a thought for the day

March 23, 2020

“How do you enjoy life?”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Are any of you feeling a bit discouraged today? The weather outside the window is a bit dreary. Rain drops pelt the window with a steady pitter-patter-pitter-patter. The distant, sporadic sound of cars driving on wet roads fade in and out. The colors of the growing, new grass and budding trees are dulled by the rainy, grey skies. A damp mood blankets the visible community. All that the eye sees offers little in the way of encouragement, excitement or energy. Another “work” week has begun. Many of us still struggle to adjust to the awkwardness of working from home - surrounded by distractions (children, pets, Netflix, junk food, etc…) and a less than ideal work environment (working on a little laptop screen instead of the triple monitor set up at the office!). For some, you may feel even more discouraged today because you don’t have much to do and you are uncertain about your job security. You are anxious because you don’t know how long you may employed. Others of you may feel beyond discouraged, even despondent and despairing, because you got laid off due to the Coronavirus lockdown and you have no income, or because you or someone you know have contracted the Coronavirus or because you or someone you love serves on the front lines of the battle against the Coronavirus - or maybe, “all of the above.” The struggle to stay above water mentally, emotionally and spiritually nowadays is all too real for many of you. Recently, a well known, successful NYC photographer, seemingly overcome by anxiety over the coronavirus and the pressures of isolation caused by the lockdown, left a simple note asking a simple question, “How do you enjoy life?” before jumping to his death from his 16th floor apartment.

So, “how do you enjoy life” today? Mondays are usually hard enough - a difficult day on which to gain momentum and find traction for the work week ahead. The coronavirus outbreak makes a difficult day even more so. If you are feeling the “Monday morning blues” today, please, “do not lose heart” because there is real hope you can enjoy your life now and more so, real hope to enjoy your eternal life to come!

Presently, though you may feel like life is just wasting away - precious time and opportunities slipping through your fingers like the hourglass sand, God still works in you. You may be asking yourself, “What do you mean that God is present and still working in me today? Where is God in all this? How could God allow something like this to happen to me and the ones I love?” 

No one can speak for God, but God does speak for himself. God does not just hang around for the good times and run away during the bad times. God is God during all times, in all situations and all places. So, yes, God is present with you. The suffering, hardship and death brought on by COVID-19 is no different from the suffering, hardship and death brought on by war, societal violence, government corruption, other diseases and illnesses. They are all the consequences of living in a world that is fallen and under the curse of sin. The world is full of “weeds, thistles” and death because of sin. Until sin with its cursed effects is eradicated, we as a society, nation, and world will continue to suffer, have hardship and experience death. 

What good purpose is there in suffering? Well, suffering in itself is not good. It is a result of sin. However, God can and does work in the midst of suffering to bring about good. God says that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God works in ALL things even in the midst of your suffering to bring about good for you, his son, his daughter. God works in you “day by day” to renew you from the inside out, conforming you more and more to the image of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior; yes, even through you suffering. So James writes, “2 Count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). God works through trials to transform your heart, to perfect you and make you complete more and more, day by day.

But how long will the hardships and suffering due to the Coronavirus last? No one knows. The experts have opinions that range from weeks to many months, but God reminds us that this suffering and all suffering, in general, are “light” afflictions. God does not deny the depth or reality of your suffering. God understands how deep and painful your suffering can be. Jesus as God-Man, endured great suffering - physical, mental and spiritual - even death. God the Son, Jesus Christ, understands and empathizes with your suffering. So, God does not minimize your real, human suffering. God only refers to your afflictions as “light” in comparison to the great “weight” of glory that awaits you. God reminds you of the truth that no matter how painful, arduous and challenging your life journey may be, the weight of the hardship does not compare to the “weight of the glory” that awaits you! 

Think of it this way. Try to remember back to a day in your youth where you had to take a long journey to go somewhere exciting and enjoyable. Was the road trip there all rosy? Do you remember the discomfort, the suffering of being squeezed into the middle seat, the hardship of a broken AC, the nausea of motion sickness, the challenges of listening to your parents sing off pitch, the craziness of your sibling annoying you because he was bored out of his mind!, etc… What did you do to take your mind off of the journey’s hardship? Did you let your mind wander and wonder about where you were going, about all the fun you would have, about all the good food you would eat, about all the exciting things you would see and do? What happened to your sense of hardship? Did your real suffering suddenly become less real? Most likely, your situation didn’t change, but your perception of the annoyances probably did. Your excitement and anticipation probably took the edge off the journey’s pain (maybe you took a moment to enjoy the passing scenery outside your window or even enjoyed a laugh or two - at the expense of your sibling most likely) as you looked forward to the joy of the journey’s end. The weight of joy that awaited you proved to be greater than the weight of hardship being experienced. Likewise, God your Father is telling you to have hope and not dwell on the afflictions but rather to “set your minds on things that are above” (Col 3:2) - to let your minds wander from the things of earth to wonder about the great things that await you at the end of your journey. God promises that the greatness of heaven is “beyond all comparison” to the hardship of this world. 

Also, remember that forgettable road trip you had to take to go somewhere exciting? How long did it last, an hour, two hours or a few more hours? What happened when you arrived at the exciting destination? Did you dwell on the misery you felt for the hours on the road or did you immediately jump into the excitement of the moment? Also, how long were you at the destination? Did you only stay for an hour or so, or did you stay for days? Hopefully, you and your family indulged in the excitement and enjoyment for many days. Likewise, God your Father promises that the hardships you experience on the journey of life through this world is only “momentary” and “transient” compared to the “eternal” joys of his heavenly kingdom to which you are headed. You may struggle for a moment, what may feel like an eternity, with suffering, hardship and death in this world, but you will enjoy forever, a true eternity, the joyous glory and blessings of our God in heaven above! Truly, “the things [of this earth] that are seen are transient, but the things [of heaven] that are unseen are eternal.”

But, what about the “pink elephant in the room?” What about the issue of sin? How can you enjoy life while living in a world under the curse of sin and suffering from the effects of sin? How can you enjoy life while experiencing the real pain, hardship and suffering caused by sin?

You can enjoy life, brothers and sisters, because as real as the effects of sin may be in your life, the life, death, resurrection, ascension, heavenly reign and eventual return as King of Kings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just as real! You can enjoy life in this world despite the impacts of your sin, others’ sins and the curse of sin upon this creation because Jesus has conquered sin and death for you! You can declare with Paul the Apostle and all of the universal church “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57) and when we enter into eternal glory and stand before Jesus Christ, we all will stand close together (no social distancing ever needed again) and declare in loud praise, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)? 

So, if you are asking this simple yet life defining question, “How do you enjoy life?” the answer is just as simple and just as life defining. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved” (Acts 16:31) from sin, from death and from a hopeless, joyless life. Believe in Jesus. Trust in Jesus. Lean upon Jesus. Cast your cares upon Jesus. Jesus Christ came into this world to live, to die, to rise again from the dead so that you “may have life and have it to the full.” Full of peace. Full of hope. Full of joy.

Brothers and sisters. May you enjoy life, even today (despite the rain, the isolation, the uncertainty, the coronavirus, etc.), in the sweet fellowship of God our Father, God the Son and in the abundant, powerful presence of God the Holy Spirit.

In His Grace Alone,

Pastor John O