God is with us, even (especially?) during pandemics.

I've started this blog during the Coronavirus/COVID19 pandemic in 2020. Since all learning at the college has moved to remote/online classrooms for the time being, I'm experimenting with new ways to minister to our community. Among the various things we're trying to do in the Chaplain's Office is this new blog. I will aim to share my thoughts and encouragements in a way that anyone can follow. Sometimes I will share thoughts about theology or the bible or Christian living that are applicable to any Christian. Other times I may share thoughts that are specifically given for our college community.

Today, I want to share some thoughts about a major biblical/theological theme: Christianity teaches that God is with us, now and always. This is especially important to remember when we are going through difficult times. We often pray, or think, that God will be with someone or with ourselves, especially when we don't know what else to pray. This is actually a very important prayer! Nothing could be more important or necessary or helpful than having God's own empowering and comforting presence with us! And it's not simply some Christian nicety, some pious platitude we throw out just to make us feel better. Rather, it's a central theme in the Bible, and central to all Christian theology. In some ways, the presence of God characterizes the whole biblical narrative. God is present with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He is with the patriarchs, the people of Israel, and ultimately comes to be with us AS one of us in Jesus Christ. God then descends upon the church in the Holy Spirit. And in the eschaton- the ultimate goal of history and creation, God is present with His people forever in a renewed cosmos (Rev 21-22).

One place we see the power of God's presence to empower us is in the story of Moses and the exodus. Just after God appears to Moses (Exodus 3), and tells him that He intends to rescue His people from bondage in Egypt, God tells Moses that it will be accomplished through him (Moses). At this, Moses is surprised, uncertain, and afraid.

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Notice God's reply to Moses' fear. "But I will be with you," God says. This is the only thing that matters. This is the promise and reality that will make all the difference. If God is with him, nothing will be impossible!

The same is true for us.

Look briefly at how pervasive is this theme in the Bible of God being with people.

Genesis 39:3

His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.

Genesis 39:21

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Acts 7:9

“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him

Joshua 1:5

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Judges 6:16

And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

1 Samuel 3:19

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

2 Samuel 5:10

And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

2 Chronicles 1:1

Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.

Jeremiah 1:19

They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”

Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 41:10

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Haggai 1:13

Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord's message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.”

Acts 10:38

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Matthew 1:23

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew 28:20

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

John 14:16-18

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Revelation 21:1-4

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

You see. It really is an important theme in the Bible. If we believe that the Bible tells us the truth about God, then we can also trust that God is with us during our present crisis -- whether COVID19 or Cancer or isolation or fear or uncertainty or whatever.

This is the truth that makes all the difference.

Though sometimes we can discern the will and works of God in hindsight, it's not always easy to know why we experience the things we do, or why we face certain hardships. And it seems to me that we don't always get a lot of clear answers to our "why?" questions. God's wisdom and works are far beyond us. BUT we can always trust in God's character, His love and mercy, His promises and truth. And we can trust that even when we don't have answers, we do have Him. And that's what's really needed.

Have you ever experienced the power of having a friend close by when you were going through something difficult? Even when you can't remember what they said to you, you remember them being there. And you remember the difference their presence made.

God is with us, now and always. His presence has the power to assist, strengthen, and carry us through this time. His presence can comfort and support us in our anxiety or loneliness.

Let's "practice" this truth together, by intentionally calling it to mind, especially when we feel overwhelmed or discouraged. Let's live and act as though God tells the truth, and His Word can be trusted. It may just make all the difference in the world.

Peace and blessings,

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