Since Adam brought sin into the world, there’s been death. But this is not the way things should be. Against the atheist who asserts that death is just a normal feature of life, the Christian says that it is an intrusion. It should not be. And a time is coming when it will not be.
But for now, the news is full of death and the fear of death, and the Coronavirus is shaking up the previously comfortable and secure Western world. We’ve remembered that we’re mortal.
“Death is a natural part of life.” The believer’s answer must be: ‘Not so.’
In Psalm 46, we see a God who sits above the chaos in the world, in a position to actually do something about it. God isn’t caught up in our mess, unable to affect change. He rules over and above this world in complete, undiluted Sovereign power. He is ‘our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ (v1).
At this time of uncertainty and fear, God is our security, our assurance, our hope. ‘Therefore we will not fear‘ (v2).
Maybe you’re struck by the uncertainty and fear of this present time. You read the papers, you watch the news. It can be overwhelming. Maybe you’ve experienced COVID-19 personally. You might be in the middle of grief. Maybe death is very real for you now.
This is the Lord’s heart for you: Don’t be afraid, take refuge in him. Come as you are, whoever you are, and find in God a place of safety, of strength, of deep rest. A place free of fear and full of peace. Come to Jesus, the one who calmed the storm, who displayed God’s power over death. The one who promised: ‘Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’
Christ is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we who know him will not fear, though the country shuts down and the news preaches despair, though we become ill or lose our financial security.
The Psalm continues: ‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall‘ (vv4-5). From the chaos of earthquakes and storms to unshakeable city of God – the final place where God will be with his people. This is a place where there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev 21:4); a place where the LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (Ps 46:7).
No more chaos, no more death, ever. Stop and stare in wonder: ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted‘ (v10).
Again, these words are found on the lips of Jesus:
…a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm (Mk 4:37-39).
There is something more than the uncertainty, the illness, the death that we see around us and hear about on the news. Because God has said so. And more than that, God has shown so. God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, went to war against death, and emerged victorious. As the Apostle Paul says: ‘Where, O death, is your sting?‘ (1Cor 15:55).
Death died that day on Calvary, with Jesus. It has no power over God’s people anymore. One day we’ll die. Maybe that day will come sooner than we thought. But that won’t be the end. It’ll be the beginning of life as it was intended. That is our unshakeable hope.
No more illness, no more uncertainty, no more grief, no more death. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The coming months may bring trials. But the Lord Almighty is your refuge. You are ultimately safe in him. Take heart, and may the watching world see in the Church a fearlessness that defies our present circumstances, and a hope that points to Christ.