The disorientation is murky and thick as the morning fog hovering outside our kitchen windows. The only difference is, the latter eventually lifts; the former doesn’t. It lingers even while the air clears and the sun rises and another day begins.
The disorientation remains, although God’s mercies, we know, are new.
We know this––walking with the Almighty God is our highest privilege and the center of our deepest-held beliefs. Yet crisis, with all its disorientation, unveils the mercy of God in another form: mercy that awakens us to the very realities we profess to believe.
Awakened to Reality
No Christian wants to live under a delusion; we want reality to reign. Reality is best because it doesn’t lie to us. Yet, how often are we deluded into believing alternatives? The human heart has been prone to wander––prone to delusion––since Eve’s went astray. Now our struggle to believe is the same as hers: Did God really say?
Praise God, his awakening mercy did not leave us in the blindness of our sin or the delusion of spiritual death. When we were once dead, groping around in the darkness of this world, he awakened us by the light of his Son, to life in him––to reality. Highest, truest, best reality.
For Christ is our only true life, true hope, and true joy. His Spirit counsels, guides, and leads us into truth. He has awakened us by his mercy––to our dire need and his divine ability to meet it––and this same mercy continues to awaken us. When our easily-deluded hearts wander away from blessed reality, the Merciful One won’t let us stay there.
Nor do we want him to.
We want him to return us to blessed reality, so we live within his will and under his word and ways. We want him to give us spiritual eyes to see where we’ve been freshly deluded. This can be hard, even painful, but to wander from the God who made us and loves us is the more painful thing still. So he gives mercy to see, and grace to submit. And he can use even the disorientation of crisis to do it.
Mercy to See in Crisis
In the last week of COVID-19 quarantine, our family has seen God’s awakening mercy at work. We’ve been humbled to see how our hearts can wander without even realizing it––slowly drifting into believing and pursuing false realities. What exactly have we seen? What are some of the delusions that relative comfort can promote, and oppositely, the realities that crisis can reveal?
Here are several that God has mercifully awakened our family to see in the last week:
Delusion: I am in control. Reality: Jesus sovereignly controls everything.
The uncontrollable nature of this pandemic has reminded us that we do not ultimately control outcomes, no matter what our advanced technology or medicine may lead us to believe. But our God does. He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15) who is “before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17), who alone “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). Nothing surprises him, and nothing––not even a global pandemic with all its ripple effects––can thwart his plans. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Is. 46:10).
Delusion: I know what tomorrow will bring. Reality: God alone knows the future.
We cannot “boast about tomorrow, for [we] do not know what a day may bring” (Prov. 27:1). The COVID-19 crisis is a prime example of this reality. We planned vacations; we planned for retirement; we planned conferences and events and parties; we planned to be healthy. But then crisis unraveled our plans; rather, crisis has revealed God’s plan for us. Does this mean we shouldn’t plan for the future? Of course we should. But we should do so with a humble attitude of dependence on the God who knows the number of our days: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
Delusion: I can be satisfied by ____. Reality: Only Jesus satisfies.
Every good gift is to be enjoyed since gifts come from our Father (James 1:17); but the line between enjoyment and idolatry is fine. In crisis, our best enjoyments can mercifully be exposed for the idols they’ve become––money, possessions, hobbies, jobs, routines, “me-time,” comforts, people, health, safety. When these idols come crashing down, only Jesus is proven to be “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). When all other ground is sinking sand, Christ, the Solid Rock, remains for us to stand on, and we learn to be more and more satisfied in him, the only One who was ever meant to give us life, joy, and peace.
Delusion: I am God. Reality: I am God’s.
As God has been using our circumstances to mercifully awaken us to reality, and the core delusion is being unveiled: I want to be like God––which unsurprisingly sounds like the serpent’s original lie in Genesis 3:5. I don’t like the feeling of not being in control; it pains me (and scares me) not to know the future; I don’t want the things I usually depend on to slip through my fingers.
Yet mercy awakens me: I belong to him. I am not my own but have been bought with a price, the very blood of Jesus, who is God the Son and, yet, who gave up his divine rights so I could be freed from the delusion of sin and death to walk in blessed reality, both now and forever. The work of his Spirit within my heart makes me want this; I want to submit to Jesus’ sovereignty, humble myself before his plans, and in his presence find fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. This reality––living under the lordship of Christ––is best, and it is blessed (Ps. 1).
The Blessed Life
Friends, the disorientation of this crisis may linger as the morning fog. We will probably find ourselves peering hazily through it for a while, and we will most likely never fully grasp what God is doing, for “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29). But as the morning fog, it will lift, in time. And even more surely, as the sun rises and God is newly merciful to us every morning, we will stand and endure and trust––because the blessed life is the one rooted in reality.
In his mercy, may he give us spiritual eyes to see.
If you’re looking for resources to help you process fear and suffering during this pandemic, may I point you to Fight Your Fears and Hope When It Hurts?