The pandemic is no excuse to change our perspective of God.
We are entering the third year of the pandemic, and people are beginning to lose hope. The pandemic is conditioning us to lose hope in the person and power of God. Because a new variant seems to emerge at the moment we stabilize the present variant, we have come to assume that the next variant will automatically show up. Despite our prayers, nothing seems to be changing. Talk of a “new normal” is beginning to settle into our psyche, and the thought of an old normal fades into the annals of history.
Without question, the pandemic has changed the way we relate to life and each other. It has made some of us more existential, religious, or even agnostic. It is the last group that is the most troubling, because to be agnostic is to be skeptical of the existence of God. We have become more existential by remembering what was most important in life—God, family, community, and life itself. We have become more religious by deepening our faith in God and being more attentive to our spiritual disciplines of praying, fasting, reading our Bibles, and gathering for worship. But some of us have begun to question if God truly exists.
Why have some people moved from religious to agnostic? It is because God has not done what they wanted Him to do. And while some of us may not have become agnostic, we all have had our moments of questioning God when He did not do what we wanted. The problem with this mindset is that it frames an improper perspective of God. God is not a celestial butler waiting for us to ring the bell for Him to do what we demand. In our ignorance, we have constructed a God who does what we desire, instead of a God whom we do what He desires. If God is God—and He is—then He should be the one to set the terms and conditions of our relationship with Him, not the other way around. It is quite hypocritical for us to question God for not doing what we want when we clearly don’t do what He wants. So our perspective of God must change if we are to thrive in this time of pandemic.
Steadying Our Faith
Abraham, the father of our faith, provides us a perfect example of how we are to stay steady when the evidence around us seeks to rob us of our hope in God and experiencing the promises of God in this life.
In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. (Romans 4:18–21)
1. He believed God in a hopeless situation. Abraham was in a hopeless situation. He was 99 years old, and his wife was 89 years old and barren. If ever there was a hopeless situation, this was it. Yet, he believed God’s promise to be true and trustworthy. He believed so that he might become what God had promised. In other words, to be it, you must believe it. Faith or belief is the action that God has established to receive what He has promised. What He promises us, He gives us by grace. But what we receive from Him, we must receive it by faith.
Faith believes that God can make happen for us what we do not have the capability to make happen for ourselves. That’s what makes Him God. It is only when we make our situation bigger than the God of our revelation that we fail to receive what God has promised us. Promises are conditional in the economy of God. The condition is not a question of His trustworthiness or capability; the condition is a question of our belief. God wants us to believe, because it confirms our perspective of Him. If our perspective of God is little, then it means we view Him as small. But if our perspective of God is like that of Abraham, then we will have hope despite the hopeless odds we face. Craig Keener defines Abraham’s faith as dependence upon a promise-fulfilling God: “Faith as defined in Abraham’s experience is not passive assent to what God says; it is an enduring dependence on God’s promise, on which one stakes one’s life and lives accordingly.”
2. His faith in God was strengthened despite the evidence. The evidence was stacked against Abraham. It was impossible for him and Sarah to have a child, but it was not impossible for God to make it happen for them. As he thought about his age and Sarah’s inability to conceive, his faith did not decrease but actually increased. The more hopeless his situation was, the more hopeful he became because he knew that it would require an act of God. Being stripped of his potency and Sarah’s fertileness, Abraham was left with no other choice but to trust in the goodness and greatness of God.
How was Abraham’s faith strengthened? He gave glory to God. As he kept God in His proper perspective, God strengthened his faith. He glorified God by recognizing His status and power to bring to pass what He had promised. Because Abraham knew the God that he served, he was fully convinced that God could and would perform what He had promised. Abraham had faith in God’s character and capacity. God’s character is that He is trustworthy and incapable of telling a lie. God’s capacity is that He is infinitely powerful and able to do whatever He determines to accomplish.
Kenneth Wuest observes that Abraham did not waver in his faith, because he believed God was able to overcome his reality: “Abraham did not vacillate between belief and unbelief with respect to his difficulty and the ability of God to meet it.”That is, Abraham acknowledged the evidence; it was real and undeniable. But he also acknowledged His God who was able to overcome the evidence and bring about His desired outcome.
Trusting in God’s Promises
Has the pandemic shaken your confidence in God? Have you moved from religious to agnostic because God didn’t do something you wanted Him to do? God is not obligated to do what we want, but He is obligated to do what He has promised. Our relationship with God must be based upon His promises and not the demands we foolishly place upon Him. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6-8). Despite the evidence before us, we can and must trust in His promises.
We have yet to determine the long-term effects of the pandemic, but what we cannot do is allow doubt and unbelief to become our new normal. We must be like Abraham and stay steady at the promises of God.
Rev. Isaac Hayes is the founder of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also an assistant pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 4:18–22.  Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 72.