“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” —John 16:33
Every year, those of us who live in climates with a winter season look forward to seeing the new growth and new possibilities that spring brings. As seasons change, not only do we see evidence of that change in our surroundings; we often see changes in the attitudes and behavior of individuals as well. And now, as spring gives way to summer, we look forward to the sun and warmth and feel filled with the possibility of vacations and new beginnings.
God provides seasons of life as well. “Winters” might include grief, loneliness, and hardship. But as these times end, we find hope for the future. This June, many of us still are emerging from the winter that was 2020. We have endured pandemic, racial unrest, economic uncertainty, polarizing politics, and church divisions. We look forward to the “spring” that is before us.
Though COVID-19 is not yet behind us, we see signs of hope: vaccines are being rolled out, and small gatherings are beginning to increase. Best of all, plans are being made for in-person gatherings in our local congregations.
Similarly, many churches are making use of the “Challenging Conversations” toolkit to learn better ways to talk about difficult topics even when we disagree. The efforts of the Christian Reformed Church’s Race Relations office have helped many of us recognize the importance of—and to begin doing—the difficult work of racial reconciliation. We thank God for all of this.
I am reminded of Good Friday and the fact that for Jesus’ disciples, the world was about to change drastically—but they didn’t know it. Their Lord was going to be crucified, and all they held dear was about to be crushed. For two days, they lived in the darkness of this devastating event. But then Easter happened, and the darkness was turned to the epitome of light by God’s grace.
We too are living through a time of darkness. In the midst of our hardship, we recognize that we serve the same God as the disciples of old. He is more than able to use the negatives we experience and turn them into positives for his glory. COVID-19 was not a surprise to God. He knew how he was planning to use this experience in our lives whether or not we were surprised by it.
Yes, there is pain—but God is with us in the midst of the pain. Yes, there is dislocation—but God is with us in the midst of the dislocation.
Synod 2021 has been canceled. Our denominational gathering, Inspire 2021, has been postponed for a year. Weddings, funerals, and other celebrations have been delayed or commemorated in ways different from what we wanted. But as we begin to transition out of this time of pandemic, we remember that through it all, there has been one constant: God has been with us.
He will never leave us or forsake us. He was crucified for our transgressions. He was laid in a tomb, but we can rejoice today because the tomb is empty. He is risen: Hallelujah!
We embrace change knowing that we are embracing the One who allows the change. May we continue to thank God hour by hour, day by day, as we pray continually for God to give us comfort and strength as we do the work that he has prepared in advance for us to do.