“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”?
It has been already in the ages before us.”Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 ESV
My husband and I ventured outside of the US for the first time since the COVID lockdown. The idyllic English countryside was our goal and Bath, in Somerset, was our home base. It was my second time to delight in this wonderful city surrounded by seven hills (just like Rome and Lisbon) and blessed with natural thermal springs. A 90 minute train ride westward from London’s Paddington Station transported us to this picturesque place, from which Jane Austen derived inspiration to write a couple of her books. Authors, artists, influencers and movie producers have all found something in Bath that is worth their time and investment.
No doubt the most famous attraction here would be the Roman Baths where one discovers layers of history that have been unearthed through careful and costly excavation, preservation, research and restoration. Natural thermal springs in this area have been in use since Celtic times. Then around 300-400 AD, the Romans established an impressive and sophisticated complex to house and host a thriving community. It’s a conglomeration of a health and wellness spa, a religious center, a marketplace, among other facilities. This was Aquae Sulis; and this was the place to be in 4th century AD!
Winding through the tunnels of exhibits, visitors find their way into a little cavern of coffins and gravestones. Surely it was not all grand and glorious in Aquae Sulis. Like with any segment of history, people dealt with pain and loss, illness and death. (Interestingly, the soldiers already had a system for securing their funeral plans.) Looking more deeply into what went on in those days and who was revered, it becomes obvious that darkness prevailed as well.
Nowadays, Christians express a huge amount of fear about the world becoming so bad. Parents are anxiously wondering how their children could live out their faith in a society growing more and more hostile against Christianity. Grandparents shake their heads in disbelief of current realities and sadly long for how things were, when the world seemed kinder and safer. It is not my intention to validate or refute these feelings. My goal is to simply draw attention to the fact that our God who is the Alpha and Omega, the Author and Perfector of our faith, in Whom we live and move and have our being has always been and will always be on His throne and He remains in charge.
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,”Acts 17:24-27 ESV
Let’s not miss what the Apostle Paul was saying here about God’s power to determine the time and place of our existence, so that we would seek Him and find Him near. The bible tells us that rebellion is as old as Adam. Human arrogance – our natural tendency to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (or wiser than God), is ancient. It is not anything new. Although we are shocked with disturbing news about our culture and society every minute, God isn’t.
His saving grace, through the finished work of Christ remains the unfailing hope of all generations. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is not a bit diminished by the passing of time. Our King has complete knowledge of the glory and demise of civilizations, the growth and downfall of institutions, and He alone acts in perfect wisdom for what is best for His own Bride, the Church, at every point in time.
As we were walking around the city, my husband said, “You should write a book here, just like Jane Austen. The title should be Humility and Inclusivity” (as opposed to Pride and Prejudice, which she did not write while living in Bath, but the 2005 movie was partially filmed in Bath). I knew he was kidding but it made me think of how often as believers, our reflex reaction to the changing world around us is tainted with pride and has so little of the humility of Christ, whom we profess to follow. Fear becomes our fortress and we (perhaps subconsciously) start building a cultural “moat” to keep out all who are not like us, and to keep ourselves safe within walls that we presume to call faith. But our true fortress is Christ Jesus, who so loved the world and whose arms are wide open to all who would come to Him. We so easily forget that our Shepherd will surely protect us while we step out in faith and love one another radically. There is no safer place than being in the will of God, no matter how uncomfortable or perilous that calling could be.
So let us be encouraged that we are called to faithfulness right where we are today. He will equip us. He will sanctify us till our hearts delight in Him alone. Suffering is certain and it serves as His merciful reminder that this is not our home.
“Nevertheless, I am continually with you;Psalm 73, 23-24 ESV
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.”