Friday, June 7, 2024

When the World Changed - Martin Wiles

when the world changed
So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Number 21:6 NLT

I once thought I would have enjoyed living during the Great Depression, but . . .

When I was younger, I could find people who had suffered through the Great Depression. I loved talking to them—my grandfather included. I enjoy reading history books about that same period. The stock market crashed, banks closed, unemployment skyrocketed, bread lines opened, work programs appeared, people traveled across the country looking for work, and, unfortunately, many committed suicide. Some lost all they had. People learned to survive on the bare essentials. However, good things came from the economic breakdown as well. People pulled together and demonstrated kindness. They looked to each other and God. But that was then, and this was now.

“We need some groceries,” my wife said.

My monthly paycheck had arrived. Usually, my wife made a list and headed there herself. Not now. COVID-19 changed our lives and the world. Officials enacted social distancing. Some stores closed early to disinfect, our retailer being one of them.

Having just gotten over strep throat, my wife didn’t need to be around too many people. That meant going as soon as the store opened. Some stores allowed no one except senior adults in during the first few hours. I qualified. Additionally, we had two of our grandboys during the week, and we didn’t want them exposed.

So, at 6:30 am on a Sunday—enough time to shop and return before going to church, where I preached to empty pews—we pulled into the Walmart parking lot. A few others had the same idea. Go early and avoid the risk of exposure. The store would be disinfected, and most people would still be home in bed. And the shelves might even be stocked, since hopefully the hoarders would still be asleep, too. We struck pay dirt, getting everything we needed and avoiding seeing more than thirty people.

The previous day, pen sickness had overcome us. When I used the phrase on my adult daughter, she said, “What?” I had to explain. My wife and I had tired of the four walls. We needed to get out. Living in town differed from living in the country. There, we could have roamed acres of land without coming in contact with anyone. Not so in the city.

We called a couple and asked if they wanted to ride to a nearby park that officials had yet to close. The park hosted a few hiking trails, and we imagined a nice getaway where we could enjoy God’s creation and still maintain social distancing. Getting out in nature and doing a little exercise did us all a world of good. We were thankful for a place we could still go without the threat of contracting the virus that ravaged our world.

Never in all my life had I used so much hand sanitizer or washed my hands so often. I’m a firm believer that exposure to germs builds an immune system. And I think I’m right. I lick my finger before passing out papers to my middle schoolers and handle the papers they turn in without thought, washing my hands only after using the restroom or touching poisonous materials. But not then. Coronavirus changed my world.

The Israelites’ world also changed. They did their usual thing: disobeyed God. God had punished them in various ways, but this time, He rocked their world with poisonous snakes. Many died. Only those who looked at the bronze serpent Moses erected lived. Their look was one of faith. After all, faith is the one thing that gets us through a changed world.

Never in my lifetime—or in the lifetime of anyone I have known—has something changed our world as COVID-19 did in 2020. Thousands died, medicines were only experimental, and no vaccine existed. Social distancing made us feel disconnected, even though social media kept us together. But Twitter, Skype, Instagram, and Facebook didn’t substitute for a good hug, sitting next to someone, or shaking a hand.

New normals get our attention, making us sit up straighter and focus. And this one did. I’m not saying God sent the virus—He could have. After all, He did send snakes. But at the very least, He used it to bring out the good in people, to promote unity, and to help us love each other more.

When massive change comes, we can hoard and turn inwardly or turn outwardly and upwardly. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 changed our world in a way it had never experienced before. For those who responded appropriately during the virus, we, in the aftermath, now see people differently, love God more passionately, and rearrange a few of the things that we once considered necessary. After all, whoever thought toilet paper would top our grocery list?

Don’t let change diminish your trust in the God who controls.

Father, when things seem out of control, turn my eyes to the One who remains in control. 

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