It's hard to believe that February is already here. Ash Wednesday is on February 17th this year and thus Lent begins. We were partway through Lent last year when everything changed, seemingly overnight, due to COVID-19. With the onset of the pandemic came a halt to our weekly soup suppers and classes, a Holy Week that took place at home and online, and an Easter where we were shuttered away, much like the disciples (though for safety rather than fear). Soon enough we will have been living in a pandemic for a full year, a full year! It's hard to believe, as some days it feels much shorter, but some days it feels oh so much longer.
As we begin Lent once again let us take the opportunity to reflect on all this pandemic year has brought with it, Lent is after all a time for reflection. Lent encourages us to contemplate our own mortality, our sinfulness, our suffering, and our reliance on God’s grace to carry us through and lift us up. This Lent offers us the opportunity to review the pandemic thus far and see, not only the areas of struggle and sorrow, but also the areas of growth and compassion, both in ourselves and the wider world. God does not delight in the suffering of creation, or wish anything but the very best for us, suffering is a part of life and there has certainly been untold suffering caused by the pandemic. Despite this reality the Apostle Paul reminds the Romans, and us, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) While suffering is not good in itself, God works in the midst of it to bring about good for us. God’s working does not dismiss the pain and sorrow of one’s suffering, but it does keep it from being fruitless.
I invite you this Lent to reflect on where you have seen God working for good in the midst of the suffering, whether in your own life or in the lives of those around you. When you notice the good, give God thanks for it and hold on to it. Scripture does not guarantee us a life free of suffering, but it does promise that we won’t go through it alone. God is with us and if we are open to it God will work in the midst of our suffering, growing us and transforming us into disciples of Christ.
The call of Lent is not for the faint of heart, for it takes strength and courage to look into the midst of suffering and see what God is up to. It is not an easy road nor a quick one, but neither was the road Jesus took to Golgotha. Friends, through Christ, we are able to walk this road, because we know it does not end in death, but in an empty tomb. May this Lent provide you the space to examine not just the pandemic, but all of life, and in that examination grow in faith, hope, and love.