For my generation, the events of September 11, 2001, served as a pivotal point in our life’s narrative. It was tragic, frightening, and it thrust us into a deeper sense of awareness in terms of the world around us. Yet even that tragedy was somewhat isolated. The towers fell in New York City. The Pentagon was compromised in Washington, D.C. The third plane crash landed in Pennsylvania, causing all of us to pause, but only for a season.

The pandemic season that began in the year 2020 changed life as we know it forever. What was believed to be a local outbreak turned out to be a global crisis. No one was exempt. Unlike 9/11, we were not able to compartmentalize the crisis to a specific location, nor were we able to characterize any human entity as our enemy. This is a virus, a disease, an enemy that is unseen, yet its effects are undeniable.

The community of faith is not exempt from this reality. As I often say, disaster does not discriminate based on one’s demographics. Christians have died. Churches have closed their doors to the public, prohibiting us from corporate worship, fellowship, and many, if not all, of the outreach efforts that serve the communities around us. The question has been asked by believers, where is God in all of this grief? Why did He not prevent such things from happening, especially to His “elect”?

The answer that this blog post provides is one that was given to me at the onset of this pandemic. What Christians have failed to grasp is the reality that our election has never given us an exemption from trial and trouble. We were never promised by God that our relationship with Him would grant us a perimeter around life’s problems. In fact, we were promised the opposite. Jesus declared that in this world, disciples would have tribulations. In the case of The Twelve, this meant terrorist attacks, stoning, hanging, and ultimately martyrdom.

If we understood the truth about Lord and about life, we would have more clarity in seasons of suffering. I have never been a spiritual leader that announces what God is thinking or doing in moments of tragedy. I believe it is ecclesiastical malpractice to declare that God caused any such event, just as it was erroneous to suggest that 9/11 was “punishment” for America’s sins. No, what we can affirm without fear of contradiction is that there are things that God allows to happen. There are events both local and global, and individual, that He chooses not to prevent.

This answer may not be satisfactory to some, but it is our reality, nonetheless. Abraham and Sarah were allowed to go childless for almost a century. The Hebrews were allowed to be thrust into slavery under Egyptian rule. Job was allowed to lose everything he owned, and sickness was allowed to attack his body. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, allowed Himself to be crucified by His enemies for a greater cause, our salvation.

Herein lies the hope in our life’s narrative. Whatever God allows, we are promised there is a greater purpose behind the pain. This pandemic has cause us to pray like never before. We have been forced to examine the true weight of our worship and the validity of our church programs. Families have had to rediscover one another in quarantine, and many of us can testify to the burst of creativity that has come from our isolation and reflection. Indeed, businesses have been birthed out of this experience. Critical decisions and spiritual revelations have come from our seeking God in this season. In short, all things are working for our good. We mourn those we have lost, yet we find hope in what we’ve gained. We will never be the same post-COVID, but God doesn’t expect us to be. He wants a more focused and faithful version of us, and He’s using struggle to bring it out of us.

Friend, your spiritual growth and development will not come from your happy moments only. In fact, if you look back over your journey, it was your frustrations that grew your faith, and your rough places that cultivated your connection to Christ. I cannot answer for why things happen the way they do. But if God allowed it, there must be a purpose and a plan. Our job is to trust Him in the meantime. Selah!