Too Much Time On My Hands
Due to the coronavirus-related restrictions on travel, work and normal life, many of us have unexpected extra time on our hands. How often have we wished for that? How many times have you wished for an extra day in the week? Just a few weeks ago, I wondered how I was going to get spring projects completed. Now, they may actually get finished.
To be honest, part of me wishes it weren’t this way. I would prefer that life would go on as it had been. Despite the fact that it was busy and hectic, it was also comfortable, convenient and predictable. Everything has changed. Part of me is awakening to the benefits of this crisis: Not just some extra time, but also the stripping away of things that are not important in the light of the gospel and a growing awareness of sinful tendencies and choices that need to be removed.
In light of the gospel... Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we are renewed in our relationship with God and are now only temporary travelers in this world. Our destiny is eternal life with God, life that is not marred by sin, disease and death. This is why the apostle Paul challenged the early believers to "seek the things that are above" not things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2). Admittedly, I have set my mind too much on earthly things, such as what the apostle John described as "the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and pride of life" (1 John 2:16). These things are literally passing away. Things like personal possessions, retirement accounts, a comfortable home, manicured landscaping, dreams and plans for pleasure and adventure. But it’s worse than those things. In pursuing them, I have too often overlooked the needy, satisfied my flesh, looked at potential possessions with longing and assumed I am better than others by comparing my life status and personal choices to that of others.
Those are just personal examples of being focused on the flesh and on the things of the earth. What about the corporate examples? Consider the sins and vices that are commonplace in our nation: political corruption, excessive greed, violence as entertainment, the murder of unborn children, over-sexualization of children, irresponsible financial debt, accessible and marketed pornography and the list goes on. While most of us are likely not complicit in these behaviors, they are part of the fabric of our society. Why are we not crying out, like Daniel of old, exiled with his people because of their rebellion: "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules"?
Growing awareness... For too long I have respected Daniel’s prayer and the warnings of the Jewish prophets and the severe consequences the nation of Israel experienced, without considering them for myself and for the church in our time. Paul wrote this to the Corinthian church: "Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did" (1 Corinthians 10:6). What things took place? They suffered death and disease as God's judgment for their idolatry, their grumbling and their lack of faith. The prophet Daniel knew God to be faithful and gracious; but he also knew God was justified in his anger and punishment of the people’s sins. The coronavirus has disrupted life on a global scale. A major disruption of this magnitude is not only a harsh reminder of our fragility, but also of the magnitude of our sin.
Don't misunderstand me. I am not proclaiming this virus to be a specific expression of God's wrath on people for a particular sin. Too often, Christian leaders and Christians alike have made such declarations in the wake of natural disasters, epidemics and wars. We do not have the mind of God nor are we privy to his purposes and plans in such specific ways. But this we do know: Sin entered the world and human existence through the first man and woman, we have suffered the consequences from the beginning and the consequences are justified in light of the nature of our sin and the nature of God's holiness. Here, it is tempting to write, "but." However, that would indicate a possible false contrast in God's character; it could imply that God is "sometimes this and sometimes that." Instead, I will write, "and." God is justified in his wrath and he is gracious and merciful in his love. He is not a divine "Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde." He is just and gracious at the same time, always. Here is how God describes himself over and over in the Old Testament:
6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. - Exodus 34:6-8
Our response to God should be like that of Moses: Immediate worship. And that includes turning from the sins that deserve judgment. We should also respond like the Ninevites did to God's message of warning through the prophet Jonah: "Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish" (Jonah 3:8-9).
So while we are wondering what we will do with some of the unwanted extra time on our hands, let’s at the very least do these two things: Repent and pray. Clear away the worldly distractions, remove the blatant sins, discard the selfish lifestyles we have allowed to creep into our lives. And pray that God will relent and reveal His steadfast love.
- Tim Bouffard