What in the world is God up to?
One quote from John Piper that has always stuck with me is, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
With all that’s happening in the World because of the recent outbreak of COVID-19, those words aren’t falling on deaf ears. I know God is up to something, but I have no idea what it is.
I’ve only been alive a few decades and I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced something as communally drastic as a pandemic. I asked my mom, a Boomer baby, if she remembers anything of the like happening in her generation; her response being that the Polio epidemic might be the closest but even then, “What happening now is crazy.”
The unfamiliarity of it all is what causes us, or at least me, to feel uneasy. To wonder what happens next and if it will involve some return to normalcy. To ask questions of history, and primarily, of God.
God is always up to something.
I haven’t walked with God too long—only ten-ish years in fact. Therefore, I’m only a 5th grader in Jesus at this point. But in the little I’ve been with Him, I’ve learned this about Him: God is always up to something.
He’s too intentional and intelligent to allow anything that doesn’t serve some ultimate purpose. God doesn’t deal in the arbitrary, and if He did, we’d be a hopeless bunch always being exposed to the whims of life with no promise that they’ll somehow work out for our good (Romans 8:28).
I can look at the stars and recall that God placed them there so I’d be able to distinguish between night and day (Genesis 1:16). From Genesis to Revelation, you can see the sovereign hand of God, working through history so as to be faithful to His promise to reconcile the world back to Himself.
He never neglected to use all kinds of people, famines, exile, death, birth, a virgin born baby, a crucified body resurrected, a group of twelve, a church made of sanctified sinners to do what He set out to do from the beginning. From the seemingly invisible microscopic bacteria floating around us to the always big, big sun, our God is intentional.
The Tension of Sovereignty
Acknowledging the sovereign intentionality of God doesn’t come without its handful of tensions and complexities. People are dying. Our economy is suffering. Our hospitals, nurses, and doctors are under resourced and over capacity. Our bank accounts are stiffening. Our grocery stores are empty (I’m sure the shelves are still stocked with canned beets though.). Our schools are closed. Our jobs have sent some of us home and laid others of us off. Our churches have moved online and that’s only if they have the skill and technological resources to do so.
Without the eyes of faith and a substantial understanding of the holiness of God, one could look at the world as it is now and assume that God is a devil. That would be a heresy and a blasphemous indictment of the highest degree, yet whenever a human decides to judge the character of God based on the circumstances of its environment rather than judging God based on what He has revealed to us about Himself in Christ, they behave as a devil themselves.
Making accusations of the Holy One will never lead us toward the truth we believe our presumptions are rooted in. Only faith can do that. The faith that says, “Lord, I don’t like what’s happening. Our people are dying. Our finances are struggling. I am scared to death, but I am choosing to believe that the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
We’re Not Really in Control.
So back to our original question, what in the world is God up to? Many things, I’m sure, but if I had to guess one, I’d say it’s humility. Everybody from the multimillion-dollar businesses, to the self-employed, the 9-5ers, stay-at-home moms, and retirees, have had their lives changed in some capacity in a matter of weeks. And I suppose that it’s caught us off guard because we have assumed that our routines would remain. We were so used to life as usual that it feels unusual to do life this way.
But I’d argue that that is exactly where God may want us to be for a season. Perhaps we have seen everybody but ourselves in James’s words here: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).
We made plans for today and tomorrow, which is wise to do only when the plans are made in consideration of the reality that your life is determined by God and not your calendar. What if God was allowing all of this because He simply wanted us to remember that we’re really not in control? That our lives are a vapor? That our productivity has never been the ultimate source of our provision? That all the stuff we thought would keep us secure were just as fragile as the body we live in? That our families matter more than our phones? That gathering on Sundays has been a privilege we were too used to to see?
I don’t know about you, but if God is doing something through any of this, I believe it has to be He’s humbling not only us, as in the church, but the world. Lest you find this to be discouraging, don’t fret, for humility is a surefire way to see God without all the haze that pride and comfortability brings.
There is a lot of suffering happening among us, and for that, we should lament. But alongside our grief, joy is possible, for it comes by way of us being brought low enough to see that in the same way that God won’t stop being sovereign, He won’t ever stop being Himself.
So, what in the world is God doing? He is being good.