It is Ok to Mourn: Good Friday and COVID-19

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We should mourn this Good Friday. The coronavirus has enveloped the globe in a cloud of black death. It has also reached into the church and overturned her basket of well-planned Easter events, sending Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Sunday morning services wobbling across the floor to cancelation. When the glorious Easter sunrise fills the horizon this Sunday, there will be no loud congregational singing, giddy children, or sweet hugs of friendship circulating though our church. We will remain home, isolated from friends. Though the world has suffered under the curse of sin for thousands of years, the isolation of holy week brings the sorrow of sin into our souls anew. For the first time in years, many of our hearts feel the words of Psalm 22:1 that Jesus screamed on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

During such times of profound brokenness, Christians should run to the Lord. Like the great King David who faced many piercing trials, Christians should confess their anguish to God. They should ask God,

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day (Ps 13:1-2a)?

The Coronavirus’s ability to disrupt the church calendar should serve as a powerful reminder of how broken our world is and of how much we need Jesus. We should allow the cancellation of our services to lead our hearts to humble and persistent cries for deliverance. “O you my help, come quickly to my aid! (Ps 22:19),” The Coronavirus is a problem of divine proportions than can only be solved by a divine antidote.

The antidote will come. The message of Good Friday is that Jesus conquers sin and death. For thousands of years, human culture has been trying to find antidotes to the brokenness of the world through education, feeding programs, and medicine. All of human efforts have failed. Men and women remain tied to pride, greed, lust, and selfishness. Sin is a problem of cosmic proportions that no person, nation, or culture can conquer. Yet, Jesus conquered it on the cross. He was forsaken by God so that we might be welcomed into heaven. Jesus died for our sins and then rose again on the third day to prove he had delivered his children from sin. Those who repent and believe can follow Jesus to love, generosity, and selflessness. But to get to salvation, men and women must wrestle with their brokenness. They must realize they are sinners before they can cry out for a savior and embrace his salvation. Only those who know they are drowning will let the lifeguard rescue them.

The pattern of Good Friday serves as a template for the Church as she encounters new symptoms of sin and death in the world. To find relief from this world, we must admit that we suffer and need God’s help. “Save me from the mouth of the lion (Ps. 22:21a).” When we take our grieving souls to God, we find deliverance. “You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen (Ps. 22:21b)!” Friends, the Coronavirus is a cosmic problem that God will recuse us from.

While we wait for the virus to end, many of us will become more aware of how much we miss the gathered body of Christ. We will be tempted to find unscriptural antidotes for our pain. Though we should embrace biblical forms of encouragement, we must resist the urge to drink the hyssop, an ancient pain reliever, that was offered to Jesus on the cross. (For more on my view of online church click here). If we turn to virtual Lord’s Supper, sermon binge watching, and zoom calls to treat our feelings of loneliness, we will not solve our sorrows for we still remain physically apart from our brothers and sisters We can touch the screen, but we cannot touch the face on the screen. If we try to fix our sorrows through human ingenuity, we will commit the mistake of the neglected spouse who copes with her distant marriage through romance novels. She may feel less pain while reading them. But when the chapters end, her marriage problems remain, and her heart has moved further away from her husband. The believer who feels neglected by God does not need a drive-in Easter service, he needs divine deliverance. He needs God to mercifully end the COVDI-19 crisis. If he fails to cry out to the Father as David and Jesus did because he is drinking grape juice and eating Ritz crackers in his home, he will neglect the biblical means of hope: prayer. He will find himself further from God. Just as those who fast allow hunger pains to drive them to pray, Christians should allow the pain of missed hugs, Lord’s Supper celebrations, congregational singing, public Scripture readings, and preached sermons to drive them to their knees in prayer. Instead trying to mitigate our sorrow through increased Wi-Fi bandwidth and FM transmitters, we need to join Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and pour out our prayers of lament to the Father for he alone can help us.

If there ever was a religion that made sense of our lonely world and that gave us a space to mourn while we await salvation, it is Christianity. Christians have both the sorrow of the cross and the joy of the empty tomb. We can mourn our loneliness while we wait for our salvation from COVID-19.

The Power of Biblical Thinking

Reeling from the suicides of Fashion Designer Kate Spade and Chef Anthony Bourdain, the American public is again discussing pain, sorrow, and depression. We all recognize that life is marred by hurt and sadness. Even fame and fortune cannot stave off discouragement, sorrow, and hopelessness.

And sorrow and suffering are not just subjects found in that afflict those outside the church. Both evils regularly afflict Christians. The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon was frequently attacked by depression as he struggled with gout, rheumatism, and neuritis,  as he was attacked by the media and other pastors, and as he endured a daunting daily schedule. Once after a prankster caused a stampede at his church that result in the deaths of seven people, Spurgeon fell into a deep depression. His wife said, “My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent, that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.”

As the late preacher R.C. Sproul said,

The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God.

Christians suffer all kinds of hardships including, sickness, persecution, hunger, rejection, and even death. And as we bump against the hardships of life and ministry, we can be tempted to lose hope. We can become tempted to stay in bed, to stop going to class and to stop attending church. What do we do when those moments come? What do we do when reason itself seems to be replaced we depression, sadness, and hopelessness? How do we get back to the brightness of the noon day?

We remember! Specifically we:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David!

Paul tells his mentee in the faith, Timothy, to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul tells Timothy that the key to the Christian life is found in Biblical thinking. As Timothy constantly and regularly dwells on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and on Jesus humanity, he will find the power to suffer well.

Paul mentions Jesus resurrection, because it is the crux of our faith, the centerpiece of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 says,

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Christ resurrection is a matter of first importance. Because Christ is alive, death is conquered and salvation is possible. We have every reason to hope as Paul writes later in verse 11b-12a, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. “

The hope of the Christian life begins and ends with the resurrection. Pastor C.J. Mahaney rightfully notes, “Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish.”  Because Christ lives, we too will live. We will live in eternity with him. We will once again walk and commune with God like Adam and Eve did, lacking shame and enjoying close, intimate, and unbroken fellowship with our God.

The-Power-of-Biblical-ThinkingAnd we also find our hope for tomorrow. Because Christ lives, we know we can gain victory over our sin. We will find the brightness of the noonday sun. We will be able to overcome lust, pride, depression, anger, and covetousness. Our sin and our failures and our sorrow over our failures are not the end of our story. Christ is alive. And we are alive in Christ. The same power the brought Christ to life is the same power that guarantees our victory over today’s trials and the guarantees the glorious of the next life. When we feel down and sorrowful, we should head Paul’s advice and remember the resurrected Jesus.

And we should remember that Jesus is the offspring of David. Jesus is fully man. He suffered like you and I have suffered. He was tempted just like you and I have been and will be. Jesus understands our frailty. And he is not a demanding father who requires  us to do the impossible in our own strength. He is not the over zealous Little-Coach who expects his kids to lead the team in home runs, failing to notice that his little guy is 3’5″ and weighs only 55 lbs. Our God is a compassionate savior who understands and empathizes with our weakness and struggles. Hebrews 4:15-16 states,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Often the very shame of having to admit to God that we struggle drives us deeper into despair. After all why would God help someone as messed up as me? Yet He does! He delights in helping us when we are hopeless. God does not demand that we find hope apart from us and then show up to his throne looking all prime an proper. God invites us to come to him when we feel like staying in bed, when we try to avoid every other human being, and when we lock ourselves away in our room. He invites us to come to him when we look more like a homeless person than a doctor, college student, or well-organized mom. He does not expect us to approach Him in strength. Rather he gives grace and help to us in our time of need. He invites the weak to come to him for strength.  Spurgeon rightfully found great hope in the humanity of Christ once saying,

As the mother feels with the weakness of her babe, so does Jesus feel with the poorest, saddest, and weakest of his chosen.

Christ cares deeply about his hurting and suffering children and freely offers to help all.

Remember that Christ is the seed of David. Remember he does not hand us punishment but mercy and grace in our time of need. Stop pretending to be alright and ask God for help. He will give it to us. And we know he can liberate us from our sorrow for he has conquered death. He reigns and will we reign with Him!

If you feel down today, if you feel depressed, and if you feel overcome by sorrow, reflect upon the risen Lord, the seed of David. Daily fight to remember all that Christ did on the cross and remember Christ’s compassion. Think biblically and the light of the noonday will come. Christ, the seed of David, is risen. Do you remember?

Why’s Is Parenting God’s Blessings So Hard?

kids hard blogFew things beat being greeted by the sound of my son’s, “Hi..Da.da.”  And it is impossible to describe the joy that came with seeing my baby girl’s first smile. Kids truly are a blessing from the Lord. As Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Quite naturally, we should long for our homes and street to be filled with playful little faces (Zech 8:5).

But at the same time, having little ones can in the home can be the ultimate challenge. They wake up all night long. They poop on our clothes. And they throw temper tantrums at the most embarrassing moments. In short, kids are a lot of work. And most every parent needs time away from their little loved ones to maintain their sanity.

The Great Dilemma

And so we face a dilemma. On the one hand, we love being parents. On the other hand, we can’t wait to get away from them. Talk to us one day, and we are ready to compete with the size of the Duggar family. Talk to us the next day, and we want to send all our one kids to boarding school in Switzerland. Why are God’s blessing so hard to parent?

Why is Parenting Hard?

The short answer is sin. Kids are a blessing. But the whole process of child rearing is tainted by sin. Think back to Genesis 3. Part of the sin’s curse is pain in childbearing. As God said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). The scriptures anticipate that children can and often do bring pain to their parents as they grow up (Deut. 21:18-21; Prov. 17:25). If kids were naturally obedient, there would be no need for the 5th commandment. But it exists because kids kids hard blogapart from God’s saving grace will not want to obey their parents.  

So can we really consider kids to be a blessing? Yes. But as with all of God’s good gifts, kids are infected by sin. As a result, that which was originally intended to bring only blessing can now bring sorrow. Kids can cause pain, suffering, and sleepless nights. And kids are not the only blessing that has been turned on its head.

Think about wealth. Often wealth is a sign of divine blessing and favor (Deut. 28 1-8). But because of our sinful hearts, money and riches can lead us away from God. Wealth can make us self-sufficient, prideful, and standoffish. Wealth can spawn a ton of sinful habits. As Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

What Do We Do?

So what do we do? Do we pretend that parenting is a cakewalk? Do we write off kids a burden and go travel the globe?

Well, we keep a biblical perspective. We count kids as divine blessings. One of the greatest honors we can get on earth is godly children (Prov. 23:24). But at the same time, we can confess that parenting is hard. And when we do, we aren’t bashing our kids. Nor are we denying the word of God. We are simply affirming that we live in a fallen world. We are affirming the reality that sickness, our kids’ hearts, and our hearts make parenting hard. And we are affirming our longing for the true rest that comes when Christ returns. And as we wait for that day, we have hope. The Holy Spirit is working in us to give us the wisdom, the strength, and the fortitude to parent well. We are not alone. God will deliver us! His grace is sufficient!

So can parenting be both the best thing ever and the worst thing ever? Yes. Kids are both blessing and sinners.