by Daryl Williams*
Where is your God now?
It was the question that leaped off the screen as I caught up with a high school friend not too long ago. This friend wasn’t being malicious but was genuinely curious about how I, as a person of faith, was dealing with this unprecedented time in history. She wanted to understand where and, for that matter, if I knew where God was in all of this.
I must admit the question caught me off guard because it was not one that I expected to be answering. I had expected a normal Lenten season and Easter Sunday and found myself amid anything but normal times.
Allow me to give you some background. As a pastor, I was planning for a normal Lent and a normal Easter this year. I expected to start with a beautiful time on Ash Wednesday that would begin a season of prayer and fasting in anticipation of Resurrection Sunday. I was prepared and had a plan for fasting. I was looking forward to a 40-day congregational Bible study that would lead us deeper into the word and closer to God. I was looking forward to times of prayer and reflection that would make me really consider the Passion of Christ. I was ready for and had planned for a lot of things, but this was not the Lenten Season I was planning.
When COVID-19 arrived, it changed everything. It took our typical plans and tossed them out the window. Everything we thought would happen was turned upside down, forcing us to rethink, well, … everything.
What I realized in the midst of all of this was that perhaps it was time to rethink everything. Like many of us, I was so accustomed to what we usually would do and how we usually would do it, that I was dangerously close to going through the motions. I was dangerously close to completing the annual rituals without thinking about the transcendent meaning of it all. I was dangerously close to having just another Lent and just another Easter.
COVID-19 meant that all the things that I would usually have done would be upended. There was no playbook for this. There was no “what we typically do” for this.
On the Thursday evening that we were asked to refrain from large in-person gatherings, the planning of the past came to an end. At that moment, faith had to take over. At that moment, I had to remember that reaching people was not a plan, it was a commission and commissions don’t come with a playbook. At that moment, it was a return to why we do what we do, as opposed to continually doing what we do simply because it is what we do.
In this past Lenten season, I remembered that, as believers, we are supposed to lean on and trust in God, not our plans. I remembered that no matter how bleak the picture, God will supply all that we need according to His riches in glory. In this time, I remembered that contentment does not come from having everything we want, but in knowing that in Christ we have all that we need as we need it. In this season, I remembered that creativity and change are not to be feared, but they are the tools that spread the gospel. When all that I thought we had was lost to COVID-19, I realized that God could resurrect the spirit of faith that has always propelled believers and His Church forward.
So, I answered my friend the best way that I knew how as to where my God is right now. Right now, my God is in the middle of it all. Right now, my God is working things together to come to His expected end. Right now, my God is in hospitals giving doctors and nurses strength to keep working as instruments of His care and healing. Right now, my God is in grocery stores keeping safe people who not long ago we could have overlooked, but who we now know are essential employees. Right now, my God is resurrecting faith in some, hope in others, and giving peace to others. Where my God is not is in a grave because 2,000 years ago, He walked out of a grave with all power so that now He can be anywhere.
This Lenten season led to a Resurrection Sunday for me that was a celebration of faith, a celebration of hope and a celebration that we have the final victory. This was not the Lenten season or the Resurrection Sunday that I wanted, but it is the one that I needed. It was the Resurrection Sunday that revived me for the road ahead. It is the one that empowered me to walk by faith and not by sight. It is the Resurrection Sunday that brought things back to life.
Friends, we are in unprecedented times, but we will make it through. We are not those who act as if they have no hope. We are those who serve a risen savior. We are those who believe that in the worst of times, there is a resurrection right around the corner. With all that is going on, don’t worry and don’t be afraid. Our God has overcome death and the grave, and we will overcome this if we continue to believe and walk by faith.
*The Rev. Daryl Williams serves as pastor at St. Paul UMC in Oxon Hill.