by Vinnie MacIsaac | 20 March 2020 |
The 80’s band R.E.M. sang “It’s the end of the world as we know it—and I feel fine.” That lyric has been stuck in my head since the COVID-19 story broke. I don’t know when you’ll be reading this, but I wrote it four days before my 50th birthday! What a way to enter my second half-century!
I don’t know when the world will really end, but I do know that this piece will be read over and over into the future, because it is not the end of the world—yet.
Ironically, R.E.M. also sang this song: “That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.” And that also describes what some people are doing.
Some are paralyzed by fear. They fear this could be the end of the world. And frankly, as I watch whole nations come to their knees and go into lockdown mode, I really can’t blame them for being afraid.
Some appear to be in it for themselves. Seriously, what is it with the toilet paper hoarding? Others are walking around in homemade hazmat suits of rubber gloves, coats and facemasks.
Others dove off the stupid and reckless cliff of believing it is all a conspiracy, or some kind of political trick one side is playing on the other. This line of reason perhaps bothers me the most, because it is careless, and people buying into this point of view are putting real lives at risk. I just want to scream at them to shut up before they get someone they know killed! (Here’s a clue: if your political bias starts putting people at risk, it is not your political party but you who are unhinged!)
Lastly, there are those who use this as an excuse to be a racist. (The crisis didn’t make them racists. Such people were always racist but this was their chance to do it without being called out.) No, this is not a Chinese or Asian disease; it is a human global disease. One on-air TV morning news show actually had the gall to demand an apology from China!
How We Respond
While it is not the end of the world, it is terrifying. And the way people are responding right now, as I write this, is exactly the way they will respond when the world really does face an end-time crisis before Jesus returns.
Stop and evaluate your response. Jesus is calling you to use this moment to check yourself. Ask yourself: if this is how I act now, how will I deal with the grand end of the world as described in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and the books of Daniel and Revelation? Just as a high fever is a serious sign of COVID-19, a high unhinged emotional fever is a sign of a spiritual virus. Jesus is giving you a chance to turn to Him and learn to overcome.
Remember, the Apostle Paul says that those who can’t control their outbursts—who are hateful and selfish—are in serious danger of losing out on the kingdom. But those who have love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness are living in the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-22).
God is calling you to be a non-anxious presence. That means living in the Christian reality that God is sovereign. Understanding that He is God and accepting we are not. And if we are not God we don’t need to control everything, understand everything, and or even to ascribe blame to everything because God’s got it. How He ultimately deals with it is His.
The serenity prayer (sometimes ascribed to Reinhold Niebuhr) describes a non-anxious presence this way:
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Do Not Be Anxious
This is a good time to repray that. I mean it. Read it again. Pray it for yourself. As a Christian, you understand that this world is going to go literally nuts before it ends. But you are not called to go nuts with it! You are called to be a light in the darkness of madness, and to do that God needs you in control. The only way you can be in control when the sky is falling is to trust God and to submit to running the world and your life better than you can.
The Apostle Paul makes this process clear,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
In one sense, it is the end of the world as we know it. The world is changing. It’s winding down, and COVID-19 is evidence of that. When is the final end? I don’t know. But when it really is the end of the world, I don’t want you to feel fine. I want you to feel faith, because you walk in the non-anxious presence that Jesus has called you to. Jesus died with the words, “Father, into your hands I commend My spirit.” Can you put this, and every crisis you face, into the loving hands of your Father in Heaven? Does not the death and resurrection of Jesus teach you that your Heavenly Father can make you rise up from anything that touches you?
When it is the end of the world as we know it, I want to feel faith! What about you?