Control and COVID-19
What a strange few weeks it has been. Something that was merely a topic of conversation and cause of worry has now radically shifted our lives for the foreseeable future. This is so disconcerting to us. In the comfort of most of our everyday lives, it is easy to feel some semblance of control.
If we’re honest, most of the time we think that we are strong and powerful enough to have control over our lives. We forget that, in every moment, God is holding the whole world together. We forget that nothing happens that does not require him to remain in control.
I have often heard the prayer “Lord, will you comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” I always squirm at that prayer because truth be told, I am often comfortable. I do not think it is wrong to be comfortable, but I do think that comfort can be incredibly dangerous. Often, it is easy to forget our desperate and constant need for God when we are comfortable. We never graduate from our need for God to hold our life in place. This virus, though scary and full of uncertainty, serves as a great reminder of this.
Recently, I have been reading through the book of Ezekiel. As I read through the book, I was struck by the statement that followed the prophecy of coming destruction. God would always end the prophecy by saying “that you may know that I am the Lord.”
Losing Our Perceived Lordship
In so many of our days we make ourselves “lord.” Whether that be in having control over our schedule, where we go, what we eat, how we dress, whatever it is, it is easy to feel that we are actually lord of it all. The spread of the coronavirus, as well as the instructions we have been asked to follow, have rubbed up against our day-to-day comfort and control. This is painful and uncomfortable.
This is not to say that this virus has happened for the sole purpose of eliminating our illusions of control. However, realizing how little control we actually have is certainly a byproduct of this strange time. The question we ought to ask then, is what to do with this difficult, yet valuable, effect of COVID-19.
I have been clinging to Psalm 77 lately. It begins by saying,
I cry aloud to God,
Aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
In the night my hand is stretched out
My soul refuses to be comforted
When I remember God I moan;
When I meditate, my spirit faints.
Similarly, in Job 13, Job says,
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”
The Lord Welcomes Our Cries
I love this. The Lord welcomes our cries to him. He does not ask us to white-knuckle through difficult times and pretend that everything is fine. Our brains don’t really have a category for this, which makes this time even more difficult and uncomfortable.
God never asks us to mask our true fears and pains, he only asks us to bring them to Him and promises that He will be with us all along the way. And not only is it good to be honest about our fears, but we are even welcomed to cry out to God with them. Job says that no matter what he will trust God, but he will be honest with him that this is hard and confusing, and even that he is angry with God. God can take it. And he welcomes it.
In these days where we are reminded that we need Christ every hour, we can grieve and process our loss of perceived lordship over our lives. Thankfully, we are not left without a lord over our lives—we have the One True Lord. God has always been the Lord, and it is never too late to rest in His power and sovereignty. Psalm 131 is so dear to me because it says:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
God is near. If you are in Christ, He is in you. What sweet news! We can rest and trust in His nearness like a child with her mother. But again, sometimes children still cry as their mothers hold them. We can do this with God. He does not wait for us to pull it together and then come to Him. We can come to him in our fearful, tear-stained state, and he will wrap us in His arms. This is beautiful news.
Resting in Christ’s Lordship
In thinking about this newfound time, what does it look like to rest in the arms of the Father? Spending time in the quiet, I have already felt the great comfort of His nearness, but also the discomfort that comes from not having busyness as a bandaid for those things we would rather ignore. These are all being brought to the surface: doubts, loneliness, sin patterns, and struggles that are easy to hide when we busy ourselves. Now these are what we are left to sit and process. Again, God is there in the midst of our messiness. He loves to enter in. Go to God with your fears as well as your sin and messiness. You will find He is already right there in the midst of it all.
Psalm 77 ends with the psalmist saying:
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes I will remember your wonders of old,
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
In the midst of all the uncertainty, pain, loss, and discomfort, the Lord welcomes our crying out to Him. We can come as we are to his arms. He is our “Abba,” and we have the access that a toddler has with her mother. Let us use it! Cry out! Use this time to sit with your Father. Soak in His presence, and let him speak into that which has been left in the shadows. But also, we can rest as we remember God’s faithfulness of the past. We serve an unchanging God who is, by his very nature, Love. Since before the creation of the world, God the Father has been pouring out His love to His Son through His Spirit. He is love. And He is unchanging. God is at work—always. And we can bank on that.
In this time where control feels vaporous and fear seems more real and more real by the day, God has not lost control for an instant. While He is running the whole world, He also is so accessible to comfort us amidst our affliction and uncertainty. We are not lord over our lives, but thanks be to God that we have access to the One who is!
As the hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” says,
Thy Mercy Seat is open still
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend thy will
And wait beneath Thy feet
Friends, this time is weird and hard. We are vividly feeling our lack of control. While we feel many losses, we have never and will never lose the sovereignty of God and his constant presence with His people. Let us remember that we have access to Him. In this uncertain time, let us sit at His feet, and be comforted like little children, that He is never going anywhere. Though everything else seems to be changing, He never has and never will change. He is the Lord.