Can you remember the first week of 2020? Maybe you were working hard on your New Year's resolution. Maybe you were taking time to make measurable goals for the coming year. Maybe you were dreaming about where you would go and what you would do. Maybe you were even booking tickets for an anniversary trip or a long-awaited vacation. The first week of 2020 appears a decade away when we look from this side of the coronavirus pandemic. Tickets were canceled, dreams unfulfilled, goals changed, and resolutions rewritten. COVID-19 has been a global interruption unlike any we have seen for decades.
This global pandemic is God's call to look up, not back.
Historians agree that key events like this change the course of history forever. After these world-changing moments, life is different. And this pandemic period will certainly go down in history as one of them. In January and February of 2020, we were humming along, continuing in the normal rhythms of life, busy with life's pleasures. Then this virus changed everything.
Suddenly, those of us who like to control our own environment were stuck in an out-of-control house. Those of us who find our identity in our work were limited in our ability to produce and succeed. Those of us who find purpose in where we go and who we are with were constrained to one location. This pandemic continues to threaten our control, identity, and purpose. And perhaps that is a good thing.
THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE
In 520 BC, the people of God were pursuing prosperity. They were rebuilding their lives and experiencing an economic restoration. Then, all of a sudden, they were hit by hopelessness. But in the midst of this great discouragement, God sent this word through the prophet Haggai: "'Be strong, all you people of the land,' declares the Lord, 'and work. For I am with you,' declares the Lord Almighty" (Haggai 2:4b).
Be strong. As you hear these words, you may be thinking, "God, how can I be strong when there is uncertainty is all around me? How can I be strong when I missed my graduation? How can I be strong when I've lost my job? How can I be strong when my retirement money has been decimated? What will I do if life never returns to normal?"
Read the second part of verse 4 again: "For I am with you." God's presence with us is our only true source of strength. This is the secret to encouragement. When you feel alone, when you experience doubt, when you are struggling to trust, hear the voice of the Lord saying, "I am with you. Be strong, be courageous, for I promise never to leave you or forsake you. I promise that I will be your strong tower in the day of battle. In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world."
As the crisis continues, God is saying to us, "Be strong, all you My people." Don't get nostalgic about the past—longing for pre-pandemic days. This kind of thinking will make you feel helpless, and this will leave you feeling frozen in place.
Remember, God knows how you feel. God knows what you need. God does not sugarcoat this crisis or the problems you are experiencing. But He is calling you today to look forward to a far greater future.
BEHOLD, YOUR KING
Listen to the concluding words of Haggai's prophecy:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: "In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory," says the Lord Almighty. (2:6-7)
The final, ultimate fulfillment of Haggai's prophecy will soon take place. Soon, the trumpet will sound, and the shout of the archangel will be heard as the Lord Himself descends to call His faithful home.
This global pandemic is God's call for His children to look up, not back. This is a time of preparation. The day of our redemption is drawing near. Soon and very soon, we will be gathered around the throne room of God singing, "Glory, glory, glory to the Lamb of God."
Jesus Christ, the elect of all nations, Savior of every tribe and tongue, is coming—maybe sooner than we think. This must lead us to ask ourselves: How does God want to use this pandemic in our lives? What is He preparing us for through this time? Do we really want to go back to January 2020 when we can move forward to January 2021?
How has the pandemic advanced God's work in and through your life? Has it untethered you from the world? Then do not return to your bonds. Has it revealed your lack of control? Then do not take up the illusion again. Has it unmasked your idols? Then don't rebuild their temples. Even now Christ is preparing a place for us. So let's use this time and these trials to deepen our faith, store up treasure in heaven, and proclaim His goodness until the day He comes again.