By: Bill Wattenbarger
Yet another article about coping with uncertainty in a nation and community in turmoil and the personal challenges it brings. From COVID 19 to politics, these are scary times.
So how are we to cope? The world, even some faith-leadership, is overflowing with counsel.
Some counsel “trust that God is in control.” But is He really? How does that work exactly? Has he picked the winners and losers? How can that be when so much of what is going on is patently ungodly. Can God be accountable for a world gone mad? When pandemics strike, whatever that means, is God responsible for the real ravages of disease or for the usurpation of power in a “crisis,” wresting control from individuals in a god-like pretense of caring for the vulnerable? Which is worse, a virus or prolonged confinement, unemployment and separation from loved ones? In times like these, to say God is in control is not very flattering to God. Pain and suffering has long been a wedge between experience and faith.
Some counsel positive thinking. After all, doesn’t Paul urge a renewing of mind, a willful focus on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy? Are we to ignore the evil that rules and soften our fears and anxiety with our desire for nicer things? Since we seem helpless to change the calamity around us, why not just withdraw and think happy thoughts? At least we may feel better. Positive thinking has long been a tangent from unhappy realities.
Some counsel diversion. In our day there are endless distractions ranging from mindless movies, to hobbies, to social media, to pornography and beyond. Perhaps this is unavoidable. After all, there is only so much one can take. It does not change anything of course but it may suspend the unthinkable, at least until we stop the diversion and then the old dread creeps back in. Even religion can provide the needed distraction. Religious diversion has long been an escape from the real evil in the world – and short-lived.
Some even counsel detachment. We can decide to have nothing to do with the evil around us and to build for ourselves an independent reality. Destiny beckons. We can create our own vision of what our life is about and pursue the dream. We can focus on the development of our own talents and potential, the world be damned. Self-enrichment has long been an enticing road to utopia.
What alternative counsel is there? Since I brought it up, it is mine to answer.
God is not in charge of evil, yet, but he is in charge of redemption and deliverance. Bad things happen, some by nature, some by Evil and some by the choices of mankind. God has acted in history and eternity to position and equip us with the authority and the means to contend with evil. He can make all things serve His righteous intentions through His beloved, who are called to his purposes. Where evil arises, we are sent to the battle as conquerors, not victims of a God who is hapless against evil. The worse things get, the more work is ours to do. Yes God has His will, evil is its contrary and we are God’s response. God is in charge – of us.
As we go, we will experience great rejection, abuse, sadness, grief and even “defeat.” These do not mean that God’s battle is lost. Salvation requires crucifixion. We can surrender all this to Him who will, by His presence in our hearts, supply His fruit (love, joy, peace …). The world cannot deny us this! It comes when the Holy Spirit enters in. This is the day the Lord has made and we can rejoice in it. Thank God for the trials and tribulations which strengthen us for the fight.
And as we go, God will give us time for trusting, optimism, diversion and detachment. But these serve only as provision and equipping for the endless resistance to evil, never to escape the work itself.
This is not idle, Pollyanna, trite or trivial. This is precisely the metric by which we know we are sent of God: the world will condemn. If the world does not feel our presence then we count for nothing. Ease and comfort is never a measure of calling. They cannot be.
The world, as it is, awaits. If God does not compromise with evil then neither can we. Woe to those who call good evil and evil good. This is how we cope: we must answer the call. When God says “go” we cannot say “no.”