Last week I read about a group of people who went on a rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for 25 days, and during that time they were completely cut off from the outside world without cell phone or internet coverage. When they emerged from the Grand Canyon a week ago, they were shocked to learn how much the world had changed since they began their rafting expedition. Whole cities were in lockdown, professional sports were suspended, the stock market was plummeting, and the coronavirus pandemic had enveloped the entire world. It felt to them like they had been dropped into a science fiction movie.
Perhaps you are reeling from the news of the past few weeks, too, or maybe you’re going stir crazy with cabin fever while sheltering in place. That’s an interesting phrase – sheltering in place. I got to thinking about this phrase, and it led me to two passages in Scripture.
In Psalm 91 the psalmist writes, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Ps. 91:1,2). And in Revelation 7 we read, “Then one of the elders asked me, “’These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence’” (Rev. 7:13-15).
As you and I shelter in place, let’s remember that our shelter is actually the Lord our God. He is our true shelter in times of trouble, and the best way to shelter in place is to find refuge underneath His everlasting arms. We don’t need to be afraid as we think about the future. We don’t need to be anxious about the pandemic. God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians the apostle urges the Christians to whom he was writing to “be anxious for nothing but in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
Paul says don’t be anxious about anything. Don’t be anxious about a pandemic, a recession, your kids being out of school, or being furloughed at work. All these things come under the definition of “anything.” And Paul adds that in everything, talk to God about your concerns and ask the Lord to give you peace about the whole situation. And he adds, that we need to be thankful when we’re laying out the concerns of our hearts before the Lord.
Dallas Willard said there is a difference between having a peaceful feeling and being a peace-filled person. A peaceful feeling is usually circumstantial, but being a peace-filled person is a condition, an orientation, a capacity, and a state of being. I need to let go of my need for a feeling of peace in order to become a person of peace.
The fact of the matter is you can’t quarantine Jesus. They tried to do it 2,000 years ago, and they put Him in a tomb and rolled a stone in front of it. But it couldn’t hold Him. And this pandemic can’t hold Christ either. God is at work in this global crisis, and He wants the church to join Him on the work of mission in which He is engaged.
I think as this crisis plays out, we’re going to have a unique opportunity to tell others about Jesus and to be the hands and feet of Christ in serving those in need. I’m excited for our future regardless of how bleak the economic fallout may end up being or how devastating the coronavirus itself turns out to be. The stars shine brightest when the night is darkest. It’s our time to shine for Christ as the light of the world.