When I was growing up, one of my pastors had the habit of using the words “Lord willing” when announcing an upcoming church activity.
The words caught my ear in a peculiar manner when I was younger: “The congregation will celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Sunday, August 24—Lord willing.” Sometimes it would appear in our church bulletin using the Latin formulation: “The congregation will be invited to a time of cake and coffee next Sunday (D.V.) to celebrate the pastor’s 50th birthday.” I can still recall asking my parents what D.V. meant in that usage, and I remember that my mother gave me a lesson in both Latin and theology.
D.V. wasn’t something that you heard very often 40 years ago, and such usage has dropped off almost entirely during my lifetime.
Yet, this somewhat old-fashioned Christian habit is very scriptural; we find it in James 4:13-16: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance.
And the admonition against boasting is also reiterated in Proverbs 27:1: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”
Perhaps one of the lessons we as modern people can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic is that we are not in control. In that regard, we might consider resurrecting the humble habit of using D.V. and “Lord willing” from generations gone before. For our students, faculty, and staff at Dordt University, I’m saddened that, because of the pandemic, the past three semesters did not turn out as we had hoped. Yet, I also have a sense that we’ve all changed a bit and realize that we can’t control what the future holds—and maybe a bit of that change is just what we need to stop boasting in our arrogance.
It certainly was a special blessing in May 2021 to complete the academic year with a face-to-face graduation ceremony for 362 graduates, our largest group in Dordt’s history. We blew some of the accumulated dust out of the organ pipes in the B.J. Haan Auditorium and sang together in praise of our God. It had been a long time coming, and it was an outstanding time to be together in community.
My sincere hope for Dordt is that we’ll start classes this fall on August 24, 2021, Lord willing, just a bit humbler due to what we’ve been through. Even as we do, we shouldn’t succumb to worry or fear, since the Lord clearly warns us against that posture in Matthew 6:31-34:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
I hope we enter the year ahead (D.V.) with our eyes fixed on Christ’s coming kingdom and with a sense of eager expectation of what God is up to in the lives of our students, our faculty, and our staff as we equip them for lives of effective service to the King.