“We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God,
for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (Common English Bible)
Recently, the captain of the Ruby Princess, of the Princess Cruise Line, made this disembarkation announcement to the crew who were leaving the ship due to the disruption of cruising by the COVID-19 virus: “This invisible virus has incredible power. We can’t see it but we see the results of what it is doing. One thing, though, this virus cannot do; one thing in this virus that makes it imperfect. This virus can’t break us. This virus actually has one design flaw. It makes us stronger.” From our struggle and pain with this pandemic, communities are coming together, great resilience is emerging, and people are experiencing strength unnoticed before. We are becoming the kind of people and the kind of world that the power and goodness of God has set out to make from the beginning of time.
A disruption is underway – a disruption that is deeper and more profound than the economic and political narratives that receive nearly uninterrupted coverage in the news. The sheer magnitude of this crisis is forcing a personal and cultural “repentance” or reexamination of those things that have ultimate worth and value in our lives. A strong economy failed to protect us from the ravages of this unseen virus. Political ideology is powerless to turn back the pain, suffering, and death left in its path. Misplaced priorities and values are exposed as having insufficient value for adding richness and depth to life. What remains are the questions as old as the scriptures – questions of purpose and meaning and love.
First responders have brought fresh clarity to the values of compassion, cooperation, and confidence in an unseen power and strength to change lives and communities. New Yorkers, and other municipalities, celebrate these values each day by stepping onto balconies and the street to applaud the new heroes among us as they struggle to save lives impacted by this virus. This crisis presents an opportunity to build a different life moving forward, a life where we immerse ourselves more deeply into the lives of our spouses and children, a life where we seek opportunities to help vulnerable people in need of support and love, a life that is less about placing self first and more about caring for our neighbor.
A pastor of another generation, Phillips Brooks, wrote that we should not pray for easy times. Rather, pray for strength, courage, and grace enough to meet hard times and come off victorious. If we long for a return to the normal that was prior to this virus we are already defeated. The apostle Paul would urge, rather, that we keep our eyes fixed upon the living God who is at work in the midst of this pandemic, working for our good. This pandemic is not a good thing by any measure. Nor is it the work or will of God. But scripture bears witness that God was always present in the very center of crisis, working to bring God’s people through stronger, more confident, and with a new appreciation for what really matters in life.