By: LCMS NJ District President Dr. Tony Steinbronn
Shalom is one of the most important theological words in the Old Testament and has these meanings: absence of strife, completeness, wholeness, harmony, and fulfillment; yet, at its root, it means wellbeing. To experience shalom is to experience wellbeing, especially as it pertains to our relationships in life: in our relationship with God and in our relationships with other people.
The beginning of our wellbeing is located in our baptism, when God brought us into His family and promised to be our God and we have the privilege of being His people. Peter describes our identity, along with the wellbeing that God provides, in this way:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.”
Implicit in shalom is the idea of unimpaired relationships with others and fulfillment in one’s undertakings. To wish one shalom implies a blessing; to withhold shalom implies a curse. And that is why I have chosen to focus this week’s devotional thought on this biblical concept of wellbeing, especially since the impacts of this COVID 19 virus have affected our wellbeing in several ways:
+. my physical wellbeing could be impaired, or even ended, depending on the severity of the disease once it enters my body along with the ability of my immune system to produce sufficient antibodies to combat the virus
+. my relational wellbeing certainly has been impaired due to social distancing and the limits placed upon us in terms of our ability to gather together in our church buildings
+. my emotional wellbeing as I struggle with emotions of fear, anxiety and impending dread
+. my vocational wellbeing as I wonder if I will be able to continue in the calling that I currently have once the economy “opens up” or will I have to prepare myself for a different vocation that offers more stability and vocational security
+. my financial wellbeing in light of the reduction to my personal investments along with the possible reduction in my earning potential during the next several months until the economy recovers
So, where is the blessing in all of this? What is God up to in our lives and in our world? Where is the wellbeing that He promised in my life and why is God messing with me in this way? Or, in the words of one of my children during a challenging episode in his life: “I don’t like it; I don’t like it; I don’t like it.”
Paul, in his letter to the Christians gathered in Rome, gave them (and now us) a powerful glimpse into the intended blessing in all of this uncertainty and anxiety:
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose…what shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with Him?...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘for Thy sake we are being killed all day along; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Book of Revelation is not an easy book to understand and to make sense of – yet, one of its dominant themes that is easily identified is this: that the “time” between His coming in His incarnation 2,000 years ago, and when He comes again to take us home, is a time of suffering and tribulation (yet His people, throughout this entire time, are “sealed” with the abiding and comforting presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer as a guarantee of our inheritance as His children and as heirs of eternal life).
One reason that God messes with me is because He loves me…especially when He challenges the areas of my personal wellbeing, from time to time, so that I can remember in whom my wellbeing truly lies – it is founded upon, and centered in, Him “for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!”
In closing, we remember this promise from Jesus:
“Peace (shalom) I leave with you; My peace (shalom) I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.”
Christ be my Leader by night as by day…safe through the darkness, for He is the way.
Gladly I follow, my future His care…darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.
Christ be my Teacher in age as in youth…drifting or doubting, for He is the truth.
Grant me to trust Him; though shifting as sand…doubt cannot daunt me; in Jesus I stand.
Christ be my Savior in calm as in strife…death cannot hold me, for He is the life.
Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain…can touch my salvation; with Jesus I reign.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.