[Potiphar] had Joseph thrown into prison - the prison where Pharaoh's prisoners were kept. While Joseph was there in prison, YHWH was with Joseph and showed him kindness, so that soon he won favor with the warden. Genesis 39:20-21
You planned evil for me, but God planned it for good, as it has come to pass this day - to bring about the survival of many people. Genesis 50:20
The story of Joseph and his coat of many colors is one of my favorite stories in the Bible (Genesis 37-50). Joseph was a person of great privilege and ability, but through no fault of his own he is thrown into a pit, sold into slavery by his brothers, taken to Egypt where he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. But as the scriptures reveal, God was with Joseph and showed him kindness in prison. By the story's end Joseph saves the day, reconciles with his brothers and proclaims that all his troubles in life had a purpose from God that brought about the survival of many people.
I do not like the idea of blaming God for our troubles or this pandemic. I believe that God is love. "Those who do not love have known nothing of God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8) Rather than blaming God, I prefer to believe that God can and does use the worst situation to create the best possible outcome. I have been grieving, missing the way my life was before this crisis. I have been frustrated by having to stay at home. I have been unbelievably stressed by having to video our worship. Above all, I have missed being with our church members, family and friends. Phone calls are helpful, but no substitute. Having no idea how long this crisis is going to last is only heightening the anxiety. Oh yes, then there is the worry about having someone I love to contract the virus.
Even small bumps in the road can be painful. But every bump can, if I am wise enough, cause me to stop and reflect. It has not escaped me that this crisis is taking place during Lent. The forty days of Lent is our liturgical season of reflection. Jesus wandered in the wilderness for forty days, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. We are going to go right past the forty-day mark with this crisis but imagine forty years of wandering in the wilderness. As a superpower, our country is not used to being in the wilderness. I want Easter to come; I want a happy ending to this crisis as soon as possible. It is almost unbearable for me to think that this crisis will still be going on after April 12, Easter Sunday. And yet, I must admit that this crisis has helped me to become more grateful, more aware of God's kindness during the pandemic. It is inspiring to see people throughout the world performing courageous acts of kindness and love as they place their lives on the line to save others. Doctors and nurses, paramedics, police, firefighters and volunteers rush in having to make do with handmade protective gear. Every day brings more and more stories of heroic acts.
Personally, I am grateful to have had more time to spend with Esther and more time to appreciate my family, the church and friends. As I am forced to wait until our scheduled day to pick up our groceries and hope that they have what we ordered. I think about all the families that come to Food Banks like the Christian Community Service Center and the House of Amos to pick up whatever food is offered that day. As I am confined at home, I think about those in prison who may be incarcerated, confined not for months but for years. I also think about all those who are home bound, including several of our church members who will still be home bound when this crisis ends. As frustrated as I am with technology, I am so grateful for the opportunity to share God's Good News and tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. My prayer life has also been strengthened during this time as I pray for you and all those affected by this virus and of course, pray for this crisis to end.
There is a saying that has helped me when I get overly frustrated about being confined - stay at home, save a life. This crisis has given each of us the opportunity to become life savers. Everyone of us who can avoid getting infected by a few simple sacrifices like staying at home, keeping physically distant, and washing our hands a little longer can free up one more of the very limited and very needed ventilators. How blessed we are if this is the only cross we have to bear this Lenten season. Easter will come. One day we will celebrate together again in our beautiful sanctuary. As we sing the hymn Christ the Lord has Risen Today, we'll see that as terrible as this virus has been, God has planned everything for good to bring about the survival of many people, including you and me. I truly look forward to being with all you saints in worship.
Yours in Christ,