The COVID-19 pandemic raises many questions that stir in us a longing and searching for answers. Why did this happen? What does it mean? What will life be like after it’s over? Will life ever get back to normal? How will this crisis impact the 2020 elections?
The spiritual question I keep asking myself is, “What is God up to?” It’s based on my conviction that God exists and actively participates in our world whether we know it or not. It’s based on a second conviction that God is a moral and wise Being. It’s based on a third conviction that God is the purposeful Creator all things. It’s based on a fourth conviction that God came into the world in the flesh of Jesus the Christ in fulfillment of ancient prophesies. These convictions and others arise from my understanding of the Bible.
I made a list eight possibilities that came to mind in trying to answer the question of what is God up to in this pandemic. These possibilities encourage us to examine ourselves, our families, our communities, our religious vitality, our states, nation and world. One or more of them may describe what God is up to in your circumstances. God may be up to:
Calling people to repentance; leading people to serve; leading people to give; leading people to change life purposes; restructuring society and the world; revealing weaknesses to be addressed; revealing strengths to be used and celebrated; calling people back to gratitude.
I don’t have space to address all of these possibilities, but I will elaborate on a few of them beginning with the last one, calling people back to gratitude. I work at a grocery store and I have never heard so many people thank me and my coworkers for going to work and serving them on a front line in the pandemic. It is heartwarming to say the least. I’ve heard people say that they’ve taken so many things for granted, especially the availability of toilet paper! God seems to be up to reminding us to be grateful for so many things, people, jobs, health, or circumstances that we’ve taken for granted. Gratitude is a great sustaining resource in crises. It’s a defense against despair. It’s a priceless source of peace, calm and joy.
Any kind of crisis leads many people to change short term plans and even their life plans. A friend posted an article on Facebook about her cousin’s bout with the virus. He was quoted in the article, “I just felt like God wanted to show me how he was sparing me and how he had favor on me and how he had other plans for me.” The context of his comment was that he saw other people die but he didn’t. This kind of experience opens some people’s eyes to the need for a new or renewed life purpose.
This man’s story made me think of the crisis I faced in January 1971. I was playing junior varsity basketball at Judson College( University, now) in Elgin, Illinois. I came down sick following a game in Chicago. I was diagnosed with hepatitis A. I was isolated in the hospital for a week, then quarantined in my dormitory room, had to eat with disposable tableware, was knocked out of basketball and wasn’t allowed to run track in the Spring. These circumstances opened up for me more time to devote faith and ministry development. When my parents moved several months later, I transferred to Maryville College(TN) and changed my major. I was called into pastoral ministry a couple of years later. My life purpose was changing. God may be up to changing your life purpose in our present crisis.
My wife is a labor and delivery nurse at our local hospital. Before the stay-at-home mandate she offered an out-of-town couple to stay at our house to make it easier for them to visit their newborn twins that were the first patients in the new neonatal ICU. We hosted them for several days until my wife had to self-isolate. There were and are so many ways that we can serve others to sooth, smooth and shine in these days and later. A fellow Toastmaster in her speech What’s in Your Hand? shared how our present crisis activated her sewing skills to make masks for healthcare personnel. God may be up to calling us to serve others according to our abilities in response to a specific need or as a lifestyle.
When I go down the list, I find some of the items more applicable to me than others, but in all of them there’s a degree of remorse, shame or guilt. I humble myself before Almighty God and confess neglect, indifference, disregard, shallow faith or love that’s grown cold. I believe God calls me to repentance and to renew my commitment to live ‘all in’ for Jesus Christ. Whether we’re in a crisis or not, God “commands all people everywhere to repent.”(Acts 17:30) Repentance is the door to new life and a new beginning. It opens up the door to forgiveness, because it is the gift that God is up to for all people everywhere through faith Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
Examine the list of possible ways God might be up to something in your life. Personalize the list by adding other things that God brings to your mind. Be still and let God speak to you about his love for you and others. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”(Psalm 23:4) I assisted a customer by loading her groceries in the trunk of her car. As I was doing it, we were talking about the virus crisis and she said, “God is up to something.”