The Library Drive-Thru and the Providence of God
I went to the library drive-through recently, with a stack of books to return, and a new stack of held items to pick up. Of course, there's no browsing inside the library, and all book exchanging happens through a window with as little human interaction as possible, all parties appropriately masked. Even the books themselves, according to a sign posted at the dropbox, undergo a 96-hour quarantine after they're returned, before the library staff will handle the books to reshelve them. I was momentarily struck with a sadness over the loss of a simple joy like walking around inside a library, picking up anything that looks interesting, weighing the decision of which book to spend the next few weeks of my life with. (Hey, I'm a slow reader.) And who knows when opportunities like that will resume?
The pandemic and its strange effects continue, but life still has to move forward somehow. Schools are gearing up to begin a new year of instruction, mostly (if not completely) at a distance via internet technology. Stores, restaurants, and other businesses are attempting to accommodate the policies of sanitization and social distancing. Churches are beginning to navigate the murky waters of resuming in-person gatherings - refusing to commit to an indefinite hiatus on assembling (which is the basic meaning of the Greek ekklesia), but reluctant to unduly endanger their congregants and their community with exposure to the dreaded virus. Even the federal government is pursuing measures to handle a national election in a manner that accounts for these strange new standards. And around we go.
Whatever opinions you may have about the threat of Coronavirus, the political landscape surrounding its management, or a host of other related issues, it is a celebrated Christian affirmation that God works all things together for good "for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28); and indeed, that he "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11). Rest assured: As strange and surprising as this season has been to us, it has not caught our sovereign God off-guard. He not only sees what's going on, he has decreed it should be so. And if he has thus decreed, you can be equally certain that he has wise, loving, redemptive, good purposes in his holy heart for these trying and perplexing times. There may be 10,000 things he is accomplishing through these challenges - for the righteous and the wicked alike; it is wisdom and faith to rest in his providence, trusting that he will carry us safely through these choppy waters to safer shores - and to remember that our Lord is relentless in his pursuit of our sanctification. If we should learn through these trials to trust in ourselves and our systems less, and to depend more fully on his grace, then they will prove to have been for our good, and "to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7).
Hang in there, folks. He's got mercy for you today, and he's not keeping his distance from you.