I am writing these words while quarantined.
My bedroom has become my new office and our basement card table my new work space. Here I sit trying to craft these words despite my daughters playing piano 19 feet down the hall (were our walls always this thin?).
Like many of you, my brain is still trying to wrap itself around these strange days. A month ago, I was counting down the days until I led 84 people on a tour of Israel. Twelve days ago, our ministry flew me into Israel early to begin filming before our group arrived. A few days later, official bans and travel restrictions meant the trip was over. When I flew home through Poland, just hours before President Trump’s official deadline, I arrived in a strange America, a land where customers fought over toilet paper like desperate parents used to brawl over Tickle Me Elmos.
But the worst was still to come. On the drive back to Wisconsin from Chicago, my wife and I discussed the pros and cons of me coming home, hugging my little girls, and enjoying the comfort of my own bed. And by “discussed” I mean that my wife was worried about my stop in Poland, and I threw a slight hissy fit about sleeping in someone else’s bed for another night. By the time I hung up, I was moodier than a Pharisee at a tax collector’s baptism. Frustration and fear had bullied faith right out of my heart.
Until I remembered my favorite three words.
Before I tell you what happened near the Illinois/Wisconsin border, can I ask how your faith is holding up these days? If you’re like 97% of the global population, your mind has probably been harassed by the 24/7 updates of infection cases, increased isolation, and financial mayhem.
I have a hunch that your fear, no matter what its form, boils down to a simple sentence—Will ________ be here?
In the days to come, will my health be here? Will my retirement be here? Will my paycheck be here? Will my spring graduation be here? Will my job be here? Will my big event be here? Will my rent money be here? Will my friends be here? Will my sanity be here (for quarantined parents with toddlers)?
Isn’t that sentence at the heart of our fears? We might miss out on something. Something we love. Something we desperately don’t want to lose.
And—don’t be mad at me—we might. The apostle Peter once wrote, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (1 Peter 1:24). All people are temporary. Your health will wither in one way or another to coronavirus or cancer or some other cause. All our glory is temporary. Our bank accounts, conferences, and companies will fall to one market factor or another.
In other words, there is no GOD-given guarantee that this situation will get better any time soon. I certainly pray that it does. I hope that you don’t get sick. I am asking GOD to spare us the suffering of extended isolation. But he has not promised such things. Perhaps that’s why we, even as Christians, get so afraid.
But that doesn’t mean we have to accept that fear. Instead, we can turn to my favorite three words, the tiny sentence that summarizes the Bible’s biggest and best promise. Ready for it?
GOD is here!
GOD—I left the caps lock on for a reason. I’m talking about the glorious, exalted, magnified, breathtaking GOD of the Bible. The GOD who is a billion times better than a coronavirus-free world. The GOD whose presence makes you happier than free airline vouchers and the open gates of Disney. The GOD who sparks more satisfaction than sleeping in your own bed and gathering at your local church.
Is—The eternal GOD always is, even in a coronavirus-infected world. Even a terrifying virus cannot undo the presence of Jesus. Our jobs “might be.” Our savings “hopefully will be.” But the Great I Am always IS. While we and our earthly glory whither and fall, GOD does not. He is eternal, everlasting, enduring, and remaining. His presence is the one thing that will never fail.
Here—Through faith in Jesus, this glorious GOD is right here with his people. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the guarantee that GOD is not over there with those people, the ones whose faith is so strong they are never afraid. No, GOD is here with us, despite the weakness of our faith and how quickly we forget his wonderful name.
No wonder David, running for his life in the desert of Judah, wrote, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:3-6).
David ended up with praise because he believed and was satisfied with the GOD whose love is better than anything else in life.
We can end up with praise too. Today, ask the Holy Spirit to burn into your heart two truths. First, that GOD is better than anything in life. Any good news you might receive related to your job or your family or your finances is .00001% as wonderful as being with GOD. Second, that Jesus made sure that GOD is here. With you. Always.
That’s what the Spirit brought to mind after my emotional meltdown with my wife. In the middle of my pity party, one of my favorite worship songs came on the radio (“Cornerstone” by Hillsong). The lyrics infected me like a gospel virus—Christ is our cornerstone. We who are weak are made strong in Christ’s love—his alone. Through life’s storms he is Lord of all.
The thought hit me—GOD is here. Even if I don’t sleep in my bed tonight, GOD is better than my bed. Even if I don’t hug my kids today, GOD is better than my kids. Even if I have to spend two weeks without kissing my bride, GOD is better than my bride. No matter what, GOD is here.
Through the Spirit’s work, I hallowed GOD’s name. I thought of him as glorious and good. And my fear turned to faith. My pouting turned to praise.
So, child of GOD, do not forget the truth upon which our faith rests, the very gift Jesus died to give you, the blessing that nothing in all of creation can touch or take away, the cornerstone of Christianity—
GOD is here!