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The Lord’s Presence During This Crisis

From Rev. Erik Buss, Assistant to the Pastor
March 23, 2020

I’m sure all of you have been spending a lot of time making sure that you are keeping yourself and your family safe, and that you are keeping others safe as well. Safety and surviving is such an all-consuming focus that it’s kind of inevitable that our minds are drawn into material concerns. How do I work from home while children are underfoot? Where is the rent money going to come from since my company just shut down operations? How do I have contact with my elderly parent with lung vulnerability without putting her life at risk? These, and many like them, are important considerations, and they take a lot of our attention.
In the midst of this we can ask where the Lord is. As our minds are drawn down into these natural concerns, it can easily feel like, yes, the Lord is there, but He’s at a distance. The common things that give us a sense of natural safety are not present, so it can be harder to feel the inner safety of the Lord’s love and care. It’s as if He’s taking His hands off the steering wheel for a bit and is just letting the world go its own course.
A well-loved teaching says the following: “It should be recognized that Divine providence is overall. That is, it is present within the smallest details of all, and that people in the stream of providence are being carried along constantly towards happier things, whatever appearance the means may present.” (Arcana Caelestia 8478:3) Instead of being distant, the Lord is intimately present in the smallest details of what is going on, even if we don’t feel it.
We often don’t understand how He is present and guiding us, but this is the most basic idea: that He is intimately present in our lives and in this world, guiding us toward what is good. We know He doesn’t want anyone to get sick or to lose their jobs. We know He cares about what is happening to us and others.
The passage continues with a more challenging statement in these anxious times: “[Those who trust in the Divine] remain even-tempered whether or not they realize desires, and they do not grieve over loss; they are content with their lot. If they become wealthy they do not become infatuated with wealth; if they are promoted to important positions they do not consider themselves worthier than others. If they become poor they are not made miserable either; if lowly in status they do not feel downcast. They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things are moving towards an everlasting state of happiness, and that no matter what happens at any time to them, it contributes to that state.” As many suddenly face varying degrees of poverty, this is challenging! I think that this passage is calling out to many of us right now. Can we trust that the Lord is guiding us to good things, even when the near future seems really uncertain and even downright frightening? What would that look like for each of us?
One thought I’d offer is that the Lord is less concerned with what happens than with how we respond to it. There are things we should rightly feel concerned about right now. Are we also choosing to notice the good? Are we willing to stop in parts of each day to breathe, and to pray, and to spend time with the Lord in His Word? Are we asking ourselves what small things can we do to make the world and our community better? When we do these things, we assert that we are spiritual beings, and that whatever befalls us externally is less important than our present choice to act with love and integrity.
I wish you peace in this coming week. Not complete peace. That’s not realistic. But times of deep peace that carry through your attempts to deal with a lot of unknowns. The Lord is deeply present with all of us, and if we turn to Him His presence and love will guide us in the way of peace.

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