Letter from Lucy Lucy Dangerfield, Be Amazed by Grace Again

Dear sisters of Women at the Well,

It’s clear now that the world has fallen into a crisis on a level not experienced since war times. Our highly connected global society has proved the ideal environment for the spread of the invisible enemy that is the coronavirus. Even if we are personally unaffected by the disease, everyone has watched with alarm as the social and economic structures we rely upon have been lost or reshaped: our jobs, our ecclesias and even the simple freedom to leave our homes to meet with friends. Nobody can say how bad it will get or how long it will last.

This situation easily gives rise to fear. We may face financial difficulty as jobs are lost, loneliness as we isolate ourselves from the threat and depression as we ponder an uncertain future; assuming that COVID-19 itself does not touch us or someone we love. The media bombards us every day with statistics about the number of confirmed cases and the creeping death toll. We are afraid of sneezes and touching surfaces. We are afraid we won’t be able to buy the necessities. We are afraid things will never go back to normal.

As the world sinks further into its fears, meanwhile in Christadelphia there have been varied ideas about whether this crisis features in Scriptural Study God's Book of Life, the Bibleprophecy. ‘Men’s hearts are failing them for fear,’ we quote from Luke 21, wondering if this is a labour pain signifying the beginning of the end. Some folk have recently made strong declarations that Christ’s return is now so imminent that it will happen in only weeks or months. We read on: ‘When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Surprisingly, rather than offering consolation, these words may create in us yet more fear. If the world is slipping into increasing turmoil because the end of the age is upon us, we might begin to wonder: are we ready? Upon his return, will Christ find us to be waiting expectantly with oil in our proverbial lamps? We examine ourselves, observe what we think are our failings and feel the prickling of anxiety. We sense that we are running out of time: to get baptised, to do that mission work we always intended to do, to adopt a good habit or to overcome a sin. If Christ’s return is upon us now, we want to be ready, and we dread that we are not.

Do you identify with these feelings? If so, I would like to offer some thoughts that I hope will encourage you. I don’t know if the coronavirus crisis is a sign of the end of the age or not. I’m not a student of prophecy, so I’ll leave those considerations to the people who are. Whether Christ’s return is next week or still years off makes no difference to me personally in how I respond to the current situation. Nobody knows the hour, and that fact hasn’t changed. Whenever it is, the question remains about how we should go about preparing ourselves for that day.

On the matter of salvation itself, are you feeling anxious that when you stand before Christ, he might not find you to be worthy of his Kingdom? Perhaps the upheaval of recent weeks has caused you to think more closely about what you see as your spiritual weaknesses, and you feel tinges of fear that you may have run out of time to make yourself acceptable.

In answer to this, I cannot emphasise enough that you, dear sister, are saved by grace through your faith in Jesus Christ. You don’t have to make yourself acceptable. In fact, you can’t: only Christ can make you acceptable! Our Lord Jesus sought you out while you were yet a sinner, and he died to remove your sins and reconcile you to God. The day will come when the Lord returns to judge the living and the dead. Whether that is sooner or later, I cannot say. Simply know that when your faith is in Jesus, there is nothing further you can do—absolutely nothing—to shore up your chances of being met favourably.

Jesus has already paid the price to redeem us from sin and death. His sacrifice was once and for all, complete and perfect. If we have placed our faith in Jesus, called him our Lord and dedicated our lives and hearts to him, then fear of judgement is cast out. He will look upon us and see not our sinfulness but his own righteousness, which he has imparted to us. This is salvation by grace: that we could do nothing to save ourselves, so he did everything. Do not fear! You are safe, and you are saved.

Be Amazed by Grace AgainGiven our salvation and worthiness before the Lord is not in question, how then should we ‘lift up our heads’ in preparation for our redemption? There is nothing we can do to make ourselves somehow more worthy of the Kingdom, or there would be no need for grace. But our faith shows itself in our works, and that is something that the coronavirus hasn’t changed. Our faith grows and shines as we actively serve the Lord. This is our worship, our gratitude and our witness.

What might that work look like? We read in Colossians 3:23: ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.’ Today, you can prepare for the return of Christ by diligently serving him from whatever position you are in. Don’t allow the anxiety of the times to diminish the value of your service, as if difficult times called for greater, more expansive gestures. Serve the Lord with all your heart as he supplies you with opportunities and resources to do so.

This could be all sorts of things. You can serve the Lord by loving and encouraging your husband, children, family and friends; you can serve the Lord by meditating on his Word and sharing your thoughts with others; and you can serve the Lord by giving your all at your job and wisely managing your finances. The coronavirus crisis has not stopped or prevented these things.

In fact, if the coronavirus has done anything to change our lives in Christ, it has given us new opportunities! You can serve the Lord by choosing kindness and generosity in the face of product shortages and panic; you can serve the Lord by finding creative new ways to keep in touch with ecclesial family, especially those who struggle with isolation; and you can serve the Lord by guarding your health, both physical and mental, and helping others do the same.

And in everything, you can serve the Lord by trusting him. When fear, panic or anxiety looms, when the world is shaken and the future looks uncertain, worship the Lord by trusting him. Take a deep breath, know that your salvation is sure, then go about doing what you can to live your life in Christ. It doesn’t matter how much or how little time is left before we see him face to face, nor does it matter how great or small our service may appear to others, for even a cup of cold water given to someone in need doesn’t go unnoticed by Jesus. Coronavirus has not changed this.

We will meet again! Until then, as long as it is called ‘today’, love and serve the Lord.

Lucy Dangerfield