I wrote this letter at the beginning of April 2020 during the Covid-19 quarantine.
My situation is a bit unique to say in the least. Due to an unidentified illness, one that particularly affects my cognitive function, I have been quite ill for the past several years. Within the last 4 it’s been nearly impossible for me to maintain some of the most basic details of life. Because of this I have pretty much been housebound for years on end. The ways in which a great portion of the world is living today in this quarantine is how I have lived for four years: I have to get everything delivered, have to do everything online, all activities are mostly in my house, walks are the highlight of my day, and the waiting for it all to one day end.
As a Christian, this has been extremely difficult for me. I have battled great waves of fear, worry, and uncertainty. I have blamed myself, I’ve fretted under other people’s misguided assumptions and judgements. And I have truly seen all of who I was, at least all of who I thought I was, crumble into pieces before my eyes.
I have truly seen all of who I was, at least all of who I thought I was, crumble into pieces before my eyes.
So in light of the circumstances we are currently in today I can’t help but cast a smile upon God. Without any disrespect or disregard to the true sufferings and fears of so many people, the one thing I get from this time is that for the first time in almost 5 years, I’m finally not alone.
If God would heal me today (and the world was out of quarantine) the first place I’d go is to church. I long to be with my brothers and sisters again. To worship in the congregation. The fact that I have to worship and attend church through a live steam hasn’t been new to me. But it’s also been hard. Mostly because of my conscience—am I wrong to attend church this way? I know I can’t go to the grocery store much less any other place, yet I have wrestled greatly with the choices, or rather the lack thereof, for many years. As I am sure so many of my Christian brethren have wrestled with what’s right to do during this time.
Going through these few years has been so painful, so confusing, and so plagued with doubts and fears I have honestly wondered so many times if I’d make it through at all. And while I don’t know the answers to all of my questions, I’d like to share a few things that God has shown me during this time.
1. The furnace of affliction makes pure gold if we will join with God in it.
Part of the difficulty for us in this time is not becoming so preoccupied with what we fear that we fail to develop the daily practices that God is calling us to. God is intent upon His working in us, but often we are either preoccupied with our distractions or we are preoccupied with our fears. God has sent this great act of His hand to awaken us. To warn us. His warning to the world is of His coming judgement—to repent and live to the One True God. To the church His warning is that we realize that we need to prepare BEFOREhand for whatever trials or tribulations that are to come. And with that is His promise to us—if we are faithful to prepare then we WILL have the strength to endure.
Look at yourself right now, look at how shaken you are, how weak your faith may be, your questions, uncertainties, fears of death—these are all things that reside in you and yet have gone on unhindered and unchallenged by you. God is waking you up.
This time is a mercy. A mercy to the world and mercy to the church. To wake up, to take warning, and prepare.
God is waking you up.
Christ tells us in Luke 21:34-36 the heart of the issue here—that the day of judgement will come suddenly. And if we continue on as so so many of us have, in distraction, entertainment, and cares of this world, failing to prepare, then it will come upon us in great terror and fear, as it will come upon the world in this way. But for those who are faithful, who daily seek first the kingdom, who take Christ's warning and prepare, then we have the promise that we will have the strength to escape (escape the terror not the circumstance) and stand before the Son of God. This is what we are to be aiming for.
When I came into the circumstance that I am in, it was extremely sudden. Traumatically sudden. And this is how the judgement of God will be upon those who do not believe, and those who do believe but carry on in worldly ways.
The church today has become so preoccupied with such foolish things. We play little games with the great and holy things of God. This is a warning to each of us to wake up, to put off our foolish games and ways, and take Christ and His Word seriously. You can take that as a threat, but to those who know God's heart towards his children, they can see that it is a discipline of love, one to warn them TO spare them. “But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Cor 11:32)
This is a loving warning to the world to wake up from their rebellion and enmity with God, and to repent and believe in the Gospel of Christ. And to the church, it is a warning to be purified from all this worldliness that we’ve permitted. Let us please be faithful to God as He has been faithful to us to do this. Let us leave all times and seasons in His hand and focus upon obeying what Christ has set before us.
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
2. The church today is in desperate need of realizing their participation is a part of their sanctification.
We must learn how to use what God gives us for good rather than for evil. When God gives peace we use it for our leisure, when God gives turmoil we use it for mistrust and fear. In all places we must learn to use all circumstances for obedience to Christ. God has set our circumstances to work for our good, but we must remember to walk with God in faith in obedience, or it will not yield the fruit God is after. Many of us do not realize how deeply essential our obedience is, and that there is no faith or grace of God that doesn’t also work within us holiness and obedience.
God’s hand combats our pride, all the things we’ve trusted in besides Him, our selfishness, and our unloving hearts towards others. Our sin is truly confronted right now if we will allow God’s work to expose our sin both towards God and towards others.
3. This time also shows each of us what it’s like to suffer.
The fear and anxiety we feel right now? That is how so many people live everyday throughout this world: in great poverty, war torn countries, and those who live with great illnesses and/or disabilities. In many ways this fear confronts how small our little “acts of kindness” truly are. That they are not the love that we are called to live with. We have allowed ourselves to quiet our conscience with minor acts of morality rather than truly develop the hearts of love for others that Christ has called us all to.
Suffering, true suffering, has shown me how necessary real love is for others. And how so much of my “love” and other people's “love” has been nothing more than the “spare change” of a pathetic morality.
So much of my “love” and other people's “love” has been nothing more than the “spare change” of a pathetic morality.
During this time I have depended entirely upon my best friend to support me, but she has a different nationality than me. And this has put me in a situation of real anxiety because I depend upon her for practically everything right now. How do we balance our time in each other’s country, when will either one of us be told we’ll have to leave? If I was healthy, I could take the punches and roll with them. But now, I’m vulnerable. And oh how this vulnerability has caused me to truly feel for others who are vulnerable. I have never had more understanding for how so so many immigrants must feel—that fear. Or for so many disabled people who every day feel so vulnerable to the world around them. I had never truly loved these people. I might have been nice to them, but I never loved them. I never entered into their lives or situations. That’s what real love is. Christ came into this world, He entered into our sufferings. He truly loved us and we are called to love others in the same way.
4. And with that, this time shows us how small our love is for Christ and His church.
We all know that we are called to love God and lay down our lives for Him and His church, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16) Yet somehow, day after day, we allow this lovelessness to continue in us. When the truth is that we will not have these things, this love, if we do not press on towards it. Time does not cause us to arrive at this destination, obedience and devotion to Christ does. Many of us are trusting in the idea that growth is purely a byproduct of time and because of this we fail to press in and be conformed to the image of Christ.
5. This time shows us how similar we are to the world.
Jesus says in Luke 6:32, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” There is a great teaching in this and that is that we are often far too convinced of our own little morality. When the truth is that we are blinded to the fact that we’re hardly more moral, good, kind, patient than the most moral people of the world. We don’t see this because we don’t want to see this, because we are very convinced about ourselves and we like the image of who we think we are. But a great portion of the morality of Christians today is based around the world’s morality, and is no more generous, pure, holy, and loving than what a person of the world does. This is a great rebuke to just how fleshly and worldly we are living—all while self-deceptively believing we are truly moral or good.
One of the greatest shocks to me during this time was seeing how I had been killing myself over my own little ideas and morals, but I had not been killing myself for Christ. And because of this, all that I had been doing was a waste. All my business, hurry, and self-effort were nothing because I had been playing by my own rules rather than God’s. And when God pulled back the layers more and more, I saw how my morality was based upon myself—I did “good” for selfish reasons rather than for God. And when we live in any morality for ourselves rather than for God, we are behaving no differently than unredeemed mankind, we just can’t see it.
When we become enamored with the idealisms of the world we no longer are serving Christ. These things look good and right to us, but their end is death! (Prov 14:12) If we want to do more than imagine that we are different from the world, then we must obey only Christ.
6. This time shows many of us how wrong we are for all our self-pity. Because it shows us how all of mankind is in this fallen world, not just us.
There is a deep self-pity that goes on in many of our societies that is virtually unchecked, if at all. While our pain is valid, our self-entitlement in it isn’t. Many people try to one-up each other with success, money, or thinking they’re more enlightened, but self pity has been permitted in our culture, and we do not recognize just how entitled and selfish it is.
While our pain is valid, our self-entitlement in it isn’t.
Self pity is a lie that we’re anything more than others and more than God has truly given, only rather than by success or status we do this by our circumstances and experiences—rather than by “highs” we do this by “lows”. What we must realize is that EVERY person who will be in heaven is a person who has walked a whole life through this world. And that means that none of us has the right to think ourselves more than others either in feeling overly sorry for ourselves OR in failing to enter into the suffering and work that everyone else, all the other saints, have walked in. How dare we try to spare ourselves when Christ didn’t spare Himself.
Part of the problem with this is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be taught that it’s good to be overly preoccupied with our feelings and self-exploration. We have permitted our self-indulgence to continue to exist by merely channeling it through different means.
7. We learn from this that all the promises of Christ are true, even the promise from Him that we will suffer in this life.
It’s not uncommon for us to try and believe that God’s protection means that we will be spared from suffering in this life. But Christ prepares us and warns us that we will suffer (Matt 10:16-25). We live in a fallen world, but we don’t accept this. And because we do not accept this and gird ourselves with patience and forbearance, we believe that God has failed us in every place we are hurt. The sad truth is that when we do suffer as God tells us that we will, we doubt God and mistrust Him. In reality it is our theology that is wrong, not His Word.
Many of us would imagine that we are a million miles away from believing in the prosperity gospel, when in truth we are only so far away from it as we do not desire a fancy car or mansion, we merely expect a different type of health, wealth, and happiness. “Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man.” - Oswald Chambers
Back in Luke 21, Christ says, “For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Suffering comes upon all of us; our place is in learning how to prepare to face suffering, not dream that we will escape it. To be prepared for suffering is our escape: “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
8. This time also shows us how terrifying God truly is.
For all that we have suffered in this life there is no suffering or fear greater than that which can come from God. Just one drop from God’s hand of suffering has the entire world on its knees. This should awaken us out of our self pity and cause us to see just how true and horrible hell really is. Causing us to be watchful of our own souls and truly concerned for the souls of others.
And it should cause us to realize that there is still no suffering in this life that can truly compare to the suffering that God can cause. Part of my suffering during these past few years has been experiencing the waves of God’s terrors. Don’t think that can happen to a saved, born again Christian? Go read Psalm 88.
Part of what I have learned from tasting the cup of God’s wrath is that for all the pains I have gone through in this life, I had never, truly, experienced suffering until I suffered from God’s hand. As horrible as that experience was, it woke me up to the truth of just how unfaithful I had been to God by practically denying (though I knew better to say it) God’s wrath. How wrong we are as a church to push down God’s wrath with notions of His love, as if they are in contradiction. And just how truly real hell is. How desperate we must be for the souls of others. If God had me drink just one thimble full of His wrath, how horrid is an ocean?
The terror of God is truly real, and of all mercies, to be spared from God’s wrath is the highest. This should teach us patience in what God does permit us to suffer, and humble trust and submission to Him.
9. Suffering often combats our atheistic attitudes that believe in man’s power and deny God’s sovereignty.
Often we theoretically believe in God’s sovereignty but we believe more in our pride and skepticism than in the truth. We may embrace the truth of God’s sovereignty in our minds and with our lips, but day after day we live our own self-willed lives, thereby denying the truth of God’s sovereignty by what we show we believe of human effort. We do not understand how our attempts at living our own self-determined lives is proof of our pride and unbelief in God’s sovereignty.
When we read the account of God humbling King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, the single reason God states for doing so is: “Till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will… That you know that Heaven rules.” (v 25-26) God is intent upon destroying our pride, and much of our pride resides in what we believe about our own strength, rather than truly bowing to the sovereignty of God. At times it can take a strong hand of suffering from God to cause us to learn the truth about ourselves and the truth about God: “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:9)
We see this pride in the ideas of modern skepticism that say the events of earth are purely cause-and-effects of the laws of nature. We do not believe that God rules all things, we think that man does and that what is found to be out of his control is only “nature” or “the universe”.
We see God’s work and believe His Word, and yet we still don’t truly believe in and bow to His sovereignty. Often, it is only when we are brought up against impossible circumstances will we finally give up our beliefs in our own power and man’s power, or science's power, idealism’s power, or humanitarianism’s power, and realize that it is only God who is ruling and running all things in this earth. He alone is “the King of Heaven” (v 37).
Part of the terror we come to see is that God rules all things and “none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” (v 35) God is all powerful, and with Him alone is the control and power of all things. God intends for suffering to cause us to lose the belief of our own power while gaining the belief of God’s sovereignty.
10. God purposes our suffering in order to wean us from our love for the world.
What we often don’t realize is that much of our suffering comes because of attachment we have to the world and our expectations that we have in it.
God sets the Christian straight right from the beginning, to not put our heart on the things of this world, to have our treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19-21), but we quite often ignore this correction from the Lord. We try to have a little treasure on this earth. And the problem for many of us is what we expect to get out of this life. We are completely surrounded by a culture that just about shouts at the top of its lungs to live your best life, to follow your dreams, and that fulfilling them is your success and happiness. The trouble comes for the believer when they do not separate from the world in the heart of these things, but merely try to walk in them in a more “moral” way.
We try to have a little treasure on this earth. And the problem for many of us is what we expect to get out of this life.
We continue to think that friendship with the world is “ministry” that following our “dreams” and desires is not of the self-will that God calls us to die to, and worse than all of this, we begin to truly expect that God would fulfill these things for us.
We are actually called to put the Kingdom first, to live for heaven, to hold all things in this life with a loose grip, and live in submission to God’s will, not our own. This isn’t metaphorical or mythical, it’s the truth and path of the Christian life.
Often God allows much suffering into our lives because it awakens us to our sin and it awakens us to the truth of our worldliness. How we continue to try and have the world and God, and do not forsake the world for God. How many times we lie to ourselves, to others, and to God, covering up our selfish ambitions, worldly friendships, lazy devotions, half-hearted love as “grace” or “ministry”. We continue to permit what God calls evil all while often under the guise of calling evil good. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
God seeks to awaken His church, to call them to right obedience and duty. To shake everything that can be shaken and thereby show just how worthless or fragile it is. We may not yet perceive the truth of all of this, but our place is to know that God has moved His hand, that He has spoken, and that for us, it is our place to know this, and to seek God where He has spoken. To press in to listen, to hear, and to obey. To measure our lives and see if we are obeying and believing as God directs us to.
11. The last thing that I’ll share is that this time teaches us that we still are responsible for how we live our lives.
The whole book of Ecclesiastes closes with these two verses: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl 12:13-14)
These are the verses that we should shape our lives around. That we are called to live in obedience to God alone, not to our own ideas or morality, but His. And from that, we all must realize that we will all still give an account for how we live this life.
Many of us imagine that we will not still give an account for our lives, but this is just not true. In Romans 14:12 Paul says, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Or again in Matt 16:27 Jesus says, “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” And again He says in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.”
Many of us are in need of being awoken to the truth that while we are saved by grace and saved from God’s judgement, God still will require us to give an account for what we have done in this life “whether good or evil”—we will reap what we sow. God is just.
Our failure to believe this has many of us believing that our idleness is “grace”, and it will be very sore if not terrifying to face Christ on that day for those who permit themselves to live in this way.
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These are a few of the lessons that God has taught me during these years of being relatively housebound. His rod is faithful, and while we may not understand or perceive why He is doing this, His promise to us is always that He has a great reason for it. The sad truth is that often we are hardened against God’s hand because we like where we are and we don’t want to change. We don’t want to lose the selves, the little identities and ideas we have about ourselves, and truly allow God to conform us to His will.
We have much to be busy with. And I pray that when God removes this time and removes this quarantine that we would realize the danger of merely falling back into our old ways. That is my single greatest fear for when, Lord willing, God decides to deliver me from all of this. The world will continue on, it will go back to its old ways like a dog to vomit. But we must take this warning, this wonderful grace of the Almighty God, and press on for true faith and true obedience. Pray for one another, that God would open our eyes and our hearts to see all that He desires for us to be in His Son.
In many ways it is an uphill battle. But our goal must be holiness and not pleasing ourselves.
This is not going to be easy work, your flesh will try to cause the light and the revelation you have now to fade. In many ways it is an uphill battle. But our goal must be holiness and not pleasing ourselves. There will be many days of wrestling and the road is HARD and narrow, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:14) While our flesh may continue to resist God, the question to all of us is if we are going to obey it or if we are going to obey God. So remember to fight as you remember to rest in Christ. May God ever keep us and may we become a generation that is faithful and true to Him.