“This could not have happened at a worse time!”
That was the phrase I heard from someone recently regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Spring vacations, Easter services, senior proms, high school and college graduations, leadership conferences, business expos, sporting events, family get-togethers – all plans and schedules have fallen under the shadow of this season. We have cancelled, rescheduled, shuffled or postponed events again and again to accommodate ever-shifting requirements and needs. It is very likely that we will face more weeks of much of the same, and we will assess and adapt as many times as necessary.
Sometimes it can be difficult to back up from our calendars and see the big picture clearly. As hard as it might be to see past our temporary disruptions, God is not wringing his hands over this or any other crisis. Last week, as I was thinking about how I need to maintain a clear personal perspective on how God works, I was reminded of the following passage, from the book When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes.
God arranges for natural events to occur at specific times to further his ends. In other words, he plans coincidences.
In Athens, the apostle Paul “reasoned…in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). Some of those window-shoppers became believers. Yet the coincidence of their strolling the marketplace that week was no coincidence, for believers have been chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4)…
Your life is no exception to God’s delight in arranging coincidences. Consider your big Fourth-of-July picnic…The sun is warm, the grill’s working, the grass is mowed for softball, and everyone’s bringing a Jell-O salad. But unknown to you, God wants it to rain. He wants your friends to go home. He wants your brother-in-law Ed to help you hurry the grill into the garage where you two will stand leaning against the car, listening to the downpour. There you’ll get into a long conversation leading into spiritual things that will eventually lead to your brother-in-law’s conversion. Your brother-in-law’s been thinking about God lately but he’s a private man, hesitant to broach personal subjects, and needs an ideal time and setting.
How does God pull this off? Miracle rain out of nowhere? Something that baffles AccuWeather and brings the X-File’s team into investigate?
No. While it’s still warm in your backyard, five miles above the air is starting to cool. A miracle? No, a polar jet stream – bringing colder air from the northwest. Dry and heavy, this air will drop, shoving the steamy air in your back yard upward. Rising, it will cool, and its water vapor become clouds. About three miles up, those clouds will make ice crystals. Watch out. Ice crystals get bloated from eating up nearby water molecules – too fat to keep floating. They start falling as snow, but it’s summertime, and by the time they hit your infield it’s raining.
“Bye, Smiths! Bye, Wilsons! It was fun while it lasted. Sure, Ed, I could use some help carrying this thing.”
Yet not long ago the jet stream was two-hundred miles north. What shot it your way this particular weekend? Something that happened three days ago – a jet stream disturbance over the Canadian Rockies – a disturbance just right to send things your way. And to get this disturbance “just right”? A precise path of that jet stream over the mountains. And to achieve that precise path? A complicated sequence of atmospheric twists from the earth’s rotation and the proper Pacific Ocean water temperature a day earlier. Yet that temperature was being affected back in April – when the right amount of cloud-cover was letting in the right amount of sunlight. Six thousand miles away and four years earlier, a volcano spewed ashes into the atmosphere that affected last April’s cloud-cover. And eleven years before that the sun was gearing up for its next sunspot cycle that eventually affected last April’s Pacific temperature.
God’s been thinking about your brother-in-law for a long time.
Of course, sure-fire rain doesn’t guarantee that Ed will show up at the picnic. He had been looking forward to eighteen holes today. But his golfing buddy’s wife caught an ad this morning about the “Red, White & Blue Sale” at Harry’s Lawn & Garden, and immediately swore that her husband had seen his last hot meal until he gets himself over there and finally buys that lovely Comfo-Life lawn furniture that promised EASY ASSEMBLY WITHIN MINUTES. So today God planted thoughts in a wife’s mind and allowed advertisers to stretch the truth about assembly-required by about – oh, say, five and a half hours-in addition to lining up nature in advance. And God is doing the same with people all over the country who need a little rain, or sunshine, to further his work in their lives.
Totally natural. Mind-bogglingly complicated.
As I have revisited that passage over the years, I’m reminded to depend upon God’s timing, not my own. If worry is thinking that God will get it wrong, trust is knowing that he is always right. Don’t overlook evidence of God’s timing in your life. He is as much at work in the without-a-hitch plans as he is in the interruptions. Divine disruptions are sometimes needed to correct the best of human planning. His timing is perfect, even in a pandemic.
In fact, you’re reading this posting at just this moment for a specific reason. That’s no mistake; God knows you needed this reminder right about now.
We will trust God’s timing, even in difficulty. – Ecclesiastes 8:6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.
We will remember that every moment of life rests in God’s care. – Psalm 31:15a My times are in your hand…
In this season, we will focus upon God’s ultimate purpose for creation: to unite all things in Christ. – Ephesians 1:7-10 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
For some thoughts on how COVID-19 might change the consumer mindset of the American church, click here.