When a year has passed and it’s still dark outside.

It’s been over a year since I published that post at the beginning of the pandemic — hallelujah in the dark.

When I think back to where I was at a year ago, I remember writing my final thesis for my degree and referencing the pandemic as if it were an event in the past, presuming that by the time I finished my degree a few months later, we’d all laugh at the panic and paranoia we lived in for a little while, chuckle at the sight of masks and hand sanitizer, and forget what it felt like to give people copious amounts of space in public.

It’s April 2021 and we’re not through it yet.

*

We’ve all walked through the darkness of this year in different ways, we’ve all grieved the loss of normalcy, we’ve all adapted to life being different. And while life has returned somewhat to the way it used to be by now, some things will never be the same, I’m convinced.

A year ago I asked myself if I trusted God — if I could say hallelujah as I walked in the darkness, not promised anything this side of heaven. Could I still praise God for who He is, even when He didn’t accomplish the to-do list I had for Him?

I had a conversation last night with someone older and wiser than me who relayed wisdom that I’m going to hold onto for a long time. He said to me, it’s really easy for us all to make a list of things we think we deserve, and tell God to sign on the dotted line.

And if we’ve grown up with a relatively pain-free life, we expect everything to go according to plan. So we tell God, hey there, I’d really love a spouse and a house and a good-paying job, and maybe a couple of kids. Just as a reminder, I do love and serve You, so it would be great if You could just sign here to give me these things and I’ll be on my way.

We don’t all dream for those things specifically, but lately I’ve been convicted of placing my hope in the things I think God will do for me rather than in what I know He’s already done.

It’s easy to believe that God is good and worthy of my trust when I’m doing well for myself, when I’m happy, when life is pretty simple and easy and my biggest concerns are that I should probably exercise a little more and maybe spend less time scrolling Instagram. It’s easy to say Jesus is enough when the other things feel pretty enough, too.

But do I believe Jesus is enough for me when He is all that I have?
Do I believe that God is unquestionably good when my world flips on its head?
Do I believe that God is kind when my heart is broken?
Do I believe that God’s plans are good even when I hate how they feel?
Do I believe that God is in control when everything is chaotic?

*

Now, there’s a tension here that I want to address:

I fully believe that God is a God of good gifts. His goodness didn’t end at the cross, and His faithfulness to us and His delight in us as His kids isn’t something that He ever casts aside.

And yet, God doesn’t owe us anything.

But when I say that God doesn’t owe us anything, I don’t think the case can be made that God is an impulsively vengeful and miserly Being who can barely stand His creation.

As I read through Scripture, I see this pattern over and over:

God is good, God is kind, and God graciously gives us everything we need.

God provides.
God provides.
God provides.

In the span of just a few chapters of Exodus, God is about to judge the Egyptians in the final plague and God provides His people with the passover lambs to preserve their firstborn sons.

The Israelites are fleeing Egypt and God parts the SEA for His people — making a way when there was absolutely no way before.
They’re in the wilderness now and God provides the water they so desperately need.
And then for forty years, God provides manna to sustain them — bread from Heaven.

And we get to taste all of these things now through Christ.

Jesus — our Passover Lamb, the One who takes away the sin of the world by taking it upon Himself.
Jesus — the One who is THE way to God.
Jesus — the One who provides our souls with living water.
Jesus — the One who is the Bread of Life, who sustains us and gives us everything we truly need.

God is in the business of providing for His people.

And this is the God we worship. This is the God we serve. This is the God who adores us.

*

Now, back to the issue of hope. Is my hope in this world returning to the way it used to be before, or is my hope in the character of God — knowing my every spiritual need has been met in Christ and that God is good and faithful and worthy of my trust, no matter what comes? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself lately, and I wish I could answer confidently that my hope is entirely in God. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. 

Sometimes I just really miss sitting with a cup of coffee in my local coffee shop for hours and kind baristas bringing me refills. I miss smiling at strangers — seeing their lips curve up slightly as we pass in the grocery store. I miss getting out of my car and not feeling the compulsion to have a piece of cloth covering my face. I miss the blissful ignorance that graced the days of using hand sanitizer once a month, if that. I miss seeing people come to church. I miss getting on planes and my biggest concern being how to politely wake up the person snoring next to me so I can leave my seat. 

Things are not the same.

And yet, one year later, God remains unchanged and unchanging. Recklessly gracious and fiercely good.

One year later, can we praise God when our churches are emptier than they used to be?
One year later, can we praise God when our relationships with the people that we love look different?
One year later, can we praise God when old conveniences of life have been lost?
One year later, can we praise God in our grief?
One year later, can we praise God in our isolation?
One year later, can we praise God in our uncertainty?

I want to say yes.
I know I should say yes.
And I’m working it out.

Because if the God of all things holds the universe in the palm of His hand, I think I can trust Him to hold my life and my heart, too.

It’s been a year of darkness, and all I want to leave my lips is hallelujah. No matter what comes, God be praised.

*aj

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