When everything fails…Read the instructions!
“What’s new? Same old… Same old!” The cliché answer – as much as we would love it to be different – is appallingly appropriate. Our twenty-four-week Covid-19 season continues to stretch and, even considering the rosiest circumstances, we have to acknowledge – at least to ourselves – that it will be with us for a while.
One of the questions more often asked is, “How are you coping?” or, perhaps more precisely, “What has helped you the most in our present circumstances?” It goes without saying that our exceptional state of affairs has turned obsolete or lacking most, if not all the books about coping with long-term stress.
Even the Scripture is silent about what Noah might have been through the long and rainy 40 days and 40 nights. For sure, he was antsy. He did not sit and wait happily for the ark to settle! Rather, he kept sending doves out in search of dry land! David spent years on the run, and his poetry reflect his feelings – his hurt, loneliness, and even despair about his plight. And even if he also penned beautiful lines of hope and praise, still he longed for swift vindication and a quick end to his struggles.
By default, we are always searching for certitude and stability rather than walking over the rolling and waving waters of ordinary life. So, our Covid-19 season has given us a double whammy – No one in living memory experienced the early 1900s flu pandemic and, worse, our “instant everything” society cannot deal with something that keeps stretching out, without any clear and definite end. So, what do we do?
Go back to the basics. Our first reading points out the direction. In Exodus 3:1-15 we are told the story of Moses, God’s revelation in the Burning Bush, and his sending of Moses as a leader commissioned to lead Israel into freedom. It is interesting to note that Moses wasn’t very much concerned about the timing, stages, and the fine print of God’s plan but, rather, he wanted to know who was sending him. And God obliged – “I AM who I AM… I am the God of your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” In other words, “I have a record… You can trust me!”
Later, as Moses led his people into freedom, God developed His revelation. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one… You shall only worship and serve your God! Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you,” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 13, 18). Moreover, Moses and his kin were requested to remember these words every single day of their lives.
It was pretty simple as it was demanding. Worship and serve God AND do what it is right before God’s eyes, and God would see that they would overflow with blessings. And, whenever they experienced challenges, God would see them through the fire, the perils, and even through the portals of death.
At a time when we are going through our trying experience, different voices compete for our attention offering easy ways out of our predicament, offering compromise with what we know it is nor right nor good in God’s eyes, suggesting false cop outs, and even tempting us away from our commitment to God for the sake of expediency and quick results. It even appears that love to neighbor is another victim. I wonder what William Golding would have written about our times.
“What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” asked Jesus over two thousand years ago (Matthew 16:21-28). Let me suggest that the question has not aged or lost its relevancy.
So, with so many external voices pulling us apart – plus our own voices spawned by our pains, needs, and fears, what should we do? Psalm 105:5 suggests the way, “Remember.”
Remember that God created everything, and at every step of the way, God proclaimed its goodness. Remember that God promised never to get tired of doing good to his creatures – Yes, that’s the meaning of being gracious, merciful, and loving, particularly when one doesn’t deserve it! Remember that it is God’s job to cut his enemies down to size and bring them under His authority and our job is to be a blessing – even when they do not deserve it!
Remember God’s love is not reflected in a soundbite or a meme, but on Calvary’s Cross. Remember our Creator’s love, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Remember, “I AM who I AM – I have a track record with your ancestors, and even with yourself!”
Remember, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one… You shall only worship and serve your God! Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you.”
Every time you feel down, find comfort in the ancient but still relevant words, “I AM” is your God. Every time you think that it is all about you, remember that “I AM” is your only God and not your feeling. Every time that you feel urged to take the issue on your own hands, remember that freedom, healing, and wholeness only comes from God. Every time you begin to believe that the TV or even your deep-seated convictions reign supreme, remember that everything and everyone is under God’s judgement… and that often, God knows nothing about stuff conveniently attributed to Him.
But here is the good news – whenever you do what it is right and good in God’s eyes you will find the abundant life that Jesus promised, and the grace, the strength and the joy that it is fruit of God’s presence in your life – and that Jesus promised to those who chose to follow Him.
Lord God, you created springs in the desert and comforted your people with the assurance of your everlasting love. Help us to seek your guiding light in the middle of the stormy night of our season of trial, and help us to keep our hearts, minds and lives attuned to your life-giving will in the assurance of our Savior’s love. Amen.