I don’t believe the shaking is over.
The recent impact of COVID19 has caused many nations, institutions and individuals to be significantly shaken – and although we are seeing countries incrementally open up again, the new practises we have been asked to adopt would have been unthinkable 12 months ago.
This global ‘earthquake’ has had a huge impact on everything from mental well-being to national economies experiencing the most significant downturn in living memory. We are also surrounded by speculation as to whether a dreaded second wave will arrive. Like all of us, I hope COVID19 has had its’ moment of fame and will slip back into obscurity – but to quote a famous song, I think ‘there may be trouble ahead’. Whether it’s a pandemic or some other form of difficulty, I believe the shaking hasn’t ended – there is more to come, and we would be very wise to prepare.
I’m not just speculating though. Jesus said there would be shaking.
6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:6-8)
And this birth pain analogy is picked up elsewhere in the bible.
While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
I’ve witnessed a number of births in my life and I confirm there was pain involved – but it was quickly overshadowed by the joyful arrival of each of our kids.
Paul writing to the Roman church also picks up this thought
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. (Romans 8:18)
There is much suffering right now and much shaking but although as followers of Jesus we know there is eternal hope, I believe we should prepare for more quakes ahead.
Preparing for an Earthquake
My use of the word ‘earthquake’ is obviously an analogy but there are places on the earth that are prone to experiencing actual earthquakes. I’ve been considering what it must be like to live in such a location and whether there are any lessons we can learn from them. They may not know when, where or how severe one may be but they must be prepared.
A number of governments teach there are 3 things people should do in the event of an earthquake. These are 1. Drop 2. Cover 3. Hold on and I believe these provide a helpful way to respond to the metaphorical shaking that is happening and is to come:
1. Drop – Wherever you are, drop down on to your hands and knees.
In the event of an earthquake I think I would want to run and find a way out. I would want to get to a place where the shaking wasn’t happening – but when the earth starts moving beneath your feet you need to ‘drop down’.
There have been lots of believers who have dropped down before God during this time – but to be honest, I don’t think we have seen the mass humbling of ourselves before God that I would have anticipated. I’ve been involved in a wide range of prayer initiatives over the past 6 months and whilst some have attracted thousands of participants, that figure is only a fraction of the believers being shaken. Maybe it’s our fight or flight instinct – we either want a battle or an exit – but there are times when neither options are appropriate. What we need is a posture.
We are probably all familiar with this scripture:
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The church needs to drop!
2. Cover – Cover your head and neck with your arms or crawl underneath a shelter. Stay on your knees or bent over to protect vital organs.
Interestingly dropping down low offers protection for your most vital organs such as your heart. Proverbs 4:23 exhorts ‘above all else guard your heart’. But it is important to protect your head and neck by crawling under some form of shelter such as a table or covering them with your arms. There are a number of spiritual parallels we could draw from this.
Firstly Christ is the head of the church. He obviously doesn’t need our protection but we do need to prioritise and protect our worship of Him. I’ve commented on this on previous blogs but I have a hunch that some people have been more in love with songs about Jesus than they have with Jesus himself. It’s times to protect our love, honour and adoration of the head of the church.
Also, I’m sure there will be much research conducted in years regarding the impact COVID19 has had on people’s minds. I’m seeing numerous implications already as I meet with people in a pastoral context. When things begin to shake our minds go into overdrive: regrets, fears, anxieties, shame, disappointments, discontent, victimisation etc and I’m sure you could add much more to such a list. Our heads are vulnerable and we need to create appropriate boundaries and protections to keep them well.
Many of the attacks on our minds are directed at our value. Our worth can be eroded or built up depending on which thoughts are allowed to find a home in us. Guarding what we allow past the front door of our mind is critical. I know we can’t tell our minds to stop thinking something but we can protect what our eyes see and our ears hear and thereby what we feed our minds. These gateways are to be protected – and if we are not diligent with the security we post on these entry points then our minds are exposed to all sorts of dangers.
3. Hold on: If you are under a table or desk, hold on with one hand and be ready to move with it if it moves.
When things shake, things move – and we need to move with them.
God is described as the firm unshakable rock.
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just, a faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he (Deuteronomy 32:4)
This means His ways and character don’t deviate or change. He is true to His principles of love and justice. His offer of fresh mercy every morning is constant and never expires. He is always all powerful, all knowing and ever present. What a rock!
He is also a shelter.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
He is an unchanging refuge but He also moves – and is regularly looking to take His people to new places. We see the Israelites holding onto that ‘table leg’ when the pillar of cloud and fire began to move. When the presence of God moved they needed to move as well. We see the prophet Isaiah (43:19) challenging the people to perceive the new thing that God was doing and follow.
Holding onto a moving table is disorientating but it provides the best opportunity to come through the experience intact. If our refuge is on the move then don’t resist but go with Him.
The shaking is not over so let’s make sure we are ready.
Let’s get ready to Drop, Cover and Hold on.
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