A very interesting passage of Scripture comes to mind in light of these days. 2 Chronicles 7:13–14 says, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command LOCUSTS to devour the land or send a PLAGUE among My people, if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Is it just a coincidence that Africa’s crops are being decimated by a large swarm of locusts at the same time that the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic?
I don’t claim to be a prophet and I don’t pretend to understand all that is happening around our world. In addition to the COVID and locusts, some people are dealing with floods, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, or volcano eruptions. Sometimes we think that these disasters are God’s judgment on those who haven’t yet bowed the knee to Jesus, but if you read the passage carefully, you’ll notice that “first and foremost,” it’s NOT a call to the lost to repent, but it’s a call for God’s people to seek Him. When devastating things happen in our lives, they are reminders to once again seek God’s face.
I think we can gain some understanding by recalling our childhood. When I was a young boy, there were two situations in which I would not meet my parents’ eyes. The first case was when I was being DEFIANT. Rather than look at their faces, I’d either turn my back on them or try to stay away from them in another room. The second situation was when I was under CONVICTION, knowing I had done something of which they’d not approve. I’d usually look down and stare at the ground rather than look them in the eye and own up to what I’d done.
Just after Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, they tried to hide from God the next time He came to visit them. Theirs was a combination of defiance and conviction. “They hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:8-9) Even in their sin, God went looking for them. God gave Adam and Eve a chance to own up to their disobedience, but as you know, they tried shifting the blame.
When difficult times hit, it’s a wakeup call for Christ-followers to evaluate their lives, repeating David’s prayer, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
Difficult circumstances are God’s loving attempt to get our attention, to deepen our relationship with Him. He doesn’t want people to stay stuck in their defiance or conviction. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the LORD DISCIPLINES THOSE HE LOVES, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5–6)
It’s true that God also uses disasters to get the attention of people who are not yet Christ-followers. But we need to be careful to not be too quick to declare that those disasters are His judgments against sin. One thing is that He wants people to realize that everything they have in this life is subject to decay and loss, and He wants them to accept Christ so they will live forever in Heaven, where there will be no more disasters and nothing will decay.
God always makes the first move to seek us. He comes looking for us first, not vice versa. “For the Son of Man came to SEEK and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) “We love because he FIRST loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Jesus is God’s greatest and ultimate attempt to bring people into a love-relationship with Himself. “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him [Jesus], and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19–20) If you haven’t yet received Jesus, I hope you’ll do that soon.