If you were planning on an overseas mission trip with your team the summer of COVID-19, most likely your trip will be cancelled due to the pandemic, if it hasn’t been already. You may have planned for this trip for months, if not years. Whatever your plans for missions and your life, the coronavirus probably changed them. Disappointment this real, this final, cuts deeply—it hurts and confuses us, as does the pandemic. Where’s our Father during crises like this?
Hope in hard times
People used to have it easier, right? Jesus taught during a simpler time—that is, if we consider a simple life one lived under the threat of sickness and death, military oppression, an unjust tax system, and hypocritical snakes for religious leaders.
A hard life is hardly new. In the first century, Jesus’ audience must have felt enormous pressure from all sides. Israelites likely worried about leprosy (Mark 1:40) and deadly sicknesses, lacking antibiotics for infections or even an understanding of germs. Citizens lived in occupied territory with the Roman soldiers extorting money from them (Luke 3:14). The Roman government hired corrupt tax collectors who cheated workers out of their hard-earned cash (Luke 19:2,8). While Israelites could have gained hope from their faith, Pharisees and teachers of the law squashed God’s followers under mountains of religious minutia, killing joy and stealing hope (Matthew 23). Living under all this weight must have made Jesus’ hearers anxious.
Where is God when we’re anxious, when we have real stress? What hope do we have when we face disappointment, hurt and confusion?
Jesus spoke to our anxiety and offered hope. He wanted the burdened people of His time to know His Father. As Jesus taught His listeners on the mountainside (Matthew 5-7), He reminded them—and us—that our heavenly Father sees and cares.
A Father who sees
Jesus’ Jewish listeners knew the story of Abram’s household and how God revealed Himself to them. When Abram’s wife Sarai unjustly threw her Egyptian slave Hagar (pregnant with Abraham’s child) out into the desert to fend for herself, God saw. “The angel of the Lord” found Hagar (Genesis 16:1-7). The Lord met Hagar in her misery and cared for her, enough that Hagar gave the Lord the name, “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:11-14).
Speaking to anxious people in Matthew 6, Jesus called this same God “your Father in heaven,” He “who sees” (Matthew 6:1,4). Hypocrites won’t get away with fooling Him. Even better news: He’ll reward those living generous lives, doing good without fanfare. A good father doesn’t expect perfection from his small child and doesn’t need to be persuaded to love his offspring by their good deeds. Our Father knows when we’re trying and loves it when we trust Him. He sees.
If you’re hurting, can you lay that before the Father in prayer? He sees you as well as the people you’d like to see reached for Him overseas, hurting billions who haven’t yet heard the Good News. He sees them, cares for them, and wants them to know Him even more than you do. He sees you, too, your disappointments and hopes. He wants you to talk with Him about what’s on your heart.