Editor’s note: This Good Friday guest blog is by my friend Benny McCracken, pastor of First Baptist Church of West Yellowstone, Montana.
Where is God in the COVID-19 pandemic?
By Benny McCracken
To hearken back to my conservative roots: “God is on his throne actively caring for his creation.” Sadly, however, there must be a tear in God’s eye for the ways some abuse scripture to exploit the innocent and uninformed.
It is sad when those who possess religious authority turn every crisis into a judgment from God. Such abuses do not reflect the basic understanding of Jesus’ message found in the familiar words of John 3:16-17, and in the affirmation of John 10:10 that, unlike the thief that comes to steal, Jesus came so we can have life in the fullest possible way.
Fear is rooted in the unknown, and this pandemic brings enough realistic fear. Beware, however, of those whose underlying motivation is to generate unfounded and controlling fear in the hearts of their followers.
It is safe to say that, like many of you, nothing in my lifetime has had more unknown quantities than this widely-spreading virus. And, naturally, when fearful we look for answers — for someone to provide clarification and insight that might lessen or at least explain our fears.
Knowledge is power in the midst of a crisis. Yet often what we hear within this current, dysfunctional religious-political environment is not reliable information, but efforts at manipulation. It comes from those who see themselves as the sole source of divine directives.
They claim to be the authoritative means by which we understand God’s workings in the world and especially in our nation. It is interesting to think that God would reveal such insights to them and no one else. Their efforts are to control the thought process of their listeners regarding everything from religious belief to politics to finances.
Perhaps, no surely, a better approach in times of crisis is to ask ourselves a fundamental question about our personal faith: “What can I learn about myself and about God in this experience?”
Holy Week is a most-sacred time that speaks directly to what we are facing in this current crisis. Good Friday is the darkest and most hopeless episode in our journey of faith. Yet resurrection looms — the ultimate sign of hope for all of creation.
This just might be the metaphor and reality for what we are experiencing now — with uncertainty and suffering today but with an expectation of hope for tomorrow. My faith says it is.
The late John Claypool is my go-to writer in times of crisis. In his book, Stories Jesus Still Tells, he reminds us that God’s goodness is always greater than human badness. That is the assurance and comfort that faith brings to me in such times.
When hearing of the harsh, false judgments someone attributes to God, we need to remember that God loves us more than that. However, COVID-19 provides an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and God, and to live differently.
Christianity is not merely a religion of answers. Contrary to biblical rationalists, the Bible does not offer an answer to every question of life. Rather the Christian faith is a journey of relationships — with God and one another.
It is a journey of trust — believing that the God, with whom we lovingly relate now, is going with us through whatever may come into our lives.