• Tom Strode

Pandemic living: Trusting providence

My favorite 40 seconds of the more than nine hours that make up "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy comes in a conversation between the hobbit Frodo and the wizard Gandalf in the first movie.

“I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened,” Frodo says still early in his struggle against great evil.

“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide,” Gandalf replies. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In which case, you also were meant to have it, and that is an encouraging thought.”

Undoubtedly, all of us living during the time of coronavirus can identify with Frodo’s wish. None of us would wish this had happened. None of us would wish this global disease upon more than 1.4 million people or death upon more than 80,000 people, as of April 7.

Short of infection and death, many others in this country and around the world would wish the pandemic had never happened: Children, grandchildren and parents who are separated from loved ones who are in intensive care units or dying; health-care workers putting their lives at risk while mourning the deaths of those they sought to help; people who are out of work; couples whose weddings are postponed; seniors in college and high school who are unable to finish their education with friends or to take part in graduation exercises; teachers who are separated from students they love and long to help finish well.

And most of us live with a new reality – a mandate for us to stay at home, separated from our church family, friends and neighbors.

Regardless of the extent of the cost and heartbreak, it would be understandable if each of us sometimes thinks or says, “I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf’s wise reply -- “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” – echoes Scripture. God is sovereign (Psalm 103:19). He acts with purpose (Job 42:2). He is good and does good (Psalm 119:68). He works all things for the good of His children (Romans 8:28). He has ordained good works for us to do as His children (Ephesians 2:10).

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders apparently will last for weeks or even months. As they do, it will be tempting to wish repeatedly “none of this had happened.” May we be quick to remind ourselves our Father has intended for us to live through this trial. We were meant for this. May we respond with increased worship of, love for and trust in Him. And may we respond also with demonstrations of love for and service to our neighbors and fellow saints even while separated from them.

-- Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash


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