Proverbs 3:5 (NASB)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
And lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 (Message)
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
This is a challenging text, no matter your situation. Before the current pandemic, when I was thinking through what text I wanted to preach on for Carey Baptist’s Chapel, this was the passage I chose. It is one of my favorite Scriptures and it has been a source of wisdom and comfort for me over the past few years. Of course, when I decided to speak on that, I was thinking that I would talk about Matt and my move to New Zealand and how there was so much unknown and uncertainty, but that we were certain that this is where God had called us and that the Lord would prepare the way for us.
We didn’t assume that this would then be easy or there wouldn’t be tears and frustrations, or longings to see family and friends—but we knew that the God who called us here is faithful. After all, this is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!
So, here we are. Had our move been just seven weeks later, we wouldn’t have been allowed into the country since we are not yet permanent residents. Had our stuff left the UK and the US any later than the first weeks of December, those goods would still be in quarantine and we would be in a largely empty house for this period of lock-down (without Legos!). We also settled into a permanent home just three weeks before the pandemic. Arriving when we did allowed us to plant some roots, make dear friends, and even for Matt to get a job working to support Carey distance students (needless to say, this work has mushroomed!). We could not have fathomed where trusting in the Lord would have taken us in the past year, let alone the past 6 weeks!
While I’m grateful for how this all worked out in our situation, and I hope that I’d be just as encouraged if things had not worked out so smoothly, there is one big difference between our story and what is happening in this global pandemic. When Matt and I felt called to Carey, we knew why we were moving. This made trusting God a lot easier because we knew that no matter what hardships came our way, I was called to teach at Carey. There have been so many confirming steps along the way in both of our lives preparing us for this place, people, and vocation.
In contrast, we don’t have answers for why this global pandemic is happening. I mean, we know it’s because of a virus, but we don’t know, ultimately, why this is happening. NT Wright recently wrote a post about this that I found quite helpful. He notes that the role of Christianity is not to provide an answer to why this is happening but that it does provide a God who laments with us. Lament is “what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.” Reflecting on some Psalms of lament and the larger drama of Scripture, he then concludes: “The ancient doctrine of the Trinity teaches us to recognize the One God in the tears of Jesus and the anguish of the Spirit.”
Right now, I believe we are in a liminal space—a space that is transitional and potentially transformative. This is a time when we may have less distractions, more distractions, or different distractions than usual. However, I think we can (and should) all take some time to pause and lament. To feel the weight of mass job loss. To grieve the rising death toll around the globe. To feel the pain that a lack of physical touch brings. To mourn the hoarding reactions that exploit the poor. To reflect on our own thoughts and insecurities that contribute to a “me first” mentality—a mentality that makes us blind to the daily death tolls of thousands from hunger, war, and treatable diseases. Counter-intuitively, during this time of social isolation perhaps this will become a space of looking beyond ourselves. Not because this kind of response is what this virus was meant to produce, but simply because we are all in this liminal space wherein we might better hear the invitation to reflect, lament, and trust without explaining.
So, I return to the Proverb that has been so sustaining to me long before Covid-19. Trusting in the Lord and not in my own understanding or explanations of why things are happening as they are enables me to put my hope in a Person instead of a proposition. However, this isn’t a Person removed from my troubles or the troubles of the world, but one who is among us, with us, even in us. And so, I choose to trust in the Lord with all my heart even though I have no clue what tomorrow holds or why this is happening. I do this asking God to reshape my understanding—to give me Jesus’s heart for the world, for my neighbors, and for my family. To lament the suffering in the world around me while not losing hope that the God who laments with us remains faithful even in times beyond my understanding.
Written by Christa McKirland