There's a modern parable that’s been told from time to time about someone driving around a crowded shopping mall, praying for a parking spot close by the entrance. We often find ourselves asking God for these little personal favors. This person drove around and around, up and down the aisles of parked cars. Things looked pretty bleak. The frustration mounted, as he thought he’d have to park in the next county and walk, like, forever. He continued to pray fervently for God to help him find a good parking spot. Then, just as he turned down an aisle near the entrance, some other car was pulling out of the perfect parking spot. The driver who had been praying so hard said "Oh! Never mind, Lord. I found one."
The point, of course, is probably obvious to you. Instead of waving God off because they didn't need his help now, that driver should have spent some time praising God for providing just what they asked for. Being grateful. Giving God the praise he has asked us for, and so totally deserves.
I find this story very applicable to the current corona virus crisis. Back in February and March of this year, there were a lot of Christians who were praying that this nation and the world would be spared from this pandemic and the millions of deaths that were being predicted. According to a March 13, 2020 New York Times article, a survey of a lot of the really smart experts predicted that 160 to 215 million Americans would become infected. As many as 1.7 million would die. As many as 21 million would need hospital care when there were only 925,000 hospital beds to treat them, which would only amplify and increase the number of infected and dead.
Everybody I knew was praying for God’s mercy and some kind of divine intervention. Most of us also pledged to align our behavior with those prayers. We did what we could to “flatten the curve” and try to keep infection rates down. We stayed home. We practiced “social distancing.” If we worked at an “essential” job, we were extra careful. We all prayed for God to spare us from this pestilence. Which is all right and proper.
But look at how things have turned out. This pandemic does not seem to be nearly as awful as what we were warned about and what we prepared for. Yes, it has been very bad. As I type this, we have reached the point where nearly 100,000 people have died in our country. But the predictions were that nearly 2 million people would be dead. The hospitals are not overwhelmed all across the nation. People are not dying for a lack of ventilators. That is what we were warned was coming from some of the smartest doctors and scientists in the world. And we seem to have been spared from the worst of that scenario.
And are we seeing Christians all over this land praising God and blessing his name and proclaiming his saving grace, love and mercy? Not really. Mostly, it seems that everyone is arguing about whether we’ve been scammed and how to outsmart the scammer we have chosen to focus our attention on. Shouldn't we be focused in on the concept that God Almighty has defeated a scheme from the enemy? Should we not acknowledge that God's people, who are called by his name, humbled themselves and prayed and sought His face and turned from their sins and that God, true to his word, has forgiven our sins and healed us and largely spared our land of this dread disease? Instead we see a lot of people pointing out the sins of others. Or worse yet, inventing sins and evil schemes to accuse others with. As if any of that that makes any sense.
Is any of this fighting over words bringing us peace? Is any of this choosing sides in the battle of the youtube videos bringing our souls rest? Is any of this conflict making people want to share in the hope that we have? Is any of the biting sarcasm and political rancor making any lost soul ask how to know this Jesus we represent?
Psalm 22:3 says that God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (ESV). We have come to paraphrase that concept as “God inhabits the praises of His people” We have an unprecedented opportunity to praise him for the truly miraculous things he has done right before our eyes. We have, so far, been spared the disaster we were assured was coming. And, after so much fervent prayer, it seems we are waving him off, like the driver in my introductory parable, looking for a parking spot.
"Never mind, God. We’ve got this now."
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
We have every reason to do so.
We have no reason not to.
(Adapted from an essay by James Chambless, the “Old Hat” of Facebook).