Faith in the time of trouble
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of over 80 people in Bermuda in less than 18 months. Businesses have closed, permanently or temporarily. Children are in and out of school. Parents are juggling remote learning and working from home.
Our healthcare system is overwhelmed and thousands in our community are grieving the loss of life and livelihood.
People may be wondering, where is God in all of this? How does a loving God allow so much suffering? It is a conundrum that is not new to us; a question many have wrestled with along their faith journey.
The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, Bishop of Bermuda, shared his thoughts on the current climate with The Royal Gazette, in response to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases and loss of life.
“There is no doubt that the world feels in turmoil,” Bishop Dill said. “Each day we hear Covid-19 updates and statistics: no names, just numbers; huge numbers. But they aren’t just numbers. They are individuals – parents, grandparents, children, friends, co-workers. We may know some of them; I have buried a few. Their loss is keenly felt and the opportunity even to say goodbye is compromised.
“None of us were prepared for this. My heart breaks daily for those who are in this position. For those who have had to take their loved one to the hospital or are fearful to do so and watch and wait at home.
“None of this is pleasant – and these pains need to be acknowledged. But yet, none of these are new – except perhaps for those in this generation who may have never felt the relentlessness and intensity in a new way. In a broken world, these things are an expected reality. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests we should not anticipate times like this.”
For many, it is in times of trouble that faith is tested; for others it is strengthened.
“But behind all of it there is always hope,” Bishop Dill said. “These things stir in us a longing for something new, for something better. They awaken us and draw us to call out to God – who is, for many people, an ever present help in times of trouble.
“The God I worship is not detached or unmoved by our plight. Indeed, it was because of his love that he entered the world that he made – and we see how he feels about it – with his own tears, his acts of love and service.”
While many people feel helpless, Bishop Dill believes there is a role for people of faith and churches to play in all of this.
“I believe we all have a part to play in helping one another through this time,” he said. “Our presence, phone calls and practical support can really help. To look out for those people who are alone or lonely, fearful or anxious is part of what we are called to do. And if that means we do things like get vaccinated to protect the vulnerable, let’s do it.
“The church is a body of people, not an institution or building. But we also have buildings and places of refuge. I believe the church is already connected with the community in a very real way. We must continue to bring hope and create a sense of community, which is not based upon anything but our common humanity and shared identity as those made in the image of God.”
Christians have the example of Christ available to them as a blueprint of how to show love, support and compassion for others. Bishop Dill encourages them to emulate this example.
“I am amazed that even to the end, Jesus looked out for others’ interests,” he said. “From the cross he proclaimed forgiveness, he provided for his distraught mother, he promised paradise to a dying thief.
“All through this he made promises of life, resurrection, joy and peace. Somehow, by his presence he calmed storms. It is my prayer that God’s people today would show the same mercy, grace, love and service to all people. Not just in words, but in practical acts of mercy, of feeding and of kindness.”
Many are grappling with pandemic fatigue and the mental, emotional, and spiritual toll it has taken on us. Bishop Dill empathises with those who may be struggling and finds comfort in familiar Bible verses that remind him of God’s promises to us.
“As a faith leader, this has not rocked my faith, but it has put things into a sharper perspective,” he said.
“I often find myself preaching to myself and a number of Bible verses speak to me. 'Be still and know that I am God.' That is God speaking to me in Psalm 46:10. In John 14:1 Jesus says, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust also in me.’ And Philippians 4:13 reminds me that ‘I can do all things through him that strengthens me.’
“I encourage anyone struggling to also hold on to these promises, in spite of everything else.”