpse of the glory and majesty of His absolute sovereignty—that He is in complete control.
The One Who Controls the Wind and Waves
Take the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41). It’s getting dark, and a great windstorm quickly comes upon Jesus and his disciples. The boat starts taking on water, and the disciples are in a panic. Fearing for their lives, they finally go to wake up Jesus—who’s peacefully snoozing in the stern—and accuse him of not caring that they are going to die. Jesus wakes up, ignores their accusation (for the moment), and merely goes and speaks to the storm, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceases and there is a “great calm.”
Now notice carefully: it’s precisely at the peak of the “great windstorm” and the disciples’ wild panic, that Christ displays his absolute power and authority. In fact, we'd never see him do so here apart from the storm. The stormy clouds are the opportunity for his supreme sovereignty to shine (cf. John 11:3-4). Like a battle of the gods, the lesser “god” provides the occasion for the greater to flex and reveal, as it were, His truly divine muscles.
It’s only for a brief moment, but when Jesus does, it’s enough to reprioritize the disciples’ fears. Though previously worried about the storm, after seeing Jesus “shush” mother nature, the disciples are filled with “great fear,” and they say to one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?” (Mark 4:41).
The disciples are even more scared than before. Why? Simple logic: the greater the storm, the greater the Storm-stiller. When Jesus told the wind and waves to chill out, he revealed who was truly in charge. Hence, Jesus rebukes the disciples not for their fear of him, but for their "little faith" (in Mark, “no faith”) in being more aware of the raging storm outside, than the Storm-stiller in the boat.
Peter had a similar experience while trying to walk on water: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (Matt 14:30). It is when Peter took his eyes off the Storm-stiller and focussed on the storm, that he began to be afraid and sink.
So it is with the “storm” of the Coronavirus today. While the pandemic spreads around us, it is an opportunity not for fear, but faith—to draw our eyes upward to behold our God (cf. Isa 40:9).
It’s a reality check: Are we going to be more aware of the winds and waves outside, or He who rules them?
During these stormy times, God is reminding us that it is not those who live under the shelter of clear economic forecasts or clean quarantined homes, but those who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High,” and “in the shadow of the Almighty,” who are truly safe (Ps 91:1).
But, like the disciples in the presence of the Storm-stiller, God is also calling us to tremble...not because of how great the storm is, but because of how great He is (cf. Ps 93:4).
The God Who Stills the Storms and Rules the Nations
When the hands of human history move into times and seasons previously unknown, God is inviting us to stand in awe that it is He who "changes times and seasons...removes kings and sets up kings" (Dan 2:21). He is “the one seated on the throne" of the universe "and his kingdom rules over all" (Rev 4:10; Ps 103:19).
When the people are in panic and fear circulates like a whirlwind, God is entreating us to remember: He is the one who “speaks out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1). He does not drive an ambulance, nor does the word "emergency" even exist in His vocabulary. He is never caught by surprise or in a rush to avert some unforeseen disaster. He “[declares] the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa 46:10).
When certain countries suffer, while others find relief, God is calling us to wonder at His hand with reverence: it is He who “brings low and He exalts” (1 Sam 2:7); “He wounds, but He binds up; He shatters, but His hands heal” (Job 5:18); and only “If the Lord wills, will we live and do this or that” (James 4:15).
And when everything around us seems to be in flux, and it feels like the ground has suddenly given way beneath our feet, it is so that we might find this solid rock: God "works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11), “no purpose of His can be thwarted” (Job 42:2), and not a sparrow falls or a hair on our heads can perish apart from His sovereign will (Matt 10:29-30).
When we find this unshakeable hope in God’s sovereignty, God is calling us not merely to trust Him, but to bow—and to hear Him say to our hearts just what Jesus says to the raging sea, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth!” (46:10).
Time for a Spiritual Quarantine?
I wonder if perhaps this lesson to “be still and know that [God] is God” is exactly what the Lord is trying to teach us in these crazy days...especially in light of the authorities' guidelines to stay home and self-isolate as much as we can the next several days.
Could it be God is giving us a social quarantine because He knows we need a good spiritual quarantine?
After all, it is not so much busy lives that cause us anxiety, but busy hearts (Prov 12:25).
And the way people have been reacting lately reveals many busy hearts. So does feeling stir-crazy at home...especially with kids who feel the same (I’ll raise my hand here, too).
Hence, this could be a good time for us all to reflect on how busy our hearts have gotten lately (cf. Luke 10:38-42).
Perhaps the storm outside is also revealing to us the storms inside as well.
Either way, like the disciples in the boat, the storm provides the opportunity for us to turn to the Lord, and “be still and know that [He] is God” (Ps 46:10).
And, in so doing, may we find that He, who speaks peace to the raging seas, can alone speak peace to our restless hearts.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You” (Isa 26:3).
May the Lord meet us and draw our eyes to Him that we might “be still before [Him] and wait patiently on Him” during these strange and unsettling times (Ps 37:7-8).
Trusting with you in our powerful Prince of Peace,
In the next post, I’d like to give you some practical suggestions for how to “be still” amidst the storms of today. Stay tuned!