One of Charles Dickens’ better known quotes is from The Tale Of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Dickens was describing a time of controversies and contradictions between Paris and London during the French Revolution. He was speaking of chaos, conflicts, and despair, as well as levity and happiness. These were times of extreme opposites without any in-betweens. Maybe you have been feeling something similar in the midst the COVID-19 pandemic.
M. Susan Lindee likens what we are facing to war in a Washington Post article, “Although it cannot be bombed or cyberattacked, the COVID-19 crisis has been likened to World War III. While some have criticized the comparison to war, in one key way, it may suggest a model for defeating the virus now upending our lives and threatening national security.” In her article Lindee calls for a unified response similar to the one seen in WWII.
What makes COVID-19 so frightful how suddenly it has turned our world upside-down. 2019 ended as one of the best economic years in recent memory with low unemployment and a rising stock market that seemed to have no limits. The best of times. And then, the bottom fell off. The worst of times. Today we may be wondering when we will be able to return to the “best of times” again. Our answer will likely reveal our own tainted definition of the best of times.
For us, the best of times probably means smooth sailing on glassy seas; however, we know that life in this fallen world is never that easy. In fact, Jesus came and died to deliver us from the sin Adam brought into the world that caused the rough seas that have been our reality ever since. Today we can thank God for the real and certain hope given to us in Christ even while we live during the winter of despair.
Trials, hardships, and seasons of darkness are the times when we need hope. More than anything, we long for a hope that is greater than ourselves; one that is independent of circumstances. This is precisely what we have in Christ as Paul declares, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (Romans 5:3-4)
The Christian’s hope is realized in the midst of difficulties. Later in Paul’s letter to the Romans he testifies of this saying, “And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) (Romans 8:23-25)
God promises those who believe a future hope that is far greater than anything that we can imagine. This hope is rooted in the truths of scripture, specifically in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The truth of the resurrection gives us great hope as Hebrews 2 declares, “Because God’s children are human beings — made of flesh and blood — the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (14-15)
At Easter we remembered how in His resurrection Jesus claimed eternal life for all who believe. The promise of eternal life allows us to look beyond the current trials to rest in a hope that is greater. Knowing Christ allows us to have confidence even in the worst of times and the resurrection testifies of the eternal hope that is ours even in the midst of despair.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.