As I write this, many states have issued a “stay at home” order. This is our government’s attempt to deal with the pandemic spreading across our country. I have observed many reactions from people of faith. There are those who defy the government with a kind of self-appointed prophetic declaration of freedom. Many churches are closed in order to protect their most vulnerable loved ones from contracting a virus that hides itself undetected for several days before coming out into the open. No one really knows if they are infected or not. Tests are on the way, but I think it’ll be a long time. Some are blaming God, some are blaming sin, some are blaming communists, some are blaming the American government or the Chinese or immigrants or anyone they can latch it onto.
You might be really clear in your view of all of this, but I’m a jumbled mixed bag of uncertainty. Who really knows anything at this point? So if you’re a person of faith shouldn’t you experience greater clarity? I wish it were true. Realistically, people who see everything in black and white and have all the answers scare me the most. Faith in the shadow of a pandemic is a mixed bag.
It reminds me of the man to whom God spoke and made significant promises. Abram becomes one of the central figures of the Bible because of his faith, the father of the faithful. Abram (later Abraham) has an amazing faith story and no one can deny that. We also cannot deny that our father of faith was a mixed bag of obedience and disobedience. He was a man who professed assurance but still had questions. He struggled with leaving everything in God’s hands. When that didn’t seem to be getting the job done, he took over with his own efforts. His journey is up and down, strong and weak, wise and foolish. That’s the kind of faith I can identify with.
But I’m not proud of it. It’s just true.
Under this pandemic umbrella in which we find ourselves, I think we are re-walking Abraham’s journey of faith. And not just the ‘good’ parts.
We pray in faith and ask God’s protection and help. The Christians I know really do believe in prayer. The Bible is clear that God hears us. He is moved by our prayers. He answers all of our prayers. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And we wait.
We watch and wonder when the answer to that prayer is coming. It’s not that we’re giving up on faith – where would we turn if we couldn’t turn to the Lord? But I’m afraid we are a mixed bag of strong faith and weak faith, trusting faith and wondering faith.
Wrestling with prayer is nothing new, but in the pandemic environment it takes on literal life and death meaningfulness.
I want to encourage you to keep faith near in your thinking, in your actions, in your responses to others. Faith that God is at work Faith that He has already seen the end of this pandemic. Faith that so much of this is out of your hands. Faith that when you are not as strong as you wish you were, you are still safe.
What the story of Abraham reminds me of is that faith is not a straight line. We won’t walk a straight line under the shadow of this virus as it grows exponentially.
Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15. Paul reminds the church at Rome that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” We have never earned our righteousness anyway. If your faith is a mixed bag of questions, doubt, anxiety, mistakes and uncertainty – don’t panic. God credits righteousness to us if we will believe Him. Abraham believed. He also lied, manipulated others, and fathered a child with a handmaiden in an attempt to fulfill God’s will when God was moving too slow for him. But he never stopped believing. I’m going to guess you haven’t either.
However you are facing these days of uncertainty, hang on to your faith. If you have been strong, decisive, and determined – those are admirable qualities. For those of us who have been emotionally troubled, embarrassingly wavering, and decisively uncertain, hang on to your faith. All is not lost. Out here hope remains.