A message from the frontline
He makes all things beautiful in his time - An encouragement from the medical front line
Just finished my hospital on-call as junior doctor ward cover. Such a challenging week. Unwell patients coughing all over me who turned out to be COVID-19 positive. Tensions high. People stressed. Others dying. Many worried. Staff upset over the shortage of protective face masks. We are rationing masks. Simple surgical masks worn for seeing COVID-19 positive patients and potential cases but no masks to wear for general work in the hospital or infected wards. Lack of testing for COVID-19. Confusing instructions to everyone from those above us and it’s not their fault as they are receiving confusing instruction from those above them, and above and above.
What about the One who is greatest above all? Where does He stand in all this? What comfort does he give? We hear the words “He has made everything beautiful in its time”. Such a sweet encouragement God gives to mankind in the book of Ecclesiastes. Did you know, it comes after verses which say “a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing?” What a surprise! I’ve always thought it would never be literal. But here we are, in the midst of the pandemic. Don’t touch, don’t shake hands and definitely don’t go around hugging others.
Hear this beautiful poem from the book of Ecclesiastes. It warms the heart:
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-12.
What a peace giving poem.
Why? It does what COVID-19 has done for all of us on earth. It shatters our idea that man is in control and shows us who truly is in charge. Toil and work, toil and work. Busy, busy. We think we can get everything all good and in-control as long as we do it well. But here comes a new pandemic and everything goes to bits. We never knew we needed toilet rolls so much until now. Down the drain goes our idea that we are the rulers of our destiny. Yet the eternal truth stands. “He has made everything beautiful in his time” Majestic, all powerful, immutable, unchanging, God of all. He has made everything beautiful in his time!
Actually, we knew this already. The poem continues with its explanation:
“Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil--this is God's gift to man.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13.
Eternity, eternity. “The vanishing point”, “Time out of mind”. Put into our hearts by God that we realise how small we are. Never knowing the beginning to the end of the Almighty’s plans. Many of us had plans ruined this month. A holiday gone, a reunion cancelled, a surgery postponed, that pack of pasta we couldn’t find because someone else was panic buying. How easy it seemed to get our daily food. But did not Jesus teach us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread”. Rice, pasta, instant noodles, flour. What then shall we do? God says in Ecclesiastes: Be joyful, do good, eat, drink, take pleasure in work. “This is God’s gift to man.”
Yet there is one greater ultimate aim of all this in the final explanation of the poem:
“I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” Ecclesiastes 3:14.
To fear him. To fear him is our greatest joy. To remember how small we are. To see how temporal our works. To rest in the Almighty who makes all things beautiful in his time. To trust him whose works can never be destroyed nor undone. To worship and give due respect to the one who is in charge of all from the smallest virus to the largest galaxy. To realise that “the fear of the Lord leads to life” Proverbs 19:23
Come friends, come all. Let us fear him that we may seek him and know him. We are sinful, dirtied and black with our sins. Plagued by the greatest virus that has infected all mankind, our unrighteousness and rebellion against God. We should fear him who is pure and will judge us for our sins. But if we go to him as we are, dirty with our sins, we are we would be completely destroyed by the terrible heat treatment of eternal hell. However, there is a way to be decontaminated. Jesus, the Son of God has said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He offers to us all to come to him, he will bear your sins on the cross, he will purge you clean of all unrighteousness. Come liars, drunkards, thieves, gluttons, adulterers, murderers. Come and receive the cleansing from the cross. Come and receive the clean garment of righteousness by Jesus, so clean, so dazzling pure, whiter than snow. Then you will stand like Jesus himself, accepted before God who has made everything beautiful in its time. You can say “Come COVID-19, come life, come death. I will never fear anything apart from you my God. For I am yours and you are mine.”
A sinner saved by grace, Dr Benjamin Quek