March 17, 2020 | by: 0 Comments|
In the midst of the turmoil that is currently taking place in our society, I thought I would take a moment to share a reminder with you from the book of Ecclesiastes. As the wise King Solomon ponders the meaning of all his effort and striving, he remarks:
"2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? 4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. 7 All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. 8 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already in the ages before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after." (Ecc. 1:2-11)
In times like this – with so much worry and even panic being expressed by the news and on social media – it can be very easy to wonder and even fear what the future holds. The Scripture tells us we can count on two things: change and constancy.
We can already feel the changes going on around us. More and more people are working from home. Major sports leagues have shutdown. Bars and restaurants are closing. The stock market is fluctuating wildly by the day. Even our own church canceled its services this past Sunday. It is only reasonable to expect that there are more changes yet to come. And yet, we have this comfort from King Solomon: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” In other words, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” We can know that whatever the future holds, it won’t be too terribly different than what we experience today. There is only one person who can stop the inevitable march of human history, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
I find it interesting what Solomon notes in vv. 10-11. He says: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” The truth is that as bad as what we’re experiencing now may seem, peoples and nations who have gone before us have often been forced to endure much worse – and still, they recovered, and life continued on as before. Stock markets have crashed and rebounded. Plagues have spread across nations, and they healed. We shouldn’t think that this time will be any different. There may be some changes that we have to endure in the short-term, but history tells us that, in the long-term, things will more or less return to normal. Fear will turn to comfort and even complacency as people grow to forget this pandemic just as we have forgotten the ones that have gone before us. And then, in 100 years when the next global pandemic hits, people will once again look back and remember and tell each other, “We’ve gone through this before and survived. Remember the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020?” just like we’re doing with the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 today.
This isn’t to say that there won’t be some permanent changes. Just yesterday, I was remembering how air travel changed after 9/11, and I was thinking to myself, “I wonder how the world will be different after this. What changes won’t be temporary? Which ones will stick?” It is probably safe to assume that some will stick. Even still, we don’t need to fear these changes. Indeed, I think we will find that many of these changes will be for the better – that we’ll even wonder afterward, “Why didn’t we start doing that sooner?”
This is my own personal hope for our church, as well. Clint and I are still working on how to approach our body life together with services suspended. If I’m being completely honest with you: the more I work on it, the more excited I get! I know that probably sounds strange at the moment, but already I can see how some of these changes may result in the more geographically distant members of our church to feel more included in the daily life of the church. Already I can see how our bonds together as a body may grow tighter through this crisis, not looser.
All to say, I am eager to see how God will use all of this change to further advance His kingdom and magnify the glory of His name. And, at the end of the day, this is our ultimate hope, right – that the same God who was in charge of history on January 1, 2020 is still reigning from His throne today on March 17? He knows the end from the beginning, and we can trust that He will work it all out according to His perfect plan. In the words of the apostle Paul:
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Eph. 3:20-21)
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