God’s Work, the Upper Story, and Peace of Heart
Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; you have given the commandment to save me.
– Psalm 71:3 NKJV
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom.
– 2 Timothy 4:18
Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York famously said of the progress made in fighting the COVID-19 virus, “God didn’t do this…” He went on to name a number of other things that “did not do this” that is, did not abate the spread of the outbreak. He went on to say that the people did that. Their actions had the impact of slowing the spread of this disease.
You might be surprised that I don’t totally disagree with the governor. You won’t be surprised to learn that I disagree with what I think he meant. I, along with many, find it raw and offensive.
God did do this, but not by magically preventing further spread. He did it by inspiring people to obey the guidelines and practice good behavior – even though many would not give God any credit for that. God also did that by upholding the laws of nature, the natural order and allowing for those laws and that order to function normally. God did that by inspiring people to go serve that community – not only groups like Samaritan’s Purse (a Christian ministry), but other groups as well – Christian and even non-Christian.
God is above all these things. The world works because he made it and still preserves it. We go on at his pleasure. We live and move and have our being in him. He is the source of life and health, wellness and peace. Most often those come to us and all people – the just and the unjust – simply because of his fatherly divine goodness and mercy. We don’t earn this. We who know him to the the author of all good things, simply give him credit, glory, thanks, and praise.
There is a peace in knowing these things. There is a comfort in knowing and believing that God is good, merciful, gracious, and loving. It give us hope. It gives us confidence in the face of even the greatest enemy.
The challenge for most of us is applying that peace to this life (the lower story). Most believers find Jesus’ promises for forgiveness and salvation of great comfort in the abstract. We think of the life of the world to come as blissful, joyful, and hope-giving. But we still struggle in the here and now.
That might be because we misunderstand just how God does work. He works through doctors and nurses, pharmacies and EMTs. He works through kind neighbors and government programs. He works through people who obey the laws and practice good hygiene.
We dare not underestimate the dangers that lurk all around us. These come all the time. Sometimes they are obvious and fearful. Too often they are subtle and devious. In any case, we must not ignore those dangers and threats. But let us not miss God’s favor and blessings, his promises and goodness, his mercy and grace, his forgiveness and salvation. All these conspire to give us peace in the midst of the threats we face.