If The Lord Wills
Our life on earth is influenced by various powers:
* Laws of nature that God established at creation. This includes things like synchronous movements of the earth, sun and moon to produce gravity, seasons and tides; the interactions of oceans, rivers and the atmosphere to produce breathable gases, rainfall and temperate climate. Natural forces are largely benevolent, but due to our sinfulness God has also allowed a harmful element in them. So, the same rainfall that waters crops sometimes drowns in floods. Winds that disperse rain can rotate violently into a tornado. Viruses can mutate, proliferate and cause pandemics.
* The free will of man. Mankind is a creature of volition or choice. It is a great blessing to choose the paths of life – where we will go, what we will do, how we spend our time on this earth. But free will doesn’t exist without alternatives, and God has allowed man to acknowledge or reject Him. When we opt for another way, we inevitably give life to evil.
* The providential will and workings of God. In bygone times, God has chosen to reveal Himself in graphic displays of power – miracles that superseded the natural laws that commonly govern the planet. But for the most part, God works in covert ways to influence world leaders, legislators, armies and nature itself so that His overarching purposes are accomplished.
Trying to understand how these three elements of influence operate is beyond us. We have learned a lot about Category 1 by research, observation and experimentation, but we have only scratched the surface of this material world. Category 2 is even more challenging. Just try to rationally explain why someone in the midst of the present crisis would lick products in Walmart and post it on the Internet – not to mention 100,000 other senseless and wicked things people do with their free will.
But Category 3 is the deepest. There is simply no way to know the mind of God – His influence, intentions and purposes in world affairs – unless He reveals it. While Scripture has shown how God has interacted with man in the past, that doesn’t fully explain God’s hand in the present.
All these things underlie James’ rebuke to those who think they have ultimate control of life: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (4:13-15).
Why is the coronavirus sweeping the globe? When will it end? What does God want us to learn? We may not have specific answers to these questions, but James does give us guidance: Our intentions are subject to the will of God; we must learn to account for life’s uncertainty; our time on earth passes as a vapor; and we should seek His will in all our planning.
Only when we account for God’s will do we find peace in an uncertain world.