Is 2020 Judgment from God?
Article by Larissa Lee
2020 has been the ugliest year the US has seen for a while. As I write this we’ve had two hurricanes rage towards the gulf of Texas and Lousianna. There are violent Black Lives Matter protests in Wisconsin because another unarmed black man was shot in the back by police. California and Colorado are battling wildfires. We still have Covid. And we have an election in roughly 2 months, so our national rhetoric is ridiculous. I’m sure there are other things. My heart and brain just can’t hold them.
Natural disasters, murder, plague. Distrust, anger, lies. It’s tempting to believe this year is judgment from God. If fact, this is a point I’ve seen made several times. Many Christian people seem to believe that America has become corrupted and thus deserving of judgment. The number of tribulation and End Times posts on my Facebook feed has jumped exponentially this year.
And yet, about 15 years ago we had Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 and a president who won a highly contested election. If we had faced a pandemic then, it would have been about the same.
We’ve been faced with multiple bad things before, but it wasn’t judgment then and it isn’t judgment now. In fact, the idea of national judgment is bad theology. It harkens back to a time when we believed God had a nation-level, behavioral contract with a specific people. Now we have a personal-level relationship with God that is open to all people and not predicated on our ability to keep the law.
But beyond that, what makes it bad theology is that it diminishes the character of our good, redemptive, slow-to-anger God. If we have trouble or calamity or are persecuted or hungry or destitute or in danger or threatened with death, does that mean God is mad at us? No! Despite all of these things – Christ is for us. Death, demons, fear, worry, even Hell itself, cannot separate us from God’s love.
Is there evil? Yes. And we fight it. We push back darkness at work against us and against our human systems. But we don’t assume God is against us. He is fighting the darkness too. Is nature freaking out? Yes. She groans, longing to be made new, just like we do when our bodies break. Can we work to protect and care for her? Yes, and we should. But her brokenness is no more the judgment of God than cancer is. It’s just brokenness and our world has always been full of it.
Even Covid, even a plague that, right now, we haven’t discovered how to treat and cure, isn’t judgment. Mutated disease happens. And we fight it.
We fight. Natural disasters, death, political unrest, anger, distrust, fear. We fight daily – at a national level and at a personal level. We fight because we have an enemy. We fight because we believe it is possible to win. We fight because we can and do eradicate disease and invent solutions and fix broken systems and change things for the better.
And God is with us, not against us. If you are tired, rest, for his burden is easy. If you’ve got it in you, push back the darkness. And don’t for a second believe that Jesus is not for you. There is no angry, old man in the sky waiting to beat you with a stick. That’s why Jesus had to come, because we were missing it. We thought our God was like all the other gods – placated by sacrifices, easily angered, and generally disgusted with the weakness of men.
And so God emptied himself of all of his power and glory, and put on a broken, tempted, tired body to prove us wrong. And in that body, he got up every day and pushed back the kingdom of darkness so that we could see that his true nature was not like any other god. This God, our God revealed fully in Jesus, loves. Even when we’ve messed it all up, when we hide from him, and when we hate him.
Thinking about how often we misjudge God’s nature, I think about Jesus’s time here on earth and I think he must have sighed a lot.
“These people hate us! Do you want us to call down fire and destroy them?” The disciples asked with indignation.
Sigh. “No guys. That’s not what I do,” Jesus answered.
“These children are annoying. Do you want us to send them away?”
Sigh. “No guys. I enjoy the presence of children. Be more like them, please.”
“You’re never gonna be defeated! We want to know who’s gonna be your second in command.”
Sigh. “Guys. I literally came knowing I would be defeated. I’ve told you like 20 times. Can you serve each other please instead of jockeying for power? Please?”
And this same God, fully revealed in Jesus, probably sighs at us today. When we want to destroy our enemies in his name, when we miss the point that he’s tried to convey 20 times, when we claim he’s an angry, stick-carrying God.
“Guys. I came as a baby, born in a barn. I’m not here to hurt you. Please stop saying that. I’ve defeated death. Why would I use it against you? I heal disease. Why would I punish you with it? I serve, even my enemies. Why would I attach myself to political power structures? Guys, do you still not see who I am?”
I am not willing to fight on many theological hills, but one of the few that I will defend until I die is that God is actually good. He is trustworthy and safe and better than we think he is. That’s why I know 2020 isn’t judgment from God. He doesn’t work that way. Jesus proves it. The darkness isn’t from God. So push it back with everything you’ve got. And when you’ve got nothing left, rest. God is with you and he is for you. Let it soak in your bones until you believe it: He is for you. He is for you. He is for you.
Larissa Lee has worked with Youth, Worship, College, and Children’s ministries.