As I write this I want to ask you, “Are you still feeling the strains of “COVID-19?” With the second wave of the disease striking, and booster shots galore arriving, many of us are wondering when this will all be over.
I serve as a chaplain in an assisted living facility here in Florida and one of the residents asked me just that question a few days ago, but in another form: “When is this going to be over?”
Of course, I could not answer that question with any kind of certainty, but I am reminded of one of the first thoughts I had when this pandemic first hit over a year and a half ago. COVID-19 can be a mnemonic (a memory device) that stands for “Christ Overcomes Viruses and Infectious Diseases”, and associated with that is the verse Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
As we go through life day by day, we face new challenges and discoveries, and oftentimes those discoveries become obstacles to our walk and our faith. It should help us to be reminded of the fact that no matter what we face today, whether COVID-related or otherwise, the truth is the same — God is with us wherever we go.
Many of the residents here, although feeling somewhat less restrained now than at the start of the pandemic, are still being very careful about how much they get out and risk exposure to others. They have attempted to make up for this by taking advantage of the new services that several local stores are providing, especially the call-in ordering and delivery services. This is a wonderful accommodation for those who are in our residents’ situations, but there is one drawback: They will often order items which are not being delivered, for one reason or another.
One store realizes this is a possibility, and in its phone message when you order will go so far as to ask this simple question: If we’re out of the item you want, may we substitute one of equal or greater value?” They realize that sometimes people will order items which may be out of stock or for some other reason unavailable. Now, quite often, even the replacement items are ot suitable for what the individual ordered, and the customer remains a little upset. But for the most part, it is a quite satisfying substitution.
That leads me to ask a spiritual question: When you make your requests to God, do you ever get upset when the delivered goods don’t match what you ordered? You may be asking for such things as a financial provision or a physical healing or a relationship restoring or some such things as these. But for whatever reason, you may not get exactly what you have asked God to provide. And if you are not careful that can make you angry and bitter toward God.
When we make our requests to God, we should always say, “Yes, Lord, You may grant a substitute answer of equal or greater value.” If He says no to our requests, it’s because His plan is better. His delays are not denials, and His denials are but disguised blessings. It is so important for us to understand that God is not out of stock on any of the items we requested or did not read our order correctly — He just knows better than we do what we need at that moment.
The mother of the church father Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, once prayed (before he was converted) that he not go to Italy, but Augustine wanted very much to go. He went anyway, and was there converted to Christ. He later prayed to God this prayer: “But You, taking Your own secret counsel and noting the real point of her desire, did not grant her what she was then asking in order to grant to her the thing that she had always been asking.”
Augustine knew that God was providing what he needed even though the call-in order of his mother was not fulfilled exactly as she planned. God was there and God answered his mother’s prayer.
So the only question is not whether God is with us today. He is. And He knows exactly what we need in this time of COVID-19 revival. His answers may not be exactly what we ordered in our own finite wisdom, but they will be for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). The question is, “Will I give myself to Him so completely that not only will He guide me as I go through the day, but will others see Him through me as I go?”
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.