Never in our collective memory as a country, or even in the world, has Easter arrived at the same time as a disease that is killing thousands. Having just buried my mom in late February, I can’t imagine the compounded grief and loss of losing a loved one to the virus and then being banned from attending a burial. As my brothers and I were the last to leave the tented space over my mother’s coffin at the close of the service, I reached out and touched the polished wood, my last contact with the woman who gave her life for me in so many ways.
Covid-19 is killing not just thousands but it’s severing hearts from necessary traditions for healing. My heart hurts for the unnamed multitudes who are quarantined, alone, isolated and dying with no one familiar or loved one near them. Imagine barely breathing, aching and seeing through watery eyes human shapes moving around as aliens in space suits who because of the explosion of cases must hurry in and out.
In the darkest moments of life, when it feels God doesn’t care, it is then He is most ready to be seen, if we will watch for Him.
Missionary friends of ours live and work 30 miles from the Italian border. They have been living with strict quarantine rules longer than we have in America. Last week they wrote:
Italy is in crisis! I want to send you some shocking words from an Italian hospital doctor, but also amazing news of God at work!
This is from the doctor in Italy: “I never imagined … we are no longer doctors but deciders of who should live and who will be sent home to die. Until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists. We doctors were convinced that science excludes the presence of God.
Nine days ago a 75-year-old priest came to us with serious breathing problems and a Bible. He read the Bible to the dying and held their hands. We doctors were exhausted and discouraged but we were listening to him. We humans had reached our limits. I haven’t been home for six days and don’t remember when I last ate. Two of our colleagues have died.
We realized we DO need God. We started asking for help from Him when we had a few minutes. We can’t believe that as furious atheists we are now every day asking the Lord to help us.
Yesterday the priest died. In spite of 120 deaths in three weeks at our hospital, in spite of our exhaustion and in spite of the priest’s condition, he managed to bring us peace that we never hoped to find. I want to take my last breath helping others. I am happy to have returned to God in the midst of the suffering and death of my fellow men.”
THIS is the message of Easter!
When it appears as if God doesn’t care about our problems, when we can’t see any evidence of God’s presence at all, He is still at work. Jesus died utterly alone … completely abandoned. We know because He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
Because Jesus died alone we will never be abandoned. His presence will be with us even if we contract the virus and are subjected to quarantine and even dying alone.
Palm Sunday is just days away. Easter will arrive this year with the message of the gospel more relevant than ever! God has His priests everywhere! As 1 Peter 2:9 tells us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” And some priests or caregivers could be angels, “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation,” (Hebrews 1:14).
We can’t go near the sick and dying, but God can. He has ways we know nothing about.
And we can pray as never before for every heart to be turned to Jesus and surrendered to His authority and salvation. For then we can know His “I will never leave you or forsake you,” presence. Then “we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man [or virus] do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
May you become #easterpeople for whom the cross is everything.