I generally consider myself a quick study in many things. I like to think of myself as a critical thinker—I read, look for evidence, and form (mostly) sound judgments. Yet, it has taken a while to wrap my head around the Covid-19 pandemic. For me, reality hit when the University of North Carolina System, in which I teach, canceled the May graduations of their 17 institutions. Intellectually, I knew it was coming before it was officially announced just from following the news reports about the virus. It is the right decision to make. Yet, it still hit me emotionally. I thought about the graduating seniors currently in my classes and the students I have taught, my advisees, disappointed parents and grandparents. However, the cancelation of this annual ritual, that to my knowledge has never been canceled even for the threat of inclement weather, made the realization that life as we know it has come to a sudden and complete halt. Even in my own house, I felt sad when my graduating high school senior’s prom dress arrived in the mail last week.
It’s a lot to process. Rituals performed commemorating the end of an academic journey are important. Equally important, are people concerned with matters of living, life and death: earning an income and securing food, paying rent or a mortgage, treating other serious health issues and not contracting Covid-19, surviving in emotionally and physically unsafe spaces during a quarantine, and surviving coronavirus itself. It is times like these when Christian believers have to dig deep to find meaning and reconcile the events of life with what we think and understand about God. I have to admit, I am in a constant struggle and dialogue with God. It usually goes something like this, “God I know you are all powerful, so why did you allow ____ to happen?” And no, I am not of the belief that we cannot question God. I believe God is big enough to handle my questions. I have also learned my mind is too finite to understand his answers.
Trite church cliques really only work when things are going well. It’s time for all of us to dig deeper. What does it mean in the midst of Covid-19 to stand on the promises of God? To believe that my God is bigger, greater, and wiser? To trust in the Lord with all your heart? We love talking about the goodness of God. And, we should! I know I do. I have seen God do some miraculous things that could only be performed by His hand. We also have to talk about, sit with, digest the fact that Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” Or, what the Psalmist wrote in 90:10, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” Or, what Matthew wrote in 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
I do not have an answer as to why an omnipotent, loving God would allow coronavirus to happen; why He has allowed so many people around the world to die from it; or why He would allow so much disappointment, uncertainty and sorrow. In this area, I am not much of a quick study. I yearn for logical answers. God just allows things to happen and often we simply don’t understand why bothers me. Yet, I do know the Word of God tells us that pain and suffering is a part of life. Choosing a life with Christ doesn’t make us immune to the rain and storms of life.
What I do believe is that God has promised to be with us no matter what we endure in this life. Even when He feels far, he is near. Even in my darkest times, I have still seen God at work. That is comforting to me. Speak Lifers, I challenge all of us as we shelter in place in the weeks to come to use this time to draw closer to God. Read His Word. Talk to Him. Ask Him for greater insight into and understanding of Him. Talk with other Believers to develop a deeper understanding of who God is. Even in this metaphorical darkness, we can develop a new or renewed understanding of God. We can learn to be comfortable with the idea that we don’t always understand God, but will trust Him anyway.