Someone recently shared a NY Times article with me written by a critical care doctor in NYC. The article basically talks about the fact that many healthcare workers are having a hard time with wanting to care for Covid-19 patients. The doctor who wrote the article said, “I’ve always tried to be a doctor who spends a little extra time in the room with patients, doing whatever I can to put them at ease and offer compassion in the midst of their suffering. But when it comes to Covid patients I find myself wanting to get in and out in the shortest time possible.” It’s a legitimate struggle, and I certainly don’t envy those who are facing this daunting scenario on a daily basis. In most cases the fear of a pandemic flu will dominate and define a person’s thoughts and choices, however there is one Person who cannot be foiled by fear; and when this Person prevails upon us and takes up residency inside of us, we become beneficiaries of His mysterious and supernatural workmanship.
Which brings me to yesterday. Yesterday I had a brief conversation with an East CLT resident who regularly ventures into one of the most stressful, and fear-laden, Corona contexts. Some of you know her as “Stephanie Baker,” and her calling is to care for people afflicted with Coronavirus and all manner of other ailments. In the course of my conversation with Stephanie I encountered the mysterious and supernatural workmanship of the third Person of the Trinity. When I asked her how she felt about going into work, Stephanie said, “There’s no place I’d rather be. I know God has stationed me at the hospital to care for Covid patients (and others), and I am truly honored to have the opportunity to participate in the work of God’s Kingdom in this particular way.” On one hand, this didn’t surprise me, because I knew of the occupancy of the Holy Spirit in nurse Baker’s life. But on the other hand I was somewhat stunned, because I know that despite the presence of the Holy Spirit, people sometimes opt to live by fear instead of faith. Whether fear or faith, both require fuel, so I asked Stephanie, “What, specifically, is fueling your perspective?” Without hesitation she said, “I’ve been reading Jeremiah.”
So how does reading Jeremiah embolden nurse Baker to care for Covid patients? First of all, Jeremiah (and other stories in Scripture) focus our attention on the BIG REASON behind every event in human history. One of the most satisfying and stabilizing realities is the foundational fact that God (in addition to being immeasurably wise and good) is absolutely, and infinitely, in control of EVERYTHING. For example, when the people of Jeremiah’s day experienced the life-shattering invasion of Babylon, Jeremiah was deployed with a personal message from God saying, “I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, My servant.” Perhaps this does not feel immediately consoling to you, but this is in fact the bedrock of our confidence and security. This FACT, that God establishes kings and empires, God sends pestilence and earthquakes, God creates and controls the world and upholds the universe by the Word of His power …this is what provides irrevocable stability to your life. This is why guys like Nehemiah can faithfully serve as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, and this is why he can vulnerably reveal his sadness in the presence of the king and go on to make audacious requests of the king …because Nehemiah knows that God’s authorship and authority are what actually set the agenda for life. The comprehensive sovereignty of God is why guys like Habakkuk can wrestle with doubt, and converse with shocking candor during discussions with the Almighty; because he knows that even if there isn’t any health and wealth for him in this temporary place called planet earth, yet he will rejoice in the Lord, and take joy in the God of his salvation, because God is his strength.
Ultimately, Jeremiah (and all the other books of the Bible) are most satisfying and stabilizing because they point us to the epicenter of all human history, when God became a man, and He Himself wrestled intensely with temptations and the terrors of evil’s impact on this planet. The God man, Jesus of Nazareth, experienced the full range of human satisfaction and struggle in this life; and at the summit of His life on this earth He made a heart-wrenching request, and a resolute commitment saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” And we are invited to confidently join our King in crying out to the Almighty, expressing with the utmost candor what we honestly desire, and whole-heartedly trusting God even if we can’t make heads or tails of His agenda. Though He asked for it to pass from Him, Jesus of Nazareth drank the cup and experienced – for the first time in forever – separation from His Heavenly Father. This was our penalty, which He chose to bear as our substitute. He died and was buried. And then that mysterious third Person brought Him back from the dead, and after rising and spending some time relationally investing in the lives of His disciples, He ascended into Heaven, and one day He will come back to judge the living and the dead.
This is what’s called THE GOSPEL, and it’s what gives you assurance way down deep in your soul if you read Jeremiah.
P.S. After chatting with nurse Baker, later in the day, I came across THIS resource. …It relates to the content above and I heartily recommend you check it out.