There is a saying, “The enemy meant it for evil, but God used it for good”. I think we may be seeing some of that now during this COVID-19 crisis. Last night, using Zoom, our church had more than twice the number of attendees at our weekly Bible Study as we ever get attending at the church during normal times. This Sunday we will worship together and even have our regular coffee hour chat afterward using the same technology. After the emergency is over we have realized that we will be able to keep this technology in place as a way for our shut-ins to participate in church once again. Friends and family are reaching out and getting in touch to check on each other, and neighbors are helping neighbors whom they scarcely knew before the virus hit. As the dreadful death numbers mount day by day people are beginning to realize that there are more important things than the latest trend or the biggest house or having the fastest car. Millions face the reality of no paycheck coming in and suddenly the indulgence of excess has been replaced with the stark reality of necessity. We are brought back to those times which were experienced by our ourselves, our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents during the Great Depression and World War II. We have begun again to appreciate the value of family ~ of doing things together and finding creative ways just to stay afloat. These are not necessarily bad outcomes from an otherwise terrible situation..
I think most people are good at this. We tend to come together in times of national stress. There are always the exceptions: those selfish people who refuse to maintain good social distance or even vicious people who contaminate produce with their saliva or try to do damage in other ways. However, I think a large majority of us are still decent, kind people who appreciate the courage and selflessness of those on the front lines: the medical people in the very heart of the fire, the grocery clerks checking us out and stacking the shelves, the drivers who delivery our groceries, those workers like plumbers and electricians who are trying to keep our homes running, the workers trying to get out more masks, gowns, and ventilators and even toilet paper, the trash collectors and postal workers and guardians over our infrastructure and internet who are staying at their posts in spite of the danger. To all these and others not named here ~ we give a heartfelt THANK YOU, and God bless.
People are dying ~ each of them precious to family and friends. Millions are in hospital and will face long recovery times and possibly terrifying medical expenses. It is hard even for Christians to trust God and accept that here is a situation over which we have almost no control. Yet, for Christians, it is really another circumstance which calls us to willing submission and trust. Death for the believer is not the worst thing that can happen, but it is painful and hard to lose a loved one whether or not we understand this. It is always hard for those left behind ~ but at least as believers we know that our loved one has gone to a better place.
For the unbeliever it is a bewildering and bitter experience. How can we who know the Lord comfort them? How do we help them cope with their anguish and loss? They may not be able to believe in a loving God just now as they deal with their pain and the randomness of the loss of their loved one. I am not sure that this is the time to try to moralize or evangelize, but rather simply to express our love and compassion in whatever way is most appropriate. It is a time for sensitivity, not buttonholing. However, it might be a time to share gently our own Source of refuge and comfort and let the Holy Spirit do with that as He will.
There are various theological theories as to the origins of this terrible pestilence. Did the enemy send it and expect that people would blame God? Is is just a horrible natural disaster which has its roots in the fall of man like other natural disasters? Did God send it as an incentive to draw people back to Him, or as one of the early signs of the last days? Who knows? I certainly don’t, but I think it may be another of those situations where, although the circumstances may be devastating to our physical well-being, they should not affect our spiritual health in a negative way. The important thing is our response.
Do we still trust God?
Throughout history there have been many, many horrible events and circumstances ~ some were natural disasters, but many were precipitated by the inborn sin of mankind itself. I think one of the worst in modern times was the Holocaust. Young people today know it only as a footnote in their history books, but there are many of us left who remember the horror revealed at the time the death camps were liberated, and the world saw for the first time those surviving human skeletons and the mass graves of millions of people and heard the accounts of torture, bizarre, human experimentation and sadism in the extreme. The Holocaust survivors are living testaments of man’s inhumanity to man. How do we explain God’s seeming silence in the face of this?
There are many theological explanations from various sources, and I am not capable of explaining or even understanding some of them. However, I do see that one outcome from the horror of the Holocaust might be that we were forced into an unavoidable confrontation with the depths of the real evil which can be hidden in the hearts of mankind, and that God was allowing us to understand how much we needed His forgiveness. Here was sin exposed in all its ugliness. Was God with us during these times? I believe He has been with us from the very beginning: from the expulsion from the Garden, to the Flood, through the plagues and wars and other pestilences throughout history. How can I say that He is with us and that He is a loving God in the face of all these difficult times for mankind?
I can point to the Cross. There He poured out His wrath toward all our sinfulness on His own beloved Son ~ for us, for me. He opened the way for us to experience His love in countless ways and be reconciled to Him. Knowing the evil that is in the heart of man, knowing our refusal to hear and obey Him ~ knowing all that He knows about the details of our lives and our determination to do everything our way and not His way ~ still He provides a way for us to be forgiven and be able to call Him Abba, Father. Is this not love?
No matter what the situation in which we find ourselves, no matter how confusing and strange life becomes, we can trust in a loving God Who has provided a way for us to transcend every circumstance with peace. Our role is to trust Him, and to find ways to reflect His love to those around us. We are to be caring, thoughtful, and unselfish people who deal with our fears and anxieties by remaining calm and trusting that, somehow, He will provide all our need. His solutions may not be the ones we would prefer, but this is where trust is needed.
During WWII the British had a saying, “Keep Calm and Carry On!” Good advice for us now and in the future… but even better advice is “Trust and Obey”.
Stay safe and God bless!