What a strange year 2020 has been so far! Despite the idea that we might have “2020 vision” or that “hindsight is always 2020,” the events that have happened around Covid 19 are unprecedented and have taken most of us by surprise. While some people loved lockdown, this crisis has been a huge challenge for many, financially, economically, and even spiritually. Add to this the race riots and protests going on at the moment in a multitude of Western cities, including debates here in Aotearoa NZ regarding various monuments and place names, and we are indeed living in uncertain times.
Of course, as we look back over history we find that in many ways this has been the “norm” for human beings – stable, predictable, safe periods of life are relatively few and far between. From wars to whooping cough, from political unrest to the plague, human history is riddled with crises. We in the West have perhaps been very blessed up until now in this time period, without truly being aware of it (although Fred Dagg's classic song, “We don't know how lucky we are,” should have been a reminder!). In many ways, especially in the West, we have tended to have an over-inflated sense of control about our lives and about how we operate on this planet as a species. It seems inconceivable that a simple virus can effect our sophisticated societies so radically when we think we have control over so many aspects of nature (from mowing our lawns to cloning sheep), and when we seem to know so much about the universe (from the innermost workings of atoms through to what is going on in galaxies light years away). To be at the mercy of something as basic as a virus seems at odds with our sense of superiority as human beings, especially as Westerners.
Crises such as this have often reminded people throughout history that the universe is a potent mix of beauty, order and joy, as well as chaos, injustice, and misery. While we are not as in control of this universe as we would like to think, we are in the hands of a God who created both the sun's beautiful corona and the deadly coronavirus. In the Old Testament, the character Job questions the nature of life, with its inexplicable tragedies, and God responds with questions to Job about both the wildness and the wonder of nature. We also read many Psalms where people questioned God about the injustices they were facing, and even Jesus is said to have quoted Psalm 22 when he was on the cross, asking God why he is being forsaken (Matthew 27.46, Mark 15.34). While there are few answers to the question “Why?” (Jesus himself gets no reply), and questions often lead on to other questions rather than answers, it seems the main thing to remember is that God is with us no matter what we are going through, and is able to strengthen us and give us hope for the future. As St Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome, while they lived under the constant threat of persecution, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8.38-39). This includes Covid 19!
We will inevitably have to face challenges and crises in life, as individuals and as a species, but God is with us and loves us, kindness is never cancelled even if our overseas travel has been, and the light and hope of dawn will eventually appear even after the darkest of nights. In all the chaos and uncertainty of life, we can hold onto these things at least!