Love in the Time of Coronavirus (Habakkuk 3:1-19)

Habakkuk the prophet lived in Jerusalem about 1000 years after Moses’ time, and about 600 years before Jesus was born. His book of prophecy in the Old Testament is not very long — only three chapters — and if we were to read through it together we would find that Habakkuk’s situation was really quite similar to our situation in Malaysia today.

His book begins with a complaint to God about the state of his own government — which goes to show that Habakkuk was truly Malaysian in his heart.

And his opening complaint sounds exactly like our complaints did right up until just a few weeks ago. He basically says, “Lord, how long are you going to let things go on like this? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? The law is paralyzed and justice never prevails!”

Habakkuk was tired of corruption and cronyism. He was praying for a change.

And God answers him. He says, “Well, guess what, Habakkuk! I am going to give Jerusalem a new government — a government run by the Babylonians.”

Now, who were the Babylonians?

From our perspective in Malaysia today, the Babylonians would be the equivalent of — perhaps — China. A very efficient nation, a very powerful nation, a very large nation, they had a way of expanding their business interests and bringing infrastructure and prosperity to faraway countries, which a lot of people really enjoyed.

But they also had a rather alarming tendency to take over those countries if they defaulted on their payments.

This is how God describes them: “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They mock kings and scoff at rulers. Then they sweep past like the wind and go on — guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

And just like we would if God told us that Malaysia was about to get a new government that is even worse than the old one —

— a government not elected by the people, for instance —

— just like we would, Habakkuk says, “What? God! That’s even worse! That is not what I was asking for at all!”

And he goes on to tell God that this plan does not make any sense. Sure, Jerusalem’s government is corrupt, but the Babylonians have taken corruption and elevated it to an art-form. He says, “I thought you were holy and righteous! So how can you stand by silently while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”

The Babylonians worship nothing except power and profit. If God rewards their false worship by allowing them to swallow up the whole world, then isn’t that the opposite of justice?

Habakkuk is asking the same age-old question that everyone in the world asks: if God is so good, why does he allow evil in the world?

And, as usual, God does not answer that question directly.

In the second chapter of Habakkuk’s book, he basically says, “Habakkuk, do not worry: evil will not last. There will be justice. After all, has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

“But in the meantime,” the Lord says, “you are going to have to live by faith. You are going to have to trust me. Because for a long time things are going to get worse before they get better.”

And after the Lord is finished with his speech, Habakkuk’s only conclusion is this: The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

This is the announcement of God’s lockdown.

This is God’s way of saying, “There are things I am doing in this universe that would absolutely terrify you if you knew what was really going on!”

This is our Father’s way of saying, gently: “O my children, you are too small to understand what I am doing. Even if I tried to explain it, you would not understand. So: better you be quiet, and watch, and worship, and wait.”

But this is a hard conclusion for us to accept. We are God’s children, and like children we are always asking, “Why? Why? Why?” Especially when bad things happen: “Daddy, why does it have to be like this?”

We always hated it when our human parents said, “…I’m sorry but I can’t explain it to you right now. So you are just going to have to trust me!” So of course we hate it when our heavenly Father says the same.

We struggle to accept it when our Father’s answer to our very pressing question is, “Wait.”

And this brings us to Habakkuk, Chapter 3.

Habakkuk’s situation is a lot like ours today. Terrible things are taking over his world: governments are falling apart, economies are faltering, pandemics are spreading, and he has been told to sit quietly in lockdown and wait, and trust God to bring things to their proper end.

And the question he is asking himself — the question we are asking ourselves — is: how?

How are we supposed to wait?

Well, Chapter 3 is how Habakkuk processes through this question, so we are going to process with him:

He starts by remembering:

[2] Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.

So Habakkuk knows the history of his people: he knows they have suffered terribly in the past. They once spent more than 400 years in slavery in a foreign land. But he also knows that, at the just the right time, the Lord rescued them.

And so now, Habakkuk re-tells the story of the Exodus for himself:

[3] God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. [4] His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. [5] Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps.

[6] He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed—but he marches on forever. [7] I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Habakkuk is recalling how the Lord arrived in Egypt, rising up out of the Arabian wilderness to the east, how he struck the nation of Egypt with plagues and pandemics and natural disasters so terrible that even faraway nations heard about it and wondered if the end of the world had come.

But even as Habakkuk remembers, he still has questions:

[8] Were you angry with the rivers, Lord? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and your chariots to victory?

[9] You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. You split the earth with rivers; [10] the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. [11] Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. [12] In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations.

The Lord’s judgement during the time of the Exodus looked like non-stop ecological disasters. So Habakkuk asks the question, “Did you do all this because you were angry with the earth, angry with creation?”

And then he answers his own question: “No! You did all this because you were angry with the nations!”

You did all this because — verse 13 — you came out to deliver your people — the children you had chosen as your own.

You came out to save your anointed one — that is, Moses, who was God’s chosen saviour for his people at that time.

You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness — the Pharaoh of the Egyptians. You stripped him from head to foot. [14] With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us — when they chased us to the shore of the Red Sea — gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding.

But you: [15] You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters. You parted the Sea so your people could pass through it safely, and then you closed it again behind them, destroying Egypt’s army.

In other words: creation serves God’s purposes, not mankind’s. The Egyptians, during their time, believed that they and their gods were the lords over the earth, the master manipulators of Time and the elements. Even today, when we look at the pyramids they built, we can see that these were a people whose own strength was their god.

But where are they now?

Egypt never recovered its ancient greatness. The Assyrians rose up after them to rule the world. Then the Babylonians. Then the Persians. Then the Greeks. Then the Romans. But never the Egyptians: never again.

And every empire since has followed the same path: rising, ruling, and then falling, usually as a result of ecological disasters — floods, earthquakes, famine, pandemics — followed by economic instability, followed by civil unrest, followed by conquest or collapse. Historically, empires have always fallen slowly at first, and then all at once — and always as a result of factors beyond their control.

The great lesson of history is that those who worship their own strength as a god must be crushed by a strength greater than theirs. It is the only voice they can hear, it is the only language they can understand, and so it is the only language the Lord can use to bring them down…

And so Habakkuk, as he tries to figure out how to sit quietly and wait in the looming shadows of Babylon, the first thing he does is look back and remember who God really is, how God acts in history:

He always hears the cries of his children when they are in trouble.

He always sends them a Messiah — a Saviour — to lead them out of captivity at just the right time.

And he always brings judgement down upon those who pursue, whose god is their own strength. And he always uses creation itself to accomplish this task: he uses the very things they thought they had under control to prove that control is just an illusion, that all of our lives are always in the hands of God alone.

And this is Good News!

— at first.

But as Habakkuk continues to sit in the enforced quiet of his lockdown, as he continues to think about these things…he begins to experience some strange thoughts, and some strange feelings:

[16] I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.


Because he is remembering that between the gathering dusk of Jerusalem’s fall and the rising sun of Jerusalem’s deliverance lies a long dark night of judgement upon Jerusalem.

See: it would be easy for Habakkuk, as he remembers how God delivered his people from Egypt, to re-write the history in his head and think that his people deserved to be rescued. It would be easy for Habakkuk to look back at how God destroyed Egypt and think, “That’s right: we were the good guys, they were bad guys, and they deserved what happened to them!”

And so it would be easy for Habakkuk to look at his own situation and draw the same conclusions: that his people are the good guys, the Babylonians are the bad guys; that his people deserve to be delivered, while the Babylonians deserve to be destroyed.

But —

Habakkuk is remembering how his whole conversation with God began: the government of Jerusalem is corrupt, and so are the people. They do not deserve deliverance! They deserve the same judgement that is going to fall upon the Babylonians. The people of Israel also deserve plagues and pandemics, ecological disasters and economic crashes.

In fact, Habakkuk — as a good prophet — is remembering that God actually promised to bring the same judgements upon his own people!

Way back in the Book of Deuteronomy, that Moses wrote just before Joshua led the people of Israel across the Jordan River into their homeland, God spent almost a whole chapter describing all of the terrible curses that would fall upon his people if they did not remain faithful. And this is how that chapter ends:

[58] If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God—[59] the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.

And [64] then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. [65] Among those nations you will find no resting place. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. [66] You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. [67] In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.

No wonder Habakkuk’s heart is pounding, his lips quivering, his legs trembling: he knows that Moses’ ancient prophecy is about to be fulfilled. Habakkuk knows what is coming, in detail, and he is horrified! — most of all because he knows his people deserve it. Because they have not carefully followed all the words of God’s law, they have not revered his glorious and awesome name.

So this Good News that God uses creation itself to bring judgement upon those who worship strength…was only Good News for a moment before Habakkuk remembered that God’s own people often worship strength as well. God is committed to delivering them from their false worship, because they are his children — but he is equally committed to delivering them through judgement.

And what can Habakkuk say? What can Habakkuk do?

He commits to doing the only thing he can do, which is looking forward to the deliverance that he knows is coming. He says, “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.”

Habakkuk was told to sit quietly in lockdown and wait, and trust God to bring things to their proper end. And just like we are now, Habakkuk struggled with that. Waiting does not come naturally to children.

And as Habakkuk fought within himself against his fears and his restlessness, the Lord has led him through three distinct steps:

First, he looked back at who God has always been: the faithful rescuer of his children.

Second, he looked at who God’s children really are: unfaithful and deserving of judgement.

And then, third, he looked forward to the deliverance that he knows is coming.

And as we have seen, even in the midst of this process, Habakkuk continued to be overwhelmed. He did not just say, “Oh, so God is my Father and he is one day going to rescue us? Great! I guess I don’t need to feel bad about this process at all!”

Habakkuk felt fear, he struggled with restlessness even as he fought against it — and the Lord did not rebuke him for this. Our God — our Father — is not the kind of father who says, “You better sit quietly! You better stop crying!” to his children when they are overwhelmed by overwhelming things.

Instead, he takes us up and holds us close and turns our eyes to the Lord in his holy temple.

So Habakkuk, even in grief, makes this promise to wait patiently — because, really: what other choice does he have? We can’t even control our own hearts, much less control the world around us! So we might as well at least say out loud that we are willing to try to open our hands — that we want our Father to open our hands when we find ourselves unable to let go.

“And so,” Habakkuk says, [17] Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, [18] yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Because, in the end, God is not doing these things because he is angry with creation, he is doing these things because he is actually committed to redeeming creation, delivering his people, and saving his anointed one.

[19] The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

And this is a wonderful way for Habakkuk to end. This is his promise that he is going to live by faith. This is his statement of his belief that appearances are deceiving; that God is still at work among his people; that in the end Habakkuk will find himself leaping up to safety like a mountain goat among the mountains of the Lord.

But now: what about us?

The Lord is still in his holy temple; all the earth is still called to be silent before him.

But how?

In our worship today we read together from Psalm 131, I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

But this is just not very true very often, is it? Especially in times like this.

So how are we to train ourselves to quietness and trust?

Well, Habakkuk’s process is a good one. And it is not Habakkuk’s process alone: it is repeated many times by many people throughout the bible, this process of remembering who God has always been, remembering who we are, and remembering the deliverance to come.

This process quite simply…works. Because by having our minds focused like this, on these things, in this way, does rewire our brains over time. And this is why our scriptures talk so much about quietness and contemplation and hiding these truths in our hearts: because this is how people change.

So: our first step is to look back and remember.

And in this we have some serious advantages that Habakkuk did not have. He was only able to look back at how God delivered Moses’ nation from slavery to Egypt’s empire; we are able to look back at how God delivered Habakkuk’s nation from slavery to Babylon’s empire.

But more than this, we are able to look back at how God has delivered people from every nation out of slavery to the serpent’s empire, Satan’s empire, the spiritual empire that lies at the root of every earthly empire.

This is how it happened:

Just as God sent a messiah to rescue his people from Egypt, and then another messiah to rescue his people from Babylon, God sent one final Messiah to rescue his people from the Roman Empire.

However, by that point in history, it was obvious that the problem with the world is not Egypt or Babylon or even Rome…the foundational problem is mankind’s worship of strength, a worship that is taught by Satan to his slaves in order to make sure that they keep on enslaving themselves.

So God’s Messiah, his Son Jesus of Nazareth, went to war against the serpent, and won, and led his people out of captivity.

And then, just as he had brought judgement down upon Egypt and upon Babylon, the Lord brought judgement down upon those who tried to destroy Jesus’ people, those who worshiped their own strength as a god…

Ironically, this did not turn out to be the city of Rome, like everyone expected; it turned out to be the city of Jerusalem. And so the Lord destroyed Jerusalem again, just as he did in the time of Habakkuk.

I’d better explain this part for those of you who may not be so clear on it:

The rulers of Jerusalem rejected Jesus, just like the Israelites rejected Moses when he first arrived in Egypt. But unlike the Israelites, the rulers of Jerusalem never changed their minds about Jesus — instead, they had him executed.

They did not realize it, but by exercising their power in this way they were actually destroying themselves, because they were actually fighting back against God’s power. And God’s power obviously proved to be greater, because he undid Jesus’ death and brought him back to greater life than before.

But despite this demonstration, the rulers of Jerusalem refused to repent. In the years that followed, they continued to chase down Jesus’ disciples and followers and put them to death also. And so, after about 40 years of opportunities to repent, God finally put an end to that generation. He started by sending famines, plagues and pandemics. And when Jerusalem still refused to repent, he commissioned the Roman empire itself to destroy the Jerusalem and the temple within it — almost exactly as the Babylonians did more than 600 years earlier.

In short: the city of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time was exactly like the city of Jerusalem in Habakkuk’s time. They did not follow all the words of God’s law; they did not revere his glorious and awesome Messiah when he showed up. And so, just as God promised way back in Deuteronomy, he scattered the Jewish people among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. And ever since then, they have been worshiping other gods — gods of wood and stone, gods of strength and prosperity.

So our first step in training ourselves to quietness and trust is to look back and remember: our Messiah has already crushed the serpent’s head. He has already set us free from slavery to that false god of strength and self-sufficiency. And even now, as we see the shadows of pandemic and potential famine looming over our land, we are called to remember how our God works in history: that all those who persist in worshiping their own strength as a god are always, eventually, crushed by a strength greater than theirs. Those who persist in trying to control and enslave God’s children are always, eventually, crushed by the very things they thought they had control over.

And that is Good News!

— but only for a moment.

Because, as we continue to sit in the enforced quiet of our lockdown, we begin to experience some strange thoughts, and some strange feelings. Because we remember that we also live in this world, in the midst of nations whose god is their strength. Which means that we also end up suffering from the same plagues, pandemics, and economic slowdowns as everyone else.

And since our God historically has used these things to judge the nations, what are we supposed to think?

In fact, let’s just go ahead and get very specific: is Covid-19 an act of God’s judgement? — and if so, does this mean that everyone who dies of Covid-19 has fallen under God’s judgement?

Yes. — but: no. But…yes!

I’d better explain —

Actually, I’d better separate out those questions and answer them one by one.

So, first: is Covid-19 an act of God’s judgement?

Well, it seems like a lot of people want it to be an act of judgement:

Early on, I heard some Christians saying that this virus was God’s judgement against China’s government because of their persecution of Christians…I don’t know what they are saying now that every nation has caught the virus.

I saw one Muslim online saying that, because Chinese women refused to cover their faces with a veil, now Allah is forcing them to cover their faces with a mask. Which is…nevermind.

I’m even seeing these stories from secular people about how this virus was actually engineered by Chinese scientists and so it serves them right that it escaped and infected them — and, of course, I’m seeing the counter-stories about how this is actually a plot by America that has backfired on them…!

Now, what is fascinating about these stories is not how different they are but how similar they are:

For one thing, these stories demonstrate that both religious and non-religious people believe that there should be such a thing as judgement in the world.

And the second thing these stories have in common is that it is always someone else who deserves that judgement.

So it seems that our natural instinct is to believe two things: first, that Covid-19 is some kind of judgement; and second, that it is a judgement someone else deserves — we are just the innocent bystanders, the collateral damage.

And the reason we believe that first part…is because it is true.

See: we are all made in God’s image, which means that we do have some intuitive sense for who God is and how he acts in the world. And so we all know in our collective human spirit that God does, in fact, use natural disasters to bring judgement. The bible actually says so out loud many times! but what we are seeing is that even people who have never read the bible…still know the truth: when bad things happen in this world, they happen for a reason.

So we are right about the first part: Covid-19 is an act of God’s judgement.

Where we go wrong as a human race is in the second part. We are happy to admit that there must be a reason behind natural disasters; we just always want to believe that the reason…is someone else.

And this is why those explanations we just looked are so oddly specific. It is not enough for us to simply admit that Covid-19 is some kind of judgement — no: it must be a judgement directed against the Chinese government, or against Chinese women, or against American scientists…anybody but me!

We all believe, in our collective human spirit, that if we do not take care to blame someone else…then we might just have to admit that we also deserve judgement. The truth is that even people who have never read the bible…still know the truth: none of us can claim to be perfectly innocent.

So: is Covid-19 an act of God’s judgement? Yes! — but clearly is it not a judgement targeted at only one nation. Clearly, this judgement is being applied to all nations, to all mankind: non-Christian and Christian alike. No one can claim that this is a specific judgement against one set of people in particular, because clearly it is a general judgement.

Which leads us now to our second question: since Covid-19 is an act of God’s judgement, does this mean that everyone who dies of Covid-19 has fallen under God’s judgement?


And the reason I can say this so confidently is because Jesus himself answered this question:

During his time a tower fell down in Jerusalem, and 18 people were killed. And someone asked Jesus if that tower falling down was an act of God’s judgement against those 18 people in particular.

And Jesus’ answer was, basically, “Yes, the tower falling was an act of God’s judgement.” But, “No, that act of judgement was not specifically targeted at those 18 who died. In fact: you are all just as guilty as they were. Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

In other words, that tower falling down was not God’s special judgement on those 18 people, it was God’s special message to everyone else in Jerusalem: repent! Repent now! Because you do not have control over when death will come for you!

So: no, those who die of Covid-19 have not necessarily fallen under God’s judgement. In fact, their deaths are actually God’s call upon the rest of us to repent, to give up our gods of strength and self-sufficiency, and give control of our lives to Jesus Christ.

So: since our God historically has used and still does use things like Covid-19 to judge the nations, what are we supposed to think? What does all this mean?

What this means, friends, is that we actually live our lives surrounded by acts of God’s judgement, large and small. Every disaster — every war, every pandemic, every economic slowdown — is another chance for this generation to hear God’s voice and wake up from the illusion that we are in control.

And this is why, as Christians, when we see some kind of disaster overtake the person next door, the religion next door, the nation next door, we must not sit in judgement and say, “Ha ha! I know why this is happening: God is judging them!”

Instead, as Christians, when we see disasters overtaking the world, we should lead by example. We should be the first to repent, the first to admit that we deserve judgement just as much as everyone else. We should be the first to say, along with Habakkuk, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled…” We should be the first to say: “Yeah, we have not followed all the words of God’s law. We have not consistently revered his glorious and awesome name. We also deserve judgement.”

Now, I want to go back and make something very, very clear, just in case it is not clear enough: what is true about large-scale sicknesses like Covid-19 is also true about individual sickness as well.

Every personal illness — every flu, every disability, every individual case of Covid-19 — is also an act of God designed to help people recognize their helplessness, and lead them to repent.

But — just as with the pandemic, just as with the tower that fell — we cannot assume that, when a person gets sick, God is calling them in particular to repent. We must not point to an individual and say, “Ha ha! This is a judgement on you for your sin!” We do not know that, we cannot know that for certain.

And the reason I can say this so confidently is because Jesus himself said it:

One day he met a blind man, and the disciples asked Jesus, “Is this man being judged for his sins or for his parents’ sins?”

And Jesus’ answer was, “Neither. This man is actually suffering this particular act of judgement for someone else’s benefit!”

And sure enough, after Jesus healed the man’s eyes, there were two reactions: those who repented and gave glory to God, and those who decided to hate God even more.

So even an individual’s illness can be an act of God’s judgement that is actually designed to call someone else to repentance, and to bring judgement upon those who refuse.

And so what all this means is that, when we repent as Christians, when we continue to trust our Lord in the face of personal and collective disaster, then we are responding properly to God’s acts of judgement. We are leading by example.

And the reason we Christians are able to do this is because we know that the acts of God’s judgement in our lives never end with us falling under God’s judgement.

This is how the Apostle Peter explains it in the New Testament. He says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you…For it is time for judgement to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what — do you think — will the end be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

Peter is confirming that God’s household — Christ’s Church — is not immune to God’s acts of judgement in the world. In fact, God’s judgement actually begins with us — !

But it does not end with us. Because we obey the gospel of God. We repent. We admit the truth about ourselves. We cry out to our Father for deliverance instead of trying to save ourselves.

And so, as a result, the same acts of judgement that condemn those who refuse to repent…never condemn us. Instead, these acts of judgement refine us, and lead us closer to the throne of grace.

So, to summarize this last section:

Is Covid-19 a judgement from God?

Yes. Just like everything else that happens in creation, Covid-19 is designed to call people to repentance.

Is Covid-19 a particular judgement against particular people who have committed particular sins?

No. Just like everything else that happens in creation, Covid-19 is designed to call everyone to repentance — not just those who catch Covid-19.

Are Christians immune to Covid-19?

No. But we are immune to condemnation, because we have already repented and given control of our lives to Jesus Christ.

And this leads us to our third step in the process of learning how to wait in quietness and trust.

And this third step is looking forward to our ultimate deliverance.

Like Habakkuk, we say, “Okay. If all this is true then: I will wait patiently for the day of judgment to come.”

And we are able to say this because we know that the Day of Judgement is not the day of judgement for us, but the Day of Deliverance. We are guaranteed a new heavens and a new earth, and a new kind of body that will never suffer plague, pandemic, or death…

And friends, knowing this makes all the difference. What would we do — how would we live our lives — if we really understood that these disasters sweeping our globe are just light and momentary troubles?

What would we not do?

But, of course: we do not really understand.

And that, brothers and sisters, is okay. The bible tells us we are not going to fully understand for as long as we live in this world. We are called to rewire our brains, and scripture does show us how: by looking back, by looking now, and by looking forward, and seeing how our Father is at work through it all. But scripture also shows us that this is a process: just like athletic training, spiritual training takes many years — and none of us have arrived at perfect maturity yet.

And because we do not fully understand, we are going to have emotional reactions to what is going on in our world.

And that, brothers and sisters, is okay too. We do not have a Father who tells us to stuff our feelings away and just put on a happy face. We do not have a Father who is unable to sympathize with us in our weakness. God knows that we struggle with fear all the time. But he does not condemn us for this. Instead, he takes us up and holds us close and slowly, patiently, gently trains us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

And as he trains us to focus on these things, then little by little, over these days of lockdown, over the months of pandemic to come, over the years that lie before us as a church, we are going to find rest and quietness. More and more, we will find that we are able to say, along with the Psalmist,I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.”

We will find that we are able to say, along with Habakkuk, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the economy fails and the heathcare system is overwhelmed…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

“[19] The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

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