The last couple of weeks have surely been the strangest any of us have ever experienced as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps around the globe and escalates here in the UK. Our way of life has been turned upside down almost overnight – all of us have been affected, though some more than others.
Some are on the ‘front line’ and more exposed than others, caring for the sick, working in supermarkets, making deliveries, travelling on the Underground. Some are stuck at home unable to go out, dependent on others to supply all they need. Some have lost their jobs and livelihoods or fear they will do so. Some have had their studies interrupted. We all now live with great uncertainty about the future. Will we catch the disease, will we lose loved ones, will we survive? What about our jobs? What about our plans? Will society ever go back to normal? What will the long term impacts be?
We live in daunting times.
Last Sunday, however, as I listened to the chapter (John 6) being read during our morning service stream I was struck by the words of Jesus in verse 20, ‘it is I; be not afraid‘.
After the miraculous feeding of the 5000, late in the evening, Jesus had gone off alone to pray and the disciples had set out in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. A storm blew up making it dark and rough. As they struggle on, the disciples see Jesus walking over the water towards them and are frightened. Jesus gives them the reassurance ‘it is I; be not afraid‘.
In a sense there are four ways we can think of this, ‘it is I…’:
- I allowed the storm – Jesus brought the storm in the first place and was in complete control of it.
- I am more powerful than the storm – Jesus walked on the water through the wind and waves showing his power of nature and the storm.
- I know where you are in the storm – Jesus knew exactly where the disciples were and what situation they were in. He was watching over them in the storm.
- I am with you in the storm – Jesus comes to the disciples and is with them in the storm.
As we look at the ‘stormy’ outlook around us at the moment, these same four points apply. In looking to Jesus, trusting in him and welcoming him into the ship (verse 21), we can take comfort in these words and ‘be not afraid’.
My old pastor used to say ‘if only we believed what we do believe’. What he meant was that there are many things we know are true, but struggle to believe personally for ourselves. We have a little bit of faith mixed with a lot of doubt.
The Bible gives us an example of this – the prayer of the father with the sick child, ‘Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief‘ (Mark 9:24). This is a good prayer for a time like we’re in now. It’s a time for believing – in the promises of an unchanging God, in his faithfulness, in his love and mercy – but we need his help to do so.
If we are honest, all of us are being taught some significant lessons in real-time at present – lessons about the frailty of life, the impotence of mankind, and the way we rely so heavily on so many things that are so uncertain.
Hopefully though as Christians we are learning some important things about our faith. About the sovereignty and power of God. About our own weakness and sinfulness. About what it really means to love God and depend on Him. About what it really means to love our neighbour as ourselves. About the power and comfort of prayer for ourselves and others.
If we through necessity are brought closer to the Lord Jesus, taught to really live by faith, taught to wrestle in prayer, shown just how tightly we hold on to a world that isn’t our home (with all those sins and weights we should ‘lay aside’) and reminded to redeem the time, then we will come out of this situation much stronger in the ways that matter.
If we learn these lessons, it will be for our ultimate good. And that is encouraging.
A friend recently reminded me of this simple hymn which resonates with so many of the issues we are facing today.
Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.
Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.
We can take to the Lord our situation, our worries, our families, and our souls. And, if we are believers, we are safe in the arms of Jesus – that means we are completely safe, we do not need to fear what comes, even death. So, although we live in daunting times, there is peace to be found in Him.
[A00132 – 09/04/2020]
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39