At the beginning of the year, I spoke to my family about the travel I was planning for 2020. I would visit my family on the West Coast, we as a family will move to Philadelphia after my retirement as the pastor of Central Baptist Church, I would go to the Baptist World Alliance Convention in Brazil, and I would go to Eastern Europe in October. The rest of my family members shared their travel plans with me.
Then the coronavirus came, and all my travel plans were cancelled. I did not buy a ticket to see my sisters in Seattle, the Baptist World Alliance has been rescheduled to 2021, all my seminary classes moved online, and we have been holding worship services on Facebook. My retirement looks very different now than it did in January, due to the volatility of the investment market.
As I watch various news programs on tv and read Christian and scientific news, I learned that April is going to be one of the most difficult months for New York City and New Jersey. Dr. Fauci reported the possibility of the USA having over 200,000 deaths from this virus. President Trump said it could be horrific. Someone remarked that we have only lost that many Americans during World War II. When one thinks of World War II, it was removed from us across the ocean; this war is invisible and right here. In World War II, most of the people who died were in a particular age bracket, but the coronavirus touches people from the cradle to the retirement homes. The fear is that none of us knows when the bell tolls—it could be for any one of us.
I remember a passage from the Scriptures written by James in chapter 4:13-15. It says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’”
One of the gifts that we have as human beings made in the image and likeness of God is our ability to reason. There are things that I can do and there are things that I cannot do. I have always been aware of the conclusion of that passage, but it has never been clearer than within the last few months. If the Lord wishes, I shall live and do the things that I can do. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I shall not do any stupid thing to tempt God to save me, but I also shall not worry about tomorrow. If God wills it, I will be here in 5 years, 15 years, and 25 years. If He wills the opposite, I will leave this earth before I put the period at the end of this sentence.
Thus, I shall trust in the Lord and remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. If God is clothing the lilies of the valley that are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more will he take of us who are his beloved children? (Matthew 6:30) In this Holy Week as we meditate on the suffering and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can say without any fear “Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8) That is the best assurance that we can have.