I’ve never thought of myself as a potential living, breathing biohazard. Only in the light of the current pandemic and concerns about asymptomatic transmission of Covid has that quirky thought even entered my mind.
We are living through events that have not occurred before in our lifetime. Covid-19 has altered many of the conventions of day-to-day living. Things that we’ve taken for granted – the simple pleasure of meeting face to face with dear friends, or of worshipping in public, unfettered by masks and layers of safety protocols – these are real stressors now. What was normal for our whole lives is, for now, just not possible.
Even benign things like daily travel to and from home that, I’m now realizing, was an unnoticed, but very helpful way to disengage from ministry at church in order to refocus on family – all these normal activities have been disrupted by the modern plague we are living through.
And many of us have been dealing with loss – I’m personally feeling the effects from the sheer number of funerals, none Covid-related yet, of people I’ve been close to. Some of our pastors have been dealing directly with Covid-related suffering and death.
Of course this takes a toll. This impacts our posture. This strange time also gives us more opportunity to reflect on life and ministry, on what it means to follow the way of Jesus, and on how the current pandemic can positively impact our world for the gospel and the lives of our congregations and our denominational family.
We serve a God who has given us a historical record of the ways in which His people have suffered and also triumphed over adversity.
When we experience adversity such as loss, disappointment, grief or trauma, we can do one of two things. We can “run in” to who we are, or we can “run away” from who we are.
We can cleave to God in faith, trusting that though we might feel like we are flailing in the wind, He nevertheless has us by both hands in an eternal grip that He has the power and the love and the will to sustain.
Note here that our survival, our thriving, has less to do with the strength of our cleaving, and more to do with the fact that God has got us, no matter what. Please, please take that personally. God has got you, no matter what.
Alternatively, we can also “run away” from who we are. It appears to be quite possible for us to assess our current reality and then to complain bitterly to God, like Jonah did, about our assignment.
Or, like Job’s wife, we can look at what is happening with traumatized eyes, and our ‘best thinking’, in that distressed moment, might be to walk away from God, even to curse God for not behaving in the way we think He should behave. We can do that subtly of course. We pray and read His Word less, with less fervency, with less confidence that God hears and speaks to us. We may drift into a sort of numb neutral. That is a terrible place to dwell.
May we make the choice to “run into” God when we face hardship, fear and overwhelming anxiety. May we hear Jesus speak to us with these words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Matthew Parker is pastor of Church at the Mission in downtown Toronto, ON
This article is featured in the Winter 2020 edition of the EMCC Together Newsletter.
Download a PDF copy of the newsletter and previous EMCC Together publications here: https://emcctogether.ca/emcc-together-back-issues/