The Present Distress
I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress – that it is good for a man to remain as he is. (I Cor. 7:26)
The term “present distress” is vague. Whatever it was it was serious, for Paul recommends in this chapter that marriage, both a right and the natural choice of most adults, be avoided: “But even if you do marry, you have not sinned. ... Nevertheless, such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. ... And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction” (7:28, 35).
Admittedly, being raised post-World War II and too young to be drafted for the Vietnam war, and living in a stable and fairly prosperous, peaceful society, it seemed hard to apply Paul’s words to our modern situation. Well, it’s a lot easier to imagine these days with the fallout from the coronavirus.
We have all seen drastic changes to our lives and the exercise of our faith. Because of the “present distress” we cannot assemble for worship as normal; we cannot interact with each other in person; we cannot go about our daily routines either by law or fear of contracting the virus.
We are experiencing life changes on a limited scale, but consider for a moment the unthinkable. Suppose this pandemic leads to an economic collapse in America, and the present conditions worsen and become prolonged. It could be that entering into marriage would become inadvisable due to the pressures that would be placed on the relationship. This seems to have been Paul’s concern for the Corinthians, whatever the specific cause.
During our own present distress, let us remember:
* Though our assemblies have been interrupted, we can still worship. Perhaps this is an aspect of our spiritual lives that needs attention, and now that other distractions of life have been curtailed, we can focus more on our personal prayers, singing hymns and studying our Bibles with each other as family.
* This phase will pass. While the world is presently topsy-turvy, life will eventually return to normal. Now, it may be a “new normal,” a society permanently altered in some respects due to the coronavirus fallout. But let us not exaggerate the situation and despair over what is likely a temporary interruption.
* The present distress can lead to future blessing. Of course, its impact is up to us. But if we approach it as an opportunity to reduce clutter, renew our appreciation for each other, rejoice in our relationship with God and realize how much we need God every day, then we will emerge from this crisis better people.