How do you answer a 15-year-old who wants to know why God doesn’t help people in a pandemic?
For the answer to that question, I’m handing over to a US Salvation Army officer (pastor) and author, Lisa Barnes. Lisa was born in Las Vegas and came to faith through after her mother, who was caught in the grip of addiction, received Salvation Army food assistance.
Lisa and her husband Anthony have been leading a Salvation Army church in Seattle and are currently in the process of shifting to a similar role in Las Vegas.
I met Lisa some years ago at an international writers conference. She is the author of ‘Love to a Whore’s Daughter: Life and Faith Through the Lens of Grace and Redemption’ (download for free from www.NewFrontierPress.org). Lisa is also part of the global BRAVE network, an empowerment programme that aims to combat the correlation between girls in foster care and girls trafficked into the domestic sex industry.
Over to Lisa …
At the beginning of the pandemic I was talking to my 15-year-old son about all of it, even before we really knew any of it. This was before US schools let us know they wouldn’t reopen for the year, and we had more questions than answers.
He asked, ‘How could God do this to us? God could just snap his fingers and end all of this. Why wouldn’t he help us?’
My response was first affirming my son’s faith, acknowledging that it’s really big that he knows and believes that we serve a God that could work in miraculous ways. That’s big for all of us – especially teenagers.
Then I told him how often God uses the tough things in our world to teach us the most important lessons.
I think with Covid-19 God is trying to teach us that every person matters. We can say we believe that every person matters, but that is inconsistent with how we treat some.
When this all started most of us thought it was only going to affect the elderly and the disabled or those with compromised immune systems; arguably the demographics often treated as if they are disposable or without value in our world.
Do we really care?
It was as if God was asking us, ‘Do you really care for everyone? Well what about them? You don’t seem like you are for them the same as everyone else.’
Time went on and we learned that the virus is not just hurting the old and the immune compromised. When we realized it could affect all of us, we seemed to take it more seriously.
Then George Floyd’s and countless other black people’s unnecessary and brutal deaths were flooding our social media and news outlets.
It was the same lesson, just wearing a different face.
It’s like God is still asking, ‘Do you really care for everyone? Well, what about them? You don’t seem like you are for them the same as everyone else.’
When will we listen?
When will we learn that for our world to change, we must change?
We have more outbreaks (of both the virus and racism) because so many of us refuse to live like we believe that all people have worth and value. And to prove it may have implications for your life. Even implications so small and trite as staying home or wearing a mask when you go out.
We know you don’t like it; we know it’s uncomfortable.
No one likes it.
We are all uncomfortable.
But … just maybe … we can stand to be uncomfortable because we know we are not the centre of the universe and other people matter too. We can say that all we want, but there comes a time when we have to prove it. We will live in a way that shows we believe other people matter, even when it’s uncomfortable or when we feel inconvenienced?
Do we want to help?
Do we want to help end Covid? Wear a mask.
Do we want to help discrimination and racism? Read and learn and listen.
Behave like we say we think. Do we think every person matters? Then we’ve got to prove it by affirming those that have been made to feel disposable.
‘When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” ’ (John 21:15-17)
Christina Tyson has been a Salvation Army officer (minister) for almost 30 years. For 16 years she was involved in Salvation Army communications, but now works to support local churches and recruit future leaders. Recently she also took on an additional role as The Salvation Army’s Response Officer for the New Zealand Royal Commission into Abuse in Care. Christina and her husband Keith live in Wellington, New Zealand, and have three adult children.