In the weeks following 9/11, churches across the country experienced a surge in attendance. Prayer vigils gathered the flocks to offer a place for the peaceful assurance of God’s presence. People comforted one another in their common grief. It was a shining moment of what a church provides its community in times of stress and fear.
Fast-forward 20 years, when another catastrophic event immerges — a pandemic. This time, people are told to isolate themselves and avoid gathering places because even your closest family can make you sick. This time, there is a rise in mental health issues, suicide and domestic violence. Churches do all they can to continue serving their community through food banks, soup kitchens and virtual worship services. But things are not the same and might never be. One parishioner said to me this week, “I can’t wait until everything gets back to normal.” I have given much thought to that statement, and have to believe that God may want otherwise.
During trying times, the natural human response is to romanticize the way things “used to be.” But most every time, getting life the way things used to be, would be a move backward. When the people of Israel escaped slavery in Egypt, they complained against God and Moses, “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:12). That statement was made during the painful in-between time — the time after slavery and before the promised land. It looks only at the moment and not at the beautiful possibilities of what is still to come. The present spike in depression and anxiety is because of a lack of seeing what we cannot yet see. It is the mentality that life is always going to be this hard. The beauty of the Christian gospel is that no matter how bad things get, God will make a way. The future will absolutely be better than the way things “used to be.” One of my favorite lines from Archbishop Desmond Tutu is “God, we know You are in charge, but can’t You make it a little more obvious?” (God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope in Our Time). God gives hope to all who seek God. God wants to use present struggles to produce a magnificent future. There are better days ahead. The world has seen pandemics before. God brought us through them and we are better because of it. God is breaking us out of our “normal” lives to fill us with new blessings. Seek God and God will show you the way.
Kyle Hite is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Greenwood. He can be reached at email@example.com.