-Pastor Melissa Fain-
There are some ministers who have chosen to treat Covid-19 like a fun whitewater adventure. For some of those ministers, it has terribly backfired, and they've had to bury their own congregants, or the minister themselves are buried. For other ministers, the ride has continued, and they've taken it all as a sign from God that they are protected. It's shallow faith in a world that's leaving shallow behind.
Even those who understand this are still praying the wrong prayer. We are collectively lifting our voices and lamenting, "When will this end?"
While everything happening now has an ending, that's not going to give us what we should be doing. All of us should be praying, "God, what's next?"
A Child's Prayer
In between 6th and 7th grade, I made one last trip as a congregant of Red Bridge Christian Church, in metro-Kansas City, Missouri. My pre-teen years had not been easy, and many of them were bad. I made a deal with God. "I've been through tough things. Please give me good now. Can you make my second half of my life easier than my first?"
Now, all the adults in the room should know that a 12 year old is not middle aged. Honestly, I didn't think I'd make it past 19. I'm now twice that plus two. I was just seeking the wrong prayer. My asking if life was going to get good was me praying to God, "Is it over yet?"
The answer didn't matter.
When the tomb is empty because it was never filled.
Growing up, I wanted the sunshine and candy of Easter. I wanted to celebrate an empty tomb, and wear a pretty dress. All my kid brain knew was that Easter was happy, and fun.
Then I was placed in an eternal Lent.
You tend to see the world a bit differently when struggle lasts a little longer than 40 days. I stopped waiting for God to do the work, and started asking God what work could I do. That's really what the prayer "When will this end?" is all about. People who pray that prayer want God to do all the work.
To do the work, you have to accept there is a problem. You have to examine, and name it. There are those who have been in oblivious ignorance for so long, they can no longer even see the problem. For those who can't see, the naming the problem sounds like one is being negative.
In reality, I'm extremely hopeful. I believe there is something beyond the problem. I name the problem because I want to move past it. I want people to process suffering, not because I want people to suffer. Actually, I want people to stop suffering. I also know that is almost always the only way suffering ends. I also believe that's extremely Biblical.
Christ talks all the time of suffering, and not that we wouldn't suffer, but wouldn't suffer alone.
I know, I know. Not what you wanted to hear. If you go down the road just a bit from my house in any direction, you'll find those empty promises. They sell them every Sunday, because they are so easy to produce. Just know, when you hit those low points, when the world comes crashing in around you, it wasn't because you didn't pray hard enough. There are really good people who suffer. There are really bad people who don't.
Jesus gave us language to never walk through adversity alone.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.
Matthew 16:24 CEB
The people believed if someone was suffering, it meant God had left them. It often made the situation worse for people already dealing with trauma. Jesus reframes the conversation by point blank telling those closest to him, you will suffer too.
If suffering is a natural part of human existence, we need to start talking about it in realistic ways. Lent, this period leading up to Easter, is the perfect time.
You are not alone.
You are loved.
You are part of something bigger than yourself.
I believe our wounds can heal and scar over.
God is with us.