- Rev Peter Chan (Presbyterian Express Committee Member) Is there anyone whose daily life has not been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic? Is there anyone whose plans or dreams have not been delayed or derailed by the crisis? I am sure everyone is affected in more ways than one, either by the virus itself or the consequences it brings – e.g., social distancing, stay home, travel restrictions, no dinning in eateries and restaurants.
James 4:13–17 come to my mind as I look at what’s going on in my life and ministry, as a result of the pandemic. The things I have been taking for granted, I no longer am allowed to do – e.g., simply walking into shop or store to get what I need. Last week, I needed a electric cable, I realised I couldn’t go to my nearest mall and to get it. Instead, I had to go online and make a purchase. Then, it would take four days to be delivered to my home. Finally, I got to use it! What a change of my life!
I used to drop by Ya Kun or Toast Box after my morning runs for black coffee, half-boiled eggs, and bread toasts. I enjoyed sitting there, reading from my mobile phone and watching people. Now, due to the Circuit Breaker measures, nobody is allowed to dine in; only takeaway is allowed. As a result, the queues at these outlets are long, compounded by online orders and home deliveries. Nowadays, I would head home right after doing some stretching to cool down.
Three weeks ago, I bought two air tickets to Gold Coast for Diana and I, hoping to have a short vacation. Then, the situation worsened both in Singapore and Australia. Three or four days after we booked the flight, the Singapore Government announced the blanket travel advisory against Singaporeans travelling overseas. Then, the Australian Government closed its border for a month to all international flights. To date, Australian border still closed. Just few days back, the Australian Government announced closing its border for another three months!
My personal examples of disruption may be trivial and suffered no financial losses except inconveniences. But, for some us, the disruption might be major, causing not only financial losses but also sense of hope and security – e.g. retrenchment, pay cuts, and unable to find employment. Some of us may have started our start-up plans, only to be derailed by this pandemic. Now, we may have to go back to rethink our future direction.
Whichever way we are experiencing disruptions and whatever forms they come, point is, these setbacks really humble us, driving us to our knees, admitting the volatile nature of life and our inability to have perfect foresight and thus, to plan flawlessly.
It is no small wonder that James warns us against being boastful, presumptuously plan our lives – e.g., academic goals, assets acquisitions, business expansions, personal growths, and family planning. Who would have thought that a flu-like virus became so infectious, restricting individuals and disabling economies!
James uses an imagery or picture of what our life is like – a mist or vapour! These days we use electric thermal flasks. Have you ever opened it up when the water is boiled? The moment the cover is opened, you see steams. They appear only for seconds and then they are no more! That’s what our life is – fast, fragile, and fickle. Yet, we go about our life presumptuously plan as if we are masters of our own destinies.
What does James suggest us do? He suggests that we humble ourselves – i.e. acknowledge our inability to know and control our life – experiences and events – to happen or not. From acknowledging our fragility, we must move on to acknowledging God’s absolute sovereignty. James does not highlight the fragility of life to make us nervous wrecks – obsessed with worries and anxieties, whether such a mishap may or may not happen to us. Rather, James wants us to live our life in the full confidence that God is in control and we are not! So, the wise thing to do is to SUBMIT to God’s sovereign wisdom, rather than acting foolishly on false sense of security.
Perhaps, in the midst of this pandemic, some of us are already suffering insomnia. Some of us may be feeling hopeless. Some of us may even wonder if we are going to get back our life to “normalcy”. I am not sure if I want my life to go back to “normalcy” where I had lived on a false sense of security, ignoring God’s absolute claim on my life!
Today, let us come before God to confess our presumption of faith, humble ourselves before Him. Let us acknowledge our fragility and God’s absolute sovereignty. Will you? Will I? Will we bow before God and say, “God willing, I am going to do this and that, after this pandemic! Better still, we say, “God willing (Deo Volente), during this pandemic, I am planning to do this and do that! Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!