01 Apr Pain, Change and Faith
I am now going into the third week of a nationwide “Movement Control Order” in Malaysia where I live. It is tough to digest the hosts of events around the world unleashed by this pandemic. People dying, families in anguish, and frontline medical personnel stretched to their limits. The poor, the daily wage earners and their families suffer for basic food necessities. I am in the relative comfort of home, but I watched a heart-breaking video – tens of thousands of Indian migrant workers with their families, trudging their way home to their rural villages because work in the cities has dried up.
COVID-19 will permanently change our lives and how we see our world. No other global disaster has, in a short span of weeks, inflicted such anguish and forced such immediate change upon every person, in every part of the world. The restrictions, the behavioural changes required, and the economic fallout in the months and year ahead will leave a permanent mark on how we work, how we learn, how we socialize and communicate, and how we think.
It is a Habakkuk 2 moment and God is on His throne. We will ask God why but every answer raises tougher questions. There are no pat and easy answers. Yet, it is here, amidst our perplexities that we choose to “live by his faith” (Hab.2:4). We continue to acknowledge that He is sovereign and that He is good. We will worship Him, bear our pains and serve as best as we can. This is the faith choice of our spiritual forefathers – in the Bible, in times past, and around the world. Many of them have lived through far worse than what I or most of us have experienced.
We must intensify communication and bridge resources across the board and across borders.
In the economic fallout that goes with this pandemic, everyone suffers, but the poor takes the most painful and direct impact. The headline quotes that the poor “fear hunger may kill us before coronavirus.” The Governments and the big organizations will come out with the macro systemic solutions, but it is the local organizations and local partners who are most in touch with the actual ground realities.
Local partners are the ones best positioned to creatively explore solutions for every local situation. They can serve those who have fallen through the cracks, those missed out by governments and big organizations. If we tap into and connect each of our personal networks, we can increase the resources to where they are most needed.
This is the season to unite our prayers for each other, and for the world.
Many of us are already part of our local church prayer groups, but this season calls for us to link our hearts with the larger body of Christ. Local churches are already conducting prayer meetings via video-conferencing platforms.
It is not too difficult to reach out, organize and commit to one or two monthly prayer meetings across the borders, using technology to connect with Christians from other contexts. Why? Because God does answer united prayers. Beyond that, real-time mutual sharing and praying interactively for each other will spawn additional benefits.
God’s people will creatively innovate to serve; new norms will develop.
In a matter of weeks, life-streaming and video-conferencing platforms have become a norm for corporate worship, interactive teaching, etc. Churches in villages are using technology that was once the domain of geeks, young people and corporate executives.
Pastors are teaching themselves how to teach, preach and counsel through a laptop. Christians attend a prayer meeting via a smartphone or in front of a television screen. Bible schools with no prior online offerings are conducting classes via zoom; the lecturer and students amicably interacting from different locations. Parallels will emerge in other arenas. In changed circumstances, God’s people will find ways and means to serve, learning and innovating. It will lead to new norms and delivery systems.
A concluding thought – pain and forced change are calls for authentic faith. Not a faith that has all the answers, but a faith from within, willing to grapple in the dark, finding its way until the light dawns. God is unchanging, but our faith will change in how we orient ourselves to Him in a changing world.
Peace and Grace,
Rev. Chan NamChen (PhD)