By Elizabeth Prata
The news is always bad. That is the nature of news. But it seems lately (2020) the news has been relentlessly troubling, perplexing, and dismaying.
The virus scare that began in March 2020 caused people to do a spiritual inventory. This is because the new virus was supposed to be a rampant killer, and we Americans, as well as citizens in other nations, were told that lots of people were going to die from the virus. We weren’t going to have capacity to handle the thousands predicted to need hospital rooms, ventilators, and other life-saving equipment. Death was coming for us, they said. Fear became the prevailing atmosphere of 2020.
The saved are secure about our eternal destiny. The unsaved are scared out of their minds.
and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:15).
Add to the dread of death staring them in the face, is what’s happening in daily life. Riots, chaos, racial divides, suspicion, police hatred, crumbling law & order, wildfires and more, and you have a mixture of unease and widespread uncertainty much of the lost population is feeling.
We Christians aren’t excepted from these unsettled feelings. We’re all human. We feel. Numerous believers have been or are becoming turbulent in spirit due to the grief we feel over the lockdowns and impact on teens and/or elderly relatives. The resulting bans on worship gathering have rattled the believing church. There are other ongoing issues that also factor into a widespread disquiet among Christians.
I was going to write an encouraging note here, but someone did a good job of that, better than I would have done probably, so I’ll post her link instead. Geri Ungurean is a former Jewish lady saved by grace and now loves Jesus. I know only that about her, but I liked the one essay I’d read and want to honor her intention of comforting the believers by encouraging you to read it also. Here is a sample:
Everyday I wonder when Yeshua will come to gather us away from this earth. Father, some days I feel that I cannot wait another moment for You. But then You remind me in Your Word that Your ways are not our ways – that Your ways are so much higher. Oh Lord, I’m trying so hard to be patient.
Lord, why am I feeling so exhausted? Weeping does tire me out. I must lay down after this because I feel so weary. Only You can give me the rest which I so desperately need.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).Lord, Sorrow Washes Over Me
Knowledge of Death and Judgment Unhinges people. Examples from History:
The specter of the Lord returning to earth in wrath to deal with sin and sinners always stoked people into a panic. You see it in Luke in the prophetic happening during the Day of the Lord, (Tribulation) when, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:26)
The panic happened in the past, too. In the 1840s a man named William Miller stoked a national and then a global panic, so much so that a high number of people were hospitalized into insane asylums. Miller was a NY farmer, Baptist preacher and a devotee of prophecy. He spent years studying the book of Daniel intensely. He decided that the Lord was going to return in 1843, a date he said he’d gleaned from starting the prophetic countdown from the decree of Artaxerxes, counting 2,330 days, and wound up in 1843, a few years ahead of his announcement. As Miller’s papers stating this date became widely circulated, so did the fear. Believers in the date Miller set for Jesus’ return were called Millerites.
In the 1800s an anti-slavery newspaper published in Michigan, called Signal of Liberty, reported there were two reactions to the prophesied date of Jesus’ return: religious ecstasy (in which some decided not to eat or drink since the issue would soon be moot, and became deranged) and in others, a terror that overtook their minds, in which they became deranged). A lot of people were confined into insane asylums.
The physician of one of the Insane Asylums in Massachusetts, [Samuel B. Woodward, superintendent of the Worcester State Lunatic Hospital] in which are quite a number of insane persons who have been believers in the Second Advent, says in a late report, “The believers in the second advent who have become insane, are subjects of the highest excitement: they are full of ecstacy, [sic] and think of nothing but being soon transported to all the enjoyments of heaven.
But there is another class who have not embraced the doctrine, but who have feared it might be true, who have distracted their minds by puzzling over it, thinking about it, and dreading its approach, who have sunk into deep and hapless melancholy, which it is a hard task to remove.”Signal of Liberty, May 6, 1844, Ann Arbor Library
Going back another century to New England in July 1741, we see the same reaction of people when the specter of judgment was before them: Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Edwards was more a theologian than an orator. He read the sermon in a monotone, barely looking up. Still, the picture of God’s hand casting sinners into hell for an eternal punishment in vivid mental images (based on scripture!), soon caused listeners to swoon, fling themselves into the aisles, scream aloud and beg to know what they must do to be saved.
Now, if Christians are troubled in spirit, as I know many of us are, it’s OK. It’s human. The Thessalonians were also disturbed and overwrought. So much so that Paul wrote the entire second letter to calm them down. The Thessalonians had been upset by a teaching purporting to be Paul’s, which told them they’d missed the rapture and the Tribulation had started. Persecution of the church was accelerating and the notion of the Tribulation having begun wasn’t hard for the Thessalonians to imagine.
It isn’t a sin to feel. We are disturbed with what we see. We’re experiencing a downgrade of the church, the chasm between secular and Christian worldviews widening. Knowledge that the lost will experience sure judgment causes grief in us. The feeling is that time is short. The sadness of seeing so many succumb to false teachers hurts us. And the secular world is crumbling, too. We see anger & hatred, property damage, carnage, destruction whether by rioting mobs foaming at the mouth with erosive philosophies, or ‘natural’ disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires.
It’s OK to feel grief or be momentarily upset (like the Thessalonians were). It’s OK to mourn the lost when we see them drawn into such enslaving worldviews. Remember, at the root of their widespread panic is the knowledge of judgment. The lost suppress this truth (Romans 1:18), but they know it. When they feel the time is short, they lose their minds. We see this in Luke 21:26, in the Millerite issue, Edwards’ Sinners Sermon, and nowadays with riots and unreasoning animalistic behavior.
I think the nation is going crazy not only because satan’s leash is long and he is the ‘god of this world’, with he and his cohort lying spirits deceiving everywhere, but also because the specter of death that the virus brought incites the suppressed knowledge that “it is appointed for man to die once, then the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27).
The Superintendent of the Worcester MA Insane Asylum, Samuel B. Woodward, estimated that half his clients held there during the year and a half preceding the 1843 Miller date of Christ’s Advent had become deranged from religious despair. Woodward also said that other area asylums were also receiving clients for that reason.
We need to keep preaching the Gospel, one that includes all the elements, including judgment. There is nothing like the knowledge of the judgment of God that disturbs a soul. Perhaps many will come to salvation during this turbulent time, when consciences are pricked and the soul is agitated.