Daily Devotions are published Tuesday-Saturday during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Psalm 147 (ESV)
Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the Lord!
If God is all-powerful, and God is all-loving, why do terrible things happen? In particular, why natural catastrophes? And really in particular, why COVID-19? How can we, at least how can I, help asking this question?
Theodicy has challenged Christian theologians for two millennia, and undoubtedly will challenge them for the next two millennia. It’s a quick-and-easy sword thrust for atheists, agnostics, and people of wobbly or waning faith. So how do we, how do I, answer this challenge?
For me, God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. That means God is the force, indeed, the reality, of the totality of the natural order – from galaxies to quarks. That includes viruses. That includes COVID-19. And by the way, each one of us has dozens of viruses within ourselves, some of which develop our immunities to severe pathogens, and some of which may actually help fight cancer.
I, personally, do not believe the Lord is to be faulted for putting in motion a natural order which includes viruses, even COVID-19, any more than I believe the Lord is to be faulted for putting in motion a natural order that includes mosquitoes, horse flies, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. The Lord never promised us 70 or 80 or 90 years of idyllic, problem-free existence.
What the Lord did promise us, and does make available to us every moment of every day, is His friendship, His support, His helping hand, as we navigate our way through life’s travails. I, for one, have felt the Lord hold my hand during a number of difficult moments.
And while we are at it, we may give thanks to the Lord for the beauty and blessings so ably articulated in Psalm 147, just a brief selection of which includes verse 3: He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds; verse 4: He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names; verse 8; He covers the heavens with clouds; he prepares rain for the earth; he makes grass grow on the hills; and verse 9: He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry.
I think I can handle COVID-19 if I will remember the infinite blessings the Lord has given to me, and to all of us.
Lord, thank you for your continuing stream of blessings, which we often all too easily take for granted, and thank you also for being present to each of us every moment of every day.