Will my kids be able to continue in school or will their classrooms shut down again? What will happen if we get in an accident and our hospitals are full because of a Covid surge? Will gatherings need to be canceled again? Will we have vaccine mandates? Will we have other surges? Other variants?
We can harness the best minds in the world to produce a vaccine in record time, but we still don’t know what our particular lives will look like tomorrow morning at the breakfast table. This uncertainty is, of course, how we have always lived each day — it’s simply part of what it means to be a human being. But Covid continues to throw how little we know, control or can predict into sharp relief. In the Hebrew Scriptures, we hear how the Israelites lived through the same sort of emotional roller coaster that many of us have felt this past year. In the Exodus story, they are finally freed after generations of slavery in Egypt (Joy! Relief!). But then, they find themselves pursued by an army (Fear! Danger!), but then, they are miraculously delivered thanks to the parting of the Red Sea (Joy! Relief!), but then they wander in the wilderness (Bewilderment! Danger!).
We are told that these tumultuous events generated “grumbling” among the Israelites. Well, I should think so! Humans are not good at bearing uncertainty and anxiety for such a long period of time. We eventually read about how Moses received the law and how the Israelites finally settle in Canaan. As readers of the Exodus story, we have the distinct advantage of being able to skip ahead, to see how the story ends and therefore to make theological and emotional sense of it, which we then read back into the text. But each of our lives is locked in the present tense. We can’t skip ahead in our own stories.
It has become a cliché, a bumper-sticker pat answer, to say “Let go and let God.” But why should we? What evidence is there that trusting God is such a great idea?
Again and again, the church has answered: because we have been given the gift of knowing how the story ends.
Christians see Moses as prefiguring Christ. Jesus, like Moses, delivered his people. Through his resurrection, we were rescued from the oppression of sin and power of death. The end of the story is that Jesus makes, as the Book of Revelation says, “all things new.” The church proclaims that in the resurrection, we have glimpsed the Promised Land. We have seen that God has defeated death. We cannot know the path ahead for any of our individual lives, but we can read the big story of redemption back into our particular life and our particular moment.
In this new phase of the pandemic, we sit poised between celebration and continued suffering. We aren’t sure how to feel. We aren’t sure when — or if — things will go back to normal.