I’m at that age now when a virus could kill me. Those dreaded words, “tested positive,” could well be my sentence of death.
But there’s death all over God’s creation: the moose sucked to death by ticks, the spider eaten from the inside out by a wasp larva, millions of frogs being killed by a fungus. And who created the fungus, the larva and the tick? God did.
Why? What possible benefit can there be in those awful things, or in Infectious diseases killing over 17 million people worldwide every year too? And why poisonous snakes and mosquitoes, both of which God also created?
It was questions like these I chucked at my wife just before going to sleep one night, hoping perhaps they’d stir some kind of dream with an answer. And I did have a dream, a rather odd one about two men in identical light blue suits and white socks, one of whom had no life in him unless his feet were touching the bottom of the other one. And only then did he come to life.
Weird, I know, and it woke me up at 2:00 am too, but I was thrilled because there was my answer. I rushed to the bathroom where I have notepaper and pen at the ready for wild thoughts during the night, and started scribbling.
My answer was this: that God created all this death from disease, insect bites, accidents, natural disasters and a thousand other ways of killing us, to get the point across that if we aren’t attached to him we have no life. We’re like the chap in the light blue suit and white socks lying lifeless on the ground.
Or as Jesus said much more vividiy: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). I’m just a dead blue suit.
So “‘hold on to me for dear life,’ says God” in Psalm 91, because there isn’t any “dear life” without him.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, though, because we experience all sorts of dear life without being attached to him. We have the joys of childhood, friends, marriage, having children of our own, eating great food, hitting Mach 2 with my boys on a toboggan slope, and flying above the clouds in a plane for the first time. But all that “dear life” can also be snuffed out in a second by a brain aneurysm or a car accident. Or a killer virus.
So, Psalm 91 continues, God still speaking, “if you’ll only get to know and trust me (you can) call me and I’ll answer (and) be at your side in bad times.” But that tells me God knew there’d be bad times, because that’s the world he created, where a world pandemic can start with just one bat, or a tornado forms in only a few minutes into a writhing killer.
What better illustrations could God give, though, that death rules this planet in a thousand different guises, all of which he created? But Psalm 91 tells us why he created them. It’s so we cannot help but face the reality of the world we live in, which surely isn’t hard to do as we watch ourselves ageing and friends die from cancer. It’s all designed by God so at last we say, like the second verse in Psalm 91, “God, you’re my refuge, I trust in you and I’m safe,” because he can “shield us from deadly hazards.”
And of course he can shield us from deadly hazards because he’s the one who made the deadly hazards in the first place – and for just that purpose, to help us realize there’s no life in this world apart from him. It’s all one great sentence of death. One pandemic ends but another is just around the corner. What other choice did he give us, then, other than holding on to him for dear life? Or as Psalms 91 phrases it: “Fear nothing…not disease…not disaster…(because) He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go.”
So hang on to that for dear life, why not?