With millions out of work and the country on lockdown due to the COVID-19 response, countless Americans are wondering just when things will return back to normal. But contrary to popular opinion, America does not need a return to normalcy. In fact, that’s the last thing we need.
Before I begin, let me clarify what I don’t mean. I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t get back to work. Nor do I mean to say that entertainment and leisure, hobbies and passions, peacefulness and security should cease to exist. Taken alone, all such pursuits are noble and they highlight God’s boundless, common graces poured out on the fallen (yet privileged) sons of men.
What I mean to say is that, given our current state of affairs and the revealed dispositions of the God who cannot change and governs life down to the sparrows, the old normal looks to be clearly in God’s crosshairs—and if that’s the case, going back is a fools errand.
Don’t Rule Out Judgement
No survey of Biblical history is complete without copious references to those low points in man’s affairs, when God intervened to judge mankind for rebellion. He sank the earth in the days of Noah, destroyed Sodom for their lasciviousness, devastated Egypt for Pharaoh’s hard heart, arrested Canaan for their Satanic practices, and even subjected His own chosen people—Israel—to violence, drought, pestilence, and banishment because of their inability not to sin.
There are precious few things in Scripture that are more clear than the observation that God judges people for their iniquities.
This should make you uneasy.
For a country such as ours—steeped in decadence, rife with every kind of sexual corruption, seeing no problem with thievery from future generations, and one that sits idly by while nearly a million children per year are poisoned and butchered in the womb of the person who is supposed to love them the most, judgement is not just possible, but long overdue. The old normal that everyone wants back was a steaming stench in the nostrils of God and we would do well to deem just how likely it is that COVID19, along with everything that follows in its wake, is that due judgement. God will not be mocked.
Is All Suffering Judgement?
If you know the story of Job, you know that not every instance of suffering is a direct result of that person’s own sin. In fact, it was precisely because of Job’s steadfast faithfulness that God singled Job out and permitted him to undergo extreme loss, physical anguish, and deep emotional dispair in the first place. He wasn’t even aware that God was—through him—shaming Satan and bolstering the faith of billions who would tread harrowing ground after him.
And in the end, dispite his vexation and laments, Job gets no answers for why he was forced to endure such torrents of pain—only a fatherly charge to know his finitude and trust his God.
Faithful Christians have lost work. Faithful Christians will lose more work still. Death and loss, strife and woe will take no holiday, and will likely increase before anything gets better, but God has more than proven His ability to bless His people in the midst of their pain—even by it.
Some of us need to consider, like Job, that the suffering we are walking through might not in fact be judgment from God for wrongs unpunished, but rather a momentary hardship on a path which leads to greater manifestations of God’s glory—an integral part in the Grand Play which was intimately crafted to harness our attention and turn us towards the fountain of all joy, God.
What America Needs
So having said all that, what is our charge?
A great many more of us than are currently doing so need to look in the mirror and realize, not how much we deserve our current circumstances, but how we actually deserve much worse.
In our nation—which harbors the scourge of prenatal infanticide, proudly promotes sexual deviancy, and circulates currency that openly appeals to God’s providence while legislating feverishly against His wisdom and commandments—an economic meltdown and potential plague are mere annoyances when compared with the fury that our corporate sins require.
Ninevah had no promise from God that He would relent from utterly destroying them, but they turned from their wickedness anyway. We are Ninevah. We have no promise that things will get better, but that doesn’t matter one bit.
We need to repent.
Let us turn to God. Let us lean into Him, on Him. And if we are bound to fall, let us fall in His direction—with arms stretched out, reaching for His blessing. Clawing for His forgiveness; not for fear of further strife, but in grief over our former selves. Anything that gets us doing that, I don’t care how excruciating it seems at the time, is conspicuous and abundant mercy.
America is indeed suffering from a disease, but it’s not what you think.
A Parting, Beautiful Thought
Job was not a sinless man, but he was blameless. He was a trust-er in God. A lover of grace.
One of my favorite passages in Job comes in chapter nine, when we hear Job—in distress—reason and hope out loud for that which you and I desperately require.
Overcome by his misery and understanding his blamelessness before God as regards his destitute condition, Job intensely desires an audience with the Almighty to confirm his innocence. But Job’s appraisal of his situation doesn’t stop there. Job recognizes his ultimate inadequacy to approach God alone, which leads him to conclude that he needs a mediator, saying:
“If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’ I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me. For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.”—Job 9:27-35
Unlike Job, we have clearly perverted the good. If he was fearful to approach God when he was blameless, how much more should we fear approaching the throne of the Almighty with debauchery (like blood) coursing through our veins? If Job needed a mediator when he was in the right, how much more are we in need of one—with our spurning His council times without number and having trampled His honor openly now for decades?
Consider this verse from Paul’s Epistle to Timothy and put off pride just long enough so that you can appreciate how God, in the fullness of time, answered Job’s cries:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.1 Timothy 2:5-6
More than normalcy, America needs humility. More than a vaccine, we need Divine mediation. And there’s only one who fits that bill.
We need Christ.
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