At the end of the most difficult twelve-month period in the history of air travel, Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta Airlines, is sounding a note of optimism. Celebrating the steady rise in bookings and the gradual return to normal passenger volumes, he recently said, “As the case counts are coming down in meaningful levels as the vaccinations are starting to grow, people are ready to reclaim their lives.” It’s an interesting, thought that, and an attractive one: reclaiming our lives.
None of us made it unscathed through the long and difficult stretch of time between March 2020, when the world began to slam shut, and March 2021 when, on the cusp of the world opening up again, Bastian provided his interview. It was a year like no other, a year as turbulent as any in the modern era. Each of us had plans disrupted and freedoms curtailed. Many of us suffered through illness or watched as loved ones did. Nothing was normal and little went according to our preferences. Some assign the greater portion of blame to a contagious virus while others assign it to incompetent or malicious governments. Either way, we can be certain that somewhere behind it all was the hand of Providence. Somewhere and in some way, behind this most difficult of years was the will of God and the hand of God. This, too, was within the jurisdiction of his sovereignty.
Now, as we begin to gaze optimistically toward a more normal and familiar future, we are being challenged to reclaim our lives, for Bastian’s words simply echo ones uttered by many others. We are being challenged to take back control from that little virus or that big government and to pursue our passions, our desires, our dreams. It’s a race back to the normalcy of self-sovereignty.
Yet there is an irony here, for surely the great lesson of the year of COVID-19 is that our lives are not actually our own to reclaim. If we truly had the power to reclaim our lives, we would not have lost power over them in the first place. The very fact that everything spiraled out of our control is proof that we never had control to begin with. We are not Jesus who, at any moment in his suffering, could have summoned 12 legions of angels to deliver him. We are but created beings who live and die, who gain and lose, who celebrate and suffer, according to the purpose and plan of God. And so, as we are being challenged to take back what was ours, we are actually being challenged to take back what was never ours in the first place. There can be no call to action more futile than that.
But there is a better way and a higher call. On the far side of this great disruption, don’t reclaim your life, but instead, re-submit it. Surrender to the Lord anew, for the fact of the matter is that your life was never yours to begin with. Consecrate yourself to his service and ask only that you may do his will faithfully and glorify his name constantly.
God may bring you to a time of great peace in which you can once again freely travel the world and pursue your every passion. But he may instead bring you a time of great suffering that is far beyond anything you experienced in 2020. Instead of wearing a mask you may wear chains, instead of being confined to your home you may be confined to a hospital bed. But if you surrender your life to him, you will not take for granted the joys of ease and neither will you strive against the sorrows of suffering. Whether you lay in green pastures or walk through dark valleys, you will be content, for you will have learned how to be brought low and how to abound, how to face plenty and hunger, abundance and need. You will be able to do all things, to enjoy all blessings and endure all circumstances, through Christ who fills you and strengthens you.