Do you find yourself feeling like you're stuck in one of those post-apocalyptic zombie movies? Yeah. Me too. I was talking to a youth pastor friend this weekend, and our conversation went like this:
MY FRIEND: Do you remember that movie "I Am Legend"?
MY FRIEND: Doesn't this coronavirus stuff kind of remind you of that movie?
ME: [Giving him the side-eye] Yeah, don't use that in a sermon.
If you've never seen the movie, Will Smith is the last human on earth, the rest of the population having been wiped out by a virus. Smith is a virologist who must now fight an army of nocturnal mutant zombies for survival. Maybe not the best movie analogy these days! Hahaha.
I believe deep down, many of our students struggle to process what's happening around them.
While it's OK (I think) to be lighthearted at times as a coping mechanism, we need to remember that in times of crisis like the one we find ourselves in, our students need to be reassured. They may not act like it. They may put on a chill, unconcerned vibe. But I believe deep down, many of them struggle to process what's happening around them. Especially through the lens of their faith.
Over the centuries, as crises have hit, the Church has turned to what they know to be true about God. We see the roots of this going back to the Israelites in the wilderness. When things got tough, they remembered who God was and how He had been faithful to them in the past.
I believe this is a meaningful practice for us to engage in, as well.
So as our teenagers navigate days of quarantine measures and infection counts (who would have ever thought!?), let's help them remember these five core truths about God.
First, God is in control.
We know that God is sovereign. What does this mean exactly? This means that God's rule is all-encompassing (there is nowhere He does not rule) and absolute (there is nothing that happens that He is not in control of). About Himself, the Lord says in Isaiah 46:10, "My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose." Psalm 103:19 says, "The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all." In Job 42:2, Job says that God can do all things and that no purpose of His can be thwarted. There is nothing that happens anywhere that God is not in control of. The Coronavirus didn't catch God off guard. If the Coronavirus exists, it's because God has allowed it to exist.
This may lead to the inevitable question, "If God is in control of all things, why did He allow this to happen"? This is a perfectly logical question and one that doesn't scare God (and shouldn't scare you). The way we process this question leads to the next truth we need to remember about God.
Second, God is good.
Here's the thing. We can know God. There are attributes or characteristics that God has, just like there are characteristics we have. The only difference with God is that He is perfect in all His attributes. So God is not only gracious, He's perfectly gracious. He's not only just, He's perfectly just. His mercy is perfect. His compassion is perfect. Even His anger is perfect! God is perfectly good. Psalm 119:68 says, "You are good and do good; teach me your statutes." Psalm 145:9 says, "The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made."
Why does this matter? It matters a lot. If God was completely in control of all things but not perfectly good, we would be terrified. You would never know how God would use His power. But God is good. Perfectly good. So we must remind students that His reign, His sovereignty, is good as well.
We don't know all the reasons why God allows things like Coronavirus to happen. We know that there is evil at work in the world, just as there is good at work. And God allows evil to exist. We don't have a perfect understanding of why that is the case. But one of the reasons why is that God is patient, wanting as many people to come to saving faith in Him before He returns to once and for all triumph over evil (2 Peter 3:9). While we will never know all of the reasons WHY God allows things like this to happen, we can fall back on the truths that He is in control and that He is good. His rule is good. His sovereignty over us and the world is good.
Third, God is constantly at work to bring about good.
We know Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." While this verse is often misapplied, the truth is an important one for our students: that no matter what the circumstances, God is working through evil to bring about good. It's in His nature. It's what He does. This is how Joseph, who was left for dead by his brothers, could look at them in forgiveness and say, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."
When students find themselves overwhelmed and anxious, fearful about the world around them, they can take heart, knowing that God is at work! They may not see it, but they can believe in it. But the cool thing is, once students know this truth, they can begin to LOOK for where God is at work. More importantly, our students can ask the question, "How can God work THROUGH me to bring about good in this time of trial"?
Fourth, God has seen us through this crisis. Already.
This is a super-deep, kind of wild concept that your students will love. Because God is eternal, and because He is omniscient (all-knowing), God has already seen us through this crisis. This is where if you were texting this, you'd insert the "mind blown" emoji. Lol. Our lives are on a linear timeline. We have a beginning (our birth) and an ending (our death). (Though, how beautiful it is that if you've entered into a saving faith relationship with Jesus, your death begins a new, eternal life with Christ!) We can only see what lies directly in front of us. Our stories only move along one chapter at a time. But not God.
You see, God isn't in our timeline. He's above it. He's outside of it. His existence isn't linear like ours. He doesn't have a beginning and an end. He has always been. And the Bible teaches us that He knows the story of humankind even up to the ending (that's what makes Revelations so cool). When we take all of this mind-blowing truth together, it leads us to understand that God knew Coronavirus was coming, knows how it will go, and has already seen us through the other side of it! How AMAZING is that?
When students are fearful, this truth in itself can comfort them. God goes before us. He has already gone before us through the end of this season of uncertainty.
Fifth, during this chaos, Jesus holds all things together.
When things get rough, and our students want to get down, or worried, or scared, there is a powerful truth they can cling to: Jesus holds all things together. Jesus is the force that binds the world together during chaos. He keeps things from spiraling out of control.
In his beautiful picture of Jesus in Colossians 1:15–17, Paul says this: " He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." In Jesus, ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER! This truth drives out fear. It gives assurance. It gives confidence. It reminds us that no matter how bad it gets, it can never get so bad that it will fall apart because Jesus is at the center of it all holding it all together.
Our students need reassuring in times like this. But honestly, maybe we do too. Let these truths help lead you and your students to a place of peace and trust in the Lord.