Many institutions that serve as gathering places of large amounts of people have shut down all over the country due to the COVID-19 crisis. Schools, churches, sporting events, concerts, and the like are canceled. Even movie theaters are selling limited quantities of tickets to curb the amount of people in proximity to one another.
I think it bears repeating over and over—DO NOT PANIC. These are all precautionary measures taken to help “flatten the curve.”
As I sit in my home office on Saturday, March 14, thinking about how my family will be relegated mostly to our home over the next couple of weeks, the phrase that comes to my mind as a believer is, “Take this time to rest.”
What does it truly mean to rest?
We learn early on in Scripture that God designed, instituted, and even himself practiced rest. We also see that God instituted Sabbath rest for Israel—not only was this a command, but also a sign displaying God’s covenant relationship with Israel (Exod. 31:12-18). Fast-forwarding to the Gospels, we see rest in a Christo-centric light.
In light of the current coronavirus crisis, I want to highlight at least three ways—under the New Covenant and Christ’s finished work on the cross—that believers can and should rest.
First, we must rest in Christ.
The spread of and effects of this virus remind us of the fallenness of our world. And while we can take precautions to limit the spread and thus the effects, the underlying diagnosis is the same—the world is sinful and in desperate need of redemption.
Many human beings since the Enlightenment think that humanity can usher in some type of utopia—purging the world of its darkness and chaos. Christians know better. While such a dark estimation shouldn’t deter believers from exercising good works for the glory of God and the good of the world, we realize there’s nothing humanity can do to dig their way out of sin and fallenness.
However, the incredible news of the gospel is that Christ has. Through Christ, God worked his way to us, and through his death on the cross made restitution for the sin of humanity. And so, while we watch the effects of sin and darkness in our world, Christians remember to rest in the finished work of Jesus’ death and resurrection in which he ushered in the dawn of new creation.
Second, we must rest in worship.
On the seventh day, God rested in his work, observing and admiring the great work he did. On the seventh day, Israel was to take the day to observe, meditate, and worship God—for who he was, what he had done, his provision, and for the covenant relationship they enjoyed with him. Life came to a halt, so that they could attune their lives to the One who gave them life.
In a time of national (and global) crisis, especially when many of our churches are moving their worship gatherings ‘online,’ we must not forsake resting in worship. While I pray that believers will join their fellowship for their online gatherings and worship Christ together virtually, it’s also necessary for believers to carve out time daily for resting in worship.
What I am describing here is a little more than a daily devotional—especially since life as many know it is coming to somewhat of a halt. I’m describing a time believers set aside to exclusively worship God—praising him for who he is, what he has done, and his provision.
In addition, during this rest, we mediate between God and the world asking Him to intervene to stop the spread of the virus, to bring healing to those infected, to bring hope to those suffering from vocational or financial loss, and to give wisdom and discernment to those in authority. As we do this, we constantly recalibrate our minds and souls to rest in the One who is sovereign over all creation. And recalibration is something we will desperately need during this time as we will find ourselves aimlessly scrolling through social media and binge-watching news cycles that can easily stir our soul into a frenzy.
Third, no matter what happens in life (the good and the bad), we must rest in God’s sovereignty and providence.
As the author of Hebrews alludes to, there is an eternal rest that proceeds this life. Resting in this eschatological (or future) truth should comfort us and lead us to rest in the present as God works his redemptive plan of redeeming and restoring his creation to a state of shalom.
Because we rest in God’s sovereignty and providence as he works towards the eschatological shalom—when the New City Jerusalem comes to earth—we rest in that future vision with present mission. In other words, as we rest—when many are restless—we contemplate and discern how we can bring flourishing to a world that’s frantic.
Believer, local church, during this disruption—when much of our lives have been paused—let us seek how the Lord would have us enact the eschatological vision of shalom, ultimate rest, by asking, “What will bring flourishing to our community?” And what we may find during this heightened time of rest is a stirring of revival.
Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.