“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (NIV).
I remember when I was a child how terrified I was of the basement in our home. You see, the house was built in the 1800’s and not well kept up with. It was musty and cold. But worst of all, it was dark. No windows for any stray ray of light to peek in. And, of course, the only light down there was in the middle of the room, forcing you to walk several steps into the pure darkness to find the light. It was the stuff of nightmares for me as a child. As silly as it may sound, the thought of it to this day reminds me of that primal fear. But it also reminds me of the strong hand of my father as he took mine and walked downstairs with me and guided me towards the light. Then I felt safe. Even with darkness all around me, I knew there was nothing to fear.
While human history is wrought with tragedies and pandemics, for most of us, we find ourselves in truly unprecedented times. Life changed, and it changed quickly. The most simple of daily tasks such as going to the grocery store have become awfully complicated. You have to wear a mask to even get inside the store. There is someone at the door counting the number of people entering and leaving. There are one way signage down the aisles. Many of our forms of sports and entertainment have ceased to function. The political landscape has become even more toxic and unstable. 2020 has been a year filled with tragedies, uncertainty, and growing concerns.
For us as Christians, we find ourselves in a truly heartbreaking situation: most of our church doors remain closed. Even those which are open have extremely low attendance and we must keep our distance there anyway. I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts of church is when I first arrive and I see the familiar faces of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am able to give them that handshake or hug. I find true joy seeing the smiles on their faces. But now there are no handshakes or hugs and our smiles are hidden behind masks.
This is darkness, even more frightening than what I (and I’m sure many of you) experienced as a child. We now as Christians face a situation where we will need to take steps into the unknown, through this darkness, to find the light. But just as my father took my hand and guided me towards the light in our basement, our Father in heaven will surely take our hand and guide His church towards the light, allowing us to shine even brighter than ever before and be able to be better witnesses to a world in crisis.
Even though this is difficult, I am beyond hopeful that good will come out of all of this for God’s Kingdom. Just as in every difficult situation there are things which we can learn from times of affliction. There are always lessons to be learned from hardships. Here in this pandemic we can find opportunities to grow, not only as people, but collectively as the church.