As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, more countries and states order lockdowns, and the prospective slope of financial recovery steepens by the day, many are facing tremendous uncertainty. Questions swirl in our heads. What if I or someone I love gets the virus? Am I still going to have a job tomorrow? Will I ever be able to retire now? What if I lose the house? Will life ever be the same?
By now even the most skeptical among us are coming to grips with just how realistic many of those eventualities are. The question is no longer if we will be facing an economic recession but how bad of a recession it will be. And hearing stories about how even some otherwise healthy people are dying from the virus is enough to make even the bravest among us hum a few extra stanzas of "Happy Birthday" while lathering at the sink.
But what should we do in the face of such uncertainty? When those things which have provided us our sense of security—a vested 401k, a steady job, good health—are no no longer guaranteed, where do we turn for comfort? When the very foundations of our lives seem to be crumbling, where can we possibly find peace of mind?
"What's the worst that could happen?"
I've never understood why people find that question to be a helpful thought experiment when evaluating a risky endeavor. Because the worst that could happen in even the safest situation is that you could lose everything you love and possibly die. But what do you do when the worst-case scenario seems like not just a possibility but a genuine probability, and there's really nothing you can do about it?
In the Bible, the book of Lamentations describes the experience of a man who really was facing the worst-case scenario. In this poem of grief, the prophet Jeremiah pours out his heart in the aftermath of Babylonians sacking Jerusalem in 587 BC. The raiders destroyed the city and took most of the people into captivity. Those, like Jeremiah, who were left behind faced the horrors of disease, destruction, death, and a heaping scoop of uncertainty about the future.
Just look at the first two verses of Lamentations as Jeremiah pictures his beloved city of Jerusalem as a mourning widow:
"How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies." (Lamentations 1:1–2)
You can almost feel the loneliness. This hustling, bustling city is now empty. It says in verse four that, "The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate." The roads which were once loud with the songs of ascent as the people would summit the hill to make their sacrifices are now all quiet save the distant groans of pain and muffled wails of the few who have been left behind. The roads themselves, as it were, mourn for the joy that once was but will now never be again.
The dissolution and decay that the people who were left in the destroyed city experienced is unimaginable. In chapter four we discover that some of the starving remnant had resorted to eating their own children to survive. "The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children; they became their food during the destruction of the daughter of my people" (Lamentations 4:10).
Here in Lamentations we find a man sitting on the other side of the worst-case scenario.
Let's try that wretched thought experiment on our present situation. Imagine if in spite of all our efforts to halt it, this pandemic just gets worse. Imagine it's October, businesses are still closed, most are out of work, food is scarce, and everyone has several loved ones who are sick or dying from COVID-19. And whoever does survive this thing doesn't have much to look forward to on the other side. What will you do if it actually comes to that? Where would you find hope when every earthly comfort and assurance is being torn from you?
I pray it doesn't come to that. But in times like these our thoughts are naturally drawn to consider the worst that could happen. And this reflection is not macabre, it's useful. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 7:2, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart." When all this is over and the imminent threat of death and economic collapse have fallen out of view, will you have taken this crisis to heart? Because make no mistake, you may not meet your end wheezing and hooked up to a ventilator, but sure as the setting sun you will someday die "for that is the end of all mankind." If your only sources of hope are your health and possessions, you will in those final hours of life find yourself quite literally hopeless.
As Jeremiah knelt in the ashes of that once great city of Jerusalem facing the irrefutable reality that life genuinely never would be the same for him, he grieved. But then he did something unexpected. Despite his whole world literally crumbling around him—every comfort, every earthly confidence entirely vaporized before his eyes—Jeremiah turns to God. He turns not to curse Him but to find comfort in Him, to find hope in the face of devastating uncertainty.
Jeremiah could do this because he knew the character of God. In the midst of grieving over all that had been lost and the great uncertainty that lay ahead of him, Jeremiah recalled something. "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope" (Lamentations 3:21). Hope? What could possibly bring him hope? Just this:
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'" (Lamentations 3:22–24)
It's a verse you've likely heard before or seen on a piece of home decor. But it comes from the pen of a man who should have been, from all earthly accounting, destitute of hope. He didn't just lose his job; his city had been decimated. He didn't just face the possibility of disease, his family and friends had been captured and killed, and there were literally people eating their own children in the streets. His level of uncertainty was far higher than anything we now face with this present pandemic. Yet Jeremiah found hope in the only place true and lasting hope can ever really be found, in the character of God.
Everything else in our lives can be stripped away by disease, economic collapse, and most inevitably by death. But there is a sure hope and a ready comfort to be found in the God whose steadfast love never ceases, whose mercies never end, and who is unconditionally faithful. The Lord has a track record of promise-keeping and compassion because faithfulness and mercy are simply part of who He is (see Exodus 34:6–8). His reliable character, therefore, provides a comfort which transcends all adversity and, for those who have trusted in Him, even the specter of the grave itself.
As you face uncertainty in these strange days no doubt your foundations of earthly confidence are trembling. But I want to remind you that money and health never were a sure thing to begin with. These were always poor objects of faith.
The only reliable source of comfort in any season then is the unchanging character of God. And you can have that confidence only if you have put your trust in Him. What are you waiting for? Repent of your sin and trust fully in the perfect life, sacrificial death, and vindicating resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust Him for forgiveness and a right standing before God the Father. Then, and only then, you will have found a comfort and security that not hell, high water, or COVID-19 can steal from you. And in the face of all of the uncertainty and despair this life can throw at you, you will be able to say with Jeremiah and the rest of the redeemed, "The LORD is my portion, therefore I will hope in him." (Lamentations 3:24).
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Reagan Rose is the creator of Redeeming Productivity, a blog and podcast dedicated to helping Christians get more done and get it done like Christians by applying biblical principles to personal productivity. He also serves as the Director of Digital Platforms at Grace to You, The Bible Teaching Ministry of John MacArthur.