"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair..." -- 2 Corinthians 4:8
Writing about 20 years after the first Good Friday, the apostle Paul penned a letter to the believers at Corinth, acknowledging the difficulties and challenges they were facing. But although they were "hard-pressed on every side," Paul reminds these early Christians that the overcoming power of God was still at work in them, and even their trials and hardships served an important purpose -- making Jesus known.
Our country, in fact, the world, is facing unparalleled difficulties and challenges with the coronavirus that has spread around the globe. Economies have been shuttered, people have lost their jobs, and there is anxiety and uncertainty about the future. A lot of what we trusted in, or at least what we've come to depend on, has been shaken, leaving many wondering what they can hold on to.
The church has not been exempted from this shaking. For the first time in over a century, the lights will be out in most churches on the most significant Sunday of the year for Christians -- Resurrection Sunday. But just because churches cannot physically gather for worship this weekend does not mean the light of the gospel will not be seen. In fact, although this present crisis has been difficult for everyone, many churches have been rising to the challenge to serve their congregations and communities in heroic ways. Whether it is hosting food drives, delivering meals to nurses and doctors, offering free childcare for first responders, delivering groceries to elderly neighbors, or setting up a "prayer tent" and ministering to people in the community, Jesus's promise that even the "gates of hell shall not prevail" against the church has proven true again (Matthew 16:18).
Today, many people are afraid. The uncertainty of the future has created enormous anxiety. Crisis hotlines are reporting a record number of calls. President Trump has said we are fighting a war against an unseen enemy. This is a war being fought on two fronts: there is the virus that poses a deadly threat to our health, but there is also an economic threat to our economy that was until very recently producing remarkable results. For many, this shaking is revealing another more profound need -- a spiritual foundation.
Herein lies an opportunity and a reminder of the church's purpose. For those who have a relationship with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, these times are no less of a challenge. Like everyone else, our portfolios have taken a hit, our businesses are shuttered, and our families are limited in their activities. But we have a foundation on which to stand, and like Paul said, although we are perplexed, we are not in despair. But why is this?
The reason is that, although we face an uncertain future, followers of Jesus know that our God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His promises still stand. A faith-fortifying promise that we cling to is that no matter what our circumstances are, our God has promised, "I will not leave you or forsake you" (Joshua 1:5; cf. Hebrews 13:5).
Jesus told us not to be anxious about the temporal things of this life such as food, clothing, or shelter. Our Father knows we need these things and will provide them as we seek Him first (Matt. 6:25). Moreover, He promised to be with us: "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
On the basis of these promises, Paul said we can have confidence that ALL things -- which includes even the coronavirus -- work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
Shaken by the events of this world, we have the opportunity to point those who are fearful, anxious, and in despair to the most significant event in human history that we celebrate this weekend -- the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Consider this final thought: all the horrors of Good Friday -- the ridicule, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the disciples' abandonment, crucifixion on a Roman cross, and, most significantly, bearing the full wrath of God against every sin -- were embraced willingly by Jesus. Weeks earlier, knowing full well what lay ahead, Jesus nevertheless "set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). Why? Because He wants a relationship with us. Incredibly, even as Jesus made His way to the Garden of Gethsemane where He would be betrayed, He had us on His mind and prayed for us (John 17:20).
So today, as we ponder the significance of Good Friday and look forward to Easter Sunday, we know that although we are perplexed and "hard-pressed on every side" -- perhaps more acutely than ever before this Holy Week -- we are not crushed or in despair because we know that God is working, even in these difficult times. Reflect on Paul's summary of what Good Friday means for us who know Christ:
"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person -- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die -- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Romans 5:6-10).
May these truths resonate deeply in our hearts today as we consider Jesus's death and the awful crucifixion that was required to atone for sin. And, remember, even on the day we mark the darkest moment in the history of the world, that despite the current darkness, "Sunday is coming."