With so much uncertainty consuming our lives right now, we are all reaching, searching, looking for something to help us make sense of it all. Why now? Why is this happening to us all? It can feel like punishment at times, and during difficult times like these, it is normal to cry out to God and wonder, Why?
But, in FUMCFW’s newest Pastor’s Bible Study: God and the Pandemic, led by Rev. Dr. Zhenya Gurina-Rodrigez, she invites us to turn to scripture, along with N.T. Wright’s book, and stop asking “Why?” and start asking, “What can I do about it?”
Author N.T. Wright is an English New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, Anglican Bishop, and senior research fellow at Oxford University. Having authored over seventy books, his most recent book, God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath, was just written and published during the global pandemic.
Wright offers his readers a chance to reflect on this pandemic in real time, alongside him and so many others who are looking to the Bible and to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for some answers in this confusing and often scary time we are living in.
Zhenya explains that she has enjoyed leading two sessions so far and has used Wright’s book as a jumping off point for real conversation amongst the participants. She says that the group will usually start off by reading some excerpts from the book together, but then use the majority of their time with one another discussing real life applications. In fact, Dr. Z says, it could be that right now we can even better relate to scripture now having lived through this time of “plague” that is so often described throughout the books of the bible.
She adds that there can be something comforting in knowing that, “We are not the first (or the last) ones to experience something like this.” And instead of asking this more passive question, “Why,” maybe we can start using a more active question, “What can I do now?” Dr. Z explains, “In the book, Wright sites examples of people who have turned their fear to action like physicians travelling around the country to help those most affected by the pandemic, or the examples of random acts of kindness popping up across the country in the form of neighborhood food pantries.”
It seems that this can be a more helpful way for us to process what is going on around us instead of this sense of hopelessness associated with simply asking this question, “Why?”
The first two weeks of the study have focused on Psalms 73 and 44. You can almost feel the turmoil within the psalmist in both psalms, struggling to comprehend a most gracious God – when bad things happen to good people. This feeling is especially palpable in Psalm 44. There is this impression of utter helplessness when living through a tumultuous and uncertain time like today. As modern readers of an ancient text, some of the struggle they face is unrelatable; however, now we can relate to that feeling of hopelessness and must learn to lean into that uncertainty and transform it into action to help us make sense of everything.
“When you pray,” Zhenya urges, “Know that God has heard it all. You won’t be the first one to complain or to ask, ‘Why.’ God knows your heart. There is a healing that happens when you meet God in that moment of despair. As we pray, the spirit works in us.”
So, what can you do? For a start, get to reading N.T. Wright’s book and join in the conversation with Dr. Z and the group every week on Tuesdays from 6:00 – 7:00 pm on Zoom. Zhenya adds, “Don’t feel intimidated by having to read. If you just want to show up for discussion, we welcome you to come.”
Join us as, together, we ask questions, turn to scripture and Wright’s book to search for answers.