We are living in fearful and unprecedented times. Awful events are taking place in the world in which we live. The things that are happening are like none most of us have ever experienced before. God’s judgments are being poured out on an ungodly world. What do these events mean? These things are truly a serious trial for all of us.
COVID-19 is causing great misery and trials for us all. Worldwide deaths from this plague have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The worldwide impact of these events is shocking. There is great sorrow and anguish in our nation and in the lives of many people personally. Initially, hospitals were full of sick people, so many that in some of them doctors and staff were completely overwhelmed. People were grievously sick with a disease that many were unable to survive. The disease itself is frightening, causing pain and suffering and overwhelming the body. Our body has no natural defenses against it. We are told that death from COVID-19 comes very swiftly, causing respiratory failure and the collapse of the heart. Because of the extremely contagious nature of this disease, loved ones cannot even gather at the bedside when people die. They face the terrors of death alone with little human sympathy.
The world’s experts are trying to slow down the devastation of the plague and deliver mankind from its scourge. Every day there is a report of new cases and the tragic toll of the numbers that are dying is noted by the news media. Not even leading scientists and doctors can come up with a cure. For the first time we are hearing about the science of epidemiology and the shocking ways in which plagues spread, as they kill hundreds of thousands, paralyze whole nations, and change the world order. Those dying are mostly the elderly and already feeble. Countries and places in the world where there were already great human tragedies are now experiencing greater misery and anguish. Those who are dying are beloved relatives, leaving families with much sorrows. Young people might imagine themselves to be safe. But also young people, and even children, are dying. What must we say about these fearful things? How can we keep ourselves from depression and despair in the midst of all of these events?
America has for centuries boasted of its great riches, its rapidly increasing knowledge and learning, its scientific achievements, and world-famous hospitals with amazing medical procedures. Suddenly, America is being deeply humbled by the mighty hand of God, by becoming the very epicenter of this pandemic, having more deaths than even underdeveloped countries. We who have been accustomed to live long in such prosperity and have come to expect that there will be a cure for our every bodily ailment are dying by the hundreds of thousands. Not even funerals for the many dead are possible. There is sorrow and despair, even a feeling of hopelessness everywhere. Who would ever have thought that this kind of thing was possible in our modern-day world! When is this all going to be over? How long will it last? When will we ever be able to get back to life as normal?
Many millions have lost their jobs and now have to live on unemployment insurance who never before had to do this. There are dire predictions of economic hardships yet to come that could affect our nations for years into the future. There could even be a depression in our land as bad as ever known in the history of the world. There could be starvation in parts of the world. Most of us will have to be prepared for much less prosperity and riches, ease and pleasure, educational success and achievement in the future.
We as Christians and as Protestant Reformed people must know how to understand this all. We and our families are affected by this all. Tremendously significant for us is that even the public worship we are so blessed with from week to week was forbidden or severely restricted because of governmental orders. The government is ordering us how we must live and greatly limiting our freedoms. This is going on week after week. Even families were unable to visit with one another. We were told to remain in our homes and avoid any unnecessary trips. Little children are bewildered by it all. How can we explain all these things to them?
The rubric for which I am writing is called “When Thou Sittest in Thine House.” The themes of this rubric over the years address the urgent need for covenant parents to instruct their children in our home. Never before has there been such an urgent need for instruction, guidance, and encouragement from the institution of the family and from our covenant homes. God has in many cases given us a great amount of time to sit with our children in our homes. Fathers are home from work for long periods of time. Married couples have to learn to live as Christians in their marriages and families so as to be examples of faith and godliness to their children.
This is not a time for mere pious platitudes or hypocritical religion. Our own children are afraid, our young people are confused. In the world there is great increase in anxiety and depression. We are told that there is a great increase of suicide, even among young people, who are experiencing hard times in which they cannot have traditional graduation programs and other familiar events, so memorable in their personal lives. Opportunities for taking pictures of our children at important times in their lives will be missed. Sports programs have all but disappeared, which are so popular in our culture. It is likely that for a long time they will not be held. Opportunities for recreation, fun and laughter, vacations and more can no longer be held. Some of us may even have to sell our homes because we can no longer pay the mortgages. We need to instruct our children in the spiritual lessons and perspectives on life this presents to us. We must be sure that they are spiritually strong so they are able to endure these times. We need to be able to encourage our children and give them hope, teaching them the comfort of the great truths of our Christian faith. We have an added, urgent responsibility to instruct our children to be truly spiritually minded in these times.
We need to teach our children to be heavenly minded, calling them away from the covetous, materialism, and secularism of the world in which we life. We need to learn how to comfort our children and what it means to trust in the Lord.
We ought not expect that our children and young people can be rightly instructed in all these things by our ungodly world and through worldly celebrities or human psychologists. There are many false teachers and deceivers in the world. While humanistic and practical advice is given by the world, and certain laws and rules are followed, this is not good enough for our covenant children. More than ever there is a great urgency for the godly and distinctive instruction of our own dear children in our covenant homes. Are we up to the challenges involved in doing this? Our families are being tried seriously; the bonds that we have together must be deepened, our homes havens of comfort, peace, and joy. We must provide stability for our children and guidance for their future. God has given us the time and opportunity; there is no excuse to say we are too busy for supposedly more important things.
I plan to continue to write on this subject for my contributions in the next few issues. There are many serious questions we are facing. We must teach our children that the COVID-19 pandemic involves the fearful work of God in our times, in our nation, and in our homes and families. The plague that is upon us did not come by mere chance. It did not come from some foreign source. It is not merely a natural phenomenon. God’s fearful hand of judgment is upon this ungodly world. The judgments of God reveal His absolute sovereignty and almighty power. No one shall finally be able to stand before His judgments. God is holy and just in all of His judgments. But God is God, He is indeed a God of all comfort and tender mercy towards His people. In Him is the blessed and sure hope and salvation. Does knowing Him give us the peace and comfort as we endure great trials and hardships in our lives personally? Are our children experiencing our godliness and the steadfastness of faith in their father and mother?
Our very thoughts of who God is and what He is doing in the world are being shaken. Is God truly a God of mercy and will He save us from this great evil that has come upon the world? There are so many questions that arise in our minds. We want to address some of these questions, not only theologically but also spiritually and practically. There is no doubt that God is chastening severely. What is our attitude toward this? Are we ready to endure the chastening of the Lord and submit to its purpose in our lives? Will we by faith benefit from this chastening of our God, so that we continue steadfast in our life in Christ, and faithful to confess His name and glory in Him as the God of our salvation? Have we kept ourselves from the great sin of despising our Father’s good chastisement and hindering His correction in our lives?
In our next articles we shall continue this important subject.