God's Hope in Crisis
God’s Hope During the COVID-19 Crisis – John 11
Crisis struck Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and the village of Bethany, a small Israeli village. Lazarus was sick, and his condition was worsening. The family began asking themselves what many of us are asking in our current crisis, “Does God know?” God knows.
Jesus said about Lazarus, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4 ESV)
Jesus not only knew the situation, he knew the ultimate outcome. He knew that Lazarus would rise from the dead. Jesus told the disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” When he was arriving, he said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” (John 11:14-15; 23 ESV)
There is no aspect or result of the Coronavirus crisis that escapes God even though confusion, doubt, and anxiety may fill you.
Martha and Mary said to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21; 32 ESV)
You may find a similar tension, thinking, “Lord, we know that you’re capable of stopping this virus, but why are you not here doing it?”
We are uncertain what God will or will not do, but this we are assured; God knows every detail and the outcome that will prove eternally to be glorious unto him and good for those surrendered to him.
It is also apparent in the events surrounding Lazarus, Mary, and Martha that God cares.
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” (John 11:33-34 ESV)
John, the gospel writer, wants us to know an important fact—Jesus cares. He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. The writer reveals the caring compassion of Jesus in the shortest verse in the Bible, Jesus wept (John 11:35).
The words “Jesus wept” tell us about the heart and character of God.
Jesus knows the outcome of the current crisis, he knows that he is reconciling all things to himself, and he knows that he will make all things new, but he is moved with compassion when we suffer. He cares. He weeps with us and for us.
To have hope today, we need to know both of these truths about God.
- God knows what is happening and what will happen ultimately.
- God cares about us and our experiences. Jesus is sympathetic to our sufferings and crises because he has experienced them, too.
Jesus cared enough to live in our suffering and to die to free us from sin and suffering. That truth gives us the comfort needed during any crisis.
Does God sovereignly rule over crises?
I am not going to attempt to explain God’s sovereign purposes regarding a pandemic like COVID-19. God informs us: 8 My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
We all have questions about what God is doing or not doing. It was the same way for those who loved him, like Mary and Martha, and those who opposed him, like the people who said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37 ESV)
The story of Lazarus teaches us truths that will help us to understand that God sovereignly rules. He rules even though we don’t understand.
We can learn some lessons:
- If there is a delay, God is purposeful, and the result will be more glorious.
Jesus, whose thoughts and ways are different from ours, had a greater, more glorious miracle in mind than healing Lazarus, his friend. He would prove his lordship over all things, including death.
Like Mary, Martha, and the others, there may be a delay in the way we desire God to respond during this crisis, and we may have questions about God in the meantime. Still, he will accomplish his purposes and demonstrate his glory, and in the end, we will praise him.
- Every event in history is moving to God’s eternal conclusion.
The crisis experienced with Lazarus’ sickness and death and the subsequent glory demonstrated by Jesus raising him from the dead was part of the greater eternal purpose and conclusion of God.
I am confident that God is working amid the COVID-19 crisis, allowing people to consider their eternal destiny, whether they will live separated from God in hell or live with his glorious presence in heaven. He wants us all to understand that the only way to have resurrected life with him in heaven is through Jesus Christ, his Son.
- Jesus’ ultimate victory and sovereignty are displayed on the cross and by his resurrection.
A few weeks after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he traveled through Bethany again as he made his way to Jerusalem for Holy Week, the final week of his life. Jesus was sovereignly in Jerusalem that week to suffer and die at the hands of the Romans by the call of the Jews for the sins of the world.
By the end of the week, Jesus was crucified and buried. If we had been in Jerusalem that day, we would surely have said, “This doesn’t make sense. This can’t be right.” However, three days later, it made sense when Jesus was resurrected, his victory known, and his rule evident.
More than likely, the days to come are going to be more difficult. It could be that sickness will increase, the economic impact may grow bleaker, and your feelings of frustration and anxiety will be more pronounced.
Now, and in the days to come, if you wonder if God knows what you’re going through, if he cares about your life, or if he sovereignly rules, reflect on his life, death, and resurrection. You’ll know that he does.
Our hope for today, tomorrow, and for eternity is found in Jesus Christ, who knows, who cares, and who sovereignly rules.
As significant as the coronavirus is, there is a greater crisis that we each must resolve. One day, every person will stand before their Creator and give an account for their life. God demands righteousness. He demands holy living. He demands pure and undivided devotion to him, and rightly so, he is Creator, and we are his creation.
The reality is that we all fall short of God’s glorious demand. We have all gone astray from God and sinned against him. God says of all of us: 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Romans 3:23-25a NLT)
9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10 ESV)
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