Since late winter of this year, I have assumed it to be my responsibility as a clergy person to be a “non-anxious presence” for the genuinely or self-styled “afflicted” who have heeded the government’s “stay at home” protocols designed to help curtail the COVID-19 pandemic.
Briefly, I have taken it upon myself to reach out to friends old and new, and to acquaintances known or suspected to be friendless or otherwise in need of enhanced companionship — especially, increasingly, the widows or widowers of old friends now deceased. Additionally, I have not lost the habit, developed in my 15 years of lay and then ordained ministry in the Virgin Islands, of maintaining a list of the infirm or dying known to me personally, of praying for them at least once a day, and, within reason, checking on them otherwise whenever circumstances allow.
With regret, I must report that few on my list fail to complain about their circumstances. So I hasten to recommend: “Read your Bible.”
When you do, you will be reminded, from start to finish, that our creator, sustainer, and redeemer God is all about salvation. The list of attesting instances is virtually infinite. And importantly, the timing, manner, and rationale of God’s salvation are unfathomable — Divine, not human — attesting to an ultimately benign plan always to be respected, trusted and adored. albeit never fully grasped by the likes of you and me.
In sum, do not despair, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances. Simply think for starters about the Old and New Testaments’ conceptualizing of Divine Creation, as in Genesis 1 with its sacred logic, but also as in John 1 with its own logic. Think about Noah and his outcomes (all of them); about the tower of Babylon, and its outcomes. Think about the patriarchal Abraham and Sarah, and Hagar and Ishmael, and Isaac and Rebecca. Think about Esau and Jacob (renamed Israel) and wives and progeny, especially Joseph. Think about Moses in dialogue with our God of the Burning Bush and about the blessedly relevant gift of the Sacred Tetragrammaton (Name of God). And of course, think about Job.
Think about the Savior, Jesus, and about the words of the wise Apostle Paul, who in Romans 8, pointed out that “all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”
COVID-19 will not last forever, and just as prophesied in Isaiah 43, the “New Normal” in God’s world — that is, the “ram in the bush” that God always provides — will surely, on balance, prove better.
Indeed, as our slave forebears foresaw and left for us in spiritual music, “Trouble don’t last always.”
— The Rev. Dr. Wesley S. Williams Jr., K.St.J., is Priest Scholar and Chaplain at Washington National Cathedral and previously was Bishop’s Dean and Sub-Dean and Priest in Charge in congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands (U.S. and U.K.)