These are the times that try men’s souls …” wrote Thomas Paine during the 1776 Revolutionary War. Those words ring true today as we find ourselves engaged in another “war,” this one against the coronavirus.
During times of crisis, whether war, pandemic, terrorism, out of fear or faith, or perhaps both, people often consider their “souls” and turn to God. During such times, we hear of “fox-hole” faith and often see churches suddenly full (now online).
People and society are forced to talk about death and dying. We don’t like to discuss such a topic. We’ll talk about anything else most willingly, but not death. The reality is we will all die and at this time, with so much death around us, we should not avoid the topic. Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross made a career speaking about death and in so doing wrote her famous book, “On Death and Dying,” of which Life magazine referred to as “a profound lesson for the living.”
Today, right in the middle of what New York health experts predict will be the peaking of the Covid-19 virus, we have Easter. This is the pinnacle of the Christian faith and it proclaims loudly that there is life and hope. Yet, to get to resurrection one must experience death. The flower must die and seeds must be buried before new life arises.
According to the Bible, death was introduced by that first sin committed by Adam and exacerbated by every sin thereafter and bars heaven’s door. But of even greater import is that the gospels recognize that the life we live now is but temporary and that there is a life in eternity of either bliss or dread that awaits.
Where we spend that eternity is what is most important to God, not how long we will live here. So God needed to address the sin issue, which keeps everyone from heaven. He did this by sending his son Jesus Christ, who would live a perfectly sinless life, which no one could, and who died in place of sinners, thereby taking the punishment everyone deserved. As our substitute, Jesus offers us his perfection, while removing and paying for our imperfection.
As the Apostle John stated: “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
And Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, relies on) me [as savior] will live even if he dies; 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me [as savior] will never die. Do you believe this?”
The good news for anyone who “believes this” is that, by God’s grace through faith in Christ, Resurrection trumps death. While we follow all the recommendations of the health agencies to protect our bodies, let’s not overlook preparing our souls. That way, whenever death comes, whether in old age or cancer, war, or Covid-19, through faith in Christ, we are assured an eternal life in his presence. In these trying times, because Jesus rose from the dead, we can join the apostle Paul and jubilantly proclaim our victory.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?… But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Hallelujah! He has Risen!
Walderman is a spiritual leader at Lynbrook Baptist Church.