It is seemingly impossible to turn on the television, open a website, or scroll through a feed without seeing the fallout of man’s sin. We are spectators to horrific mass shootings, human trafficking and all the abuses associated with it, addictions, violent disputes within our borders and around the world, and tragic warfare. Man brings devastation by his sin, and the church is not immune to sin within its walls or the effects of the world’s hatred of Christ and Christianity.
Creation also groans in pain, manifested in the intense earthquakes and numerous, powerful hurricanes we have witnessed this year and in years past. We see and hear creation’s pain in the wildfires, the flooding, the famines, and the epidemics. There seems to be a chaotic, unending stream of news regarding these events too, each event an obsession for a time only to be forgotten as another takes its place.
We are clearly living in a fallen, sin-laden world—a world filled with violence and devastation at every turn. We as God’s saints groan with creation as hatred-driven rampages and geographic events fill our media. And yet it is neither shocking nor unexpected by the people of God. We anticipate these events because God himself, through his Son Jesus Christ, has brought us the warning in his word. We know the church will suffer in the perils of this fallen creation and at the hands of its persecutors, and are reminded in both Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, among other passages of scripture, that these are the “signs of the times,” and all of these happenings are evidences of the truth found in the word.
Clearly men have no ability to stand against the powerful travail of the creation that God has established, or against the consequences of their own sin. Most are impacted by sickness, disease, and warring in some way too. While mankind continues to fear and wonder at the confusion, and while he continues to store up iniquity to himself, we stand humbled and amazed at the assurance we have in God. That “though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,” we will not be afraid because, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1–3) He is our refuge from this world and he is our salvation from sin.
As a world history teacher I am keenly aware of examples in history demonstrating our defender God in the midst of trouble, and our faithful God in the midst of a faithless world. When the church was persecuted in ancient Rome, it was purified and it grew. When it faced the troubling events of the fall of the Roman Empire, the church filled the chaotic void, bringing stability and the gospel to the people. When it was stricken by corruption and vile sin as the Middle Ages wore on, and failed to guide the people in a time of rampant disease, warfare, and death, the church, by God’s grace, “fought the good fight of faith” in the Reformation. And when it seemed that persecution might truly have a hold on truth and true believers, God made for the church a home in the New World, a place of refuge again for his people. He motivates us to join in the cause of the gospel as it moves to the corners of the globe even as the church still experiences the trials of oppression. The church has endured through the perils of the fallen creation and through persecution, by God’s grace alone, and by his promise to remain faithful to his own.
We further confess with Reformed believers in the Belgic Confession, Article 12, that “[God] doth also still uphold and govern” the entirety of his creation “by his eternal providence, and infinite power…to the end that man may serve his God.” We know that all things are controlled from the throne of our Lord God. Revelation 6 gives us the perspective of earth from heaven as the first four seals are opened and the four horsemen are released. They bring with them the very tragedies that we witness in our world today. But the Lamb is in control of their release. This Lamb of God on the throne is our God. Colossians 1:16–17 considers this too, that all things are subservient to Christ and the whole creation will bow before him and confess that he is Lord. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
As we witness the depravity of man and destruction of sin all around us, as we hear the groans of creation in the trembling of the earth, and as we experience the buffeting of believers on this pilgrim journey, these events serve as a visible reminder that God’s word is true and infallible. His warning in scripture rings clear that this time would come, and although we too cry, “How long, O Lord?” with the saints before the throne, we also confess with the psalmist David, “My times are in [God’s] hand…” (Ps. 31:15a).
* Meghan VanOverloop is a teacher in her 6th year at Covenant Christian High School in Walker, MI. She is a graduate of Calvin College and attends Zion PRC.