This phrase is becoming a ‘thing.’ Usually, it refers to the ‘but’ in our lives of things we do but Jesus wouldn’t approve of: “I love Jesus but I cuss a little” or “I love Jesus but I drink a little.” In other cases, it’s a disclaimer for Jesus’ people: “I love Jesus but I hate his church.” But when I heard this phrase recently, I couldn’t help thinking about the year 2020 and our trust in a Higher Power. There seems to be an unwritten agreement we have with Him/Her/It, namely: “we love you but you had better get us through this mess. If you don’t, you’re not for real!”
There’s too much at stake: the loss of another 100,000 Americans to COVID, the toxification of large sectors of the country by heat/smoke/fire, the irresolution of Black Lives Matter. And that looming Nov. 3 event. The what-if’s are a little too much to bear. Some of us have a rock-solid belief that God will get us through this. If you do, kudos to your faith! But it’s time we settle what ‘getting us through this’ actually means. Or more to the point, what can we actually count on God to do?
This question gains clout when we look at the Judeo-Christian texts and realize things did not always go well for nations, nor did God necessarily make sure they did. When a country had so many hang-ups and injustices and dysfunctions, sometimes God just let the natural consequences ensue; not even Israel, the chosen race, was safeguarded from peril. In fact, it was sacked and its inhabitants taken prisoner.
I’m not trying to paint a doomsday picture for our nation; I am constantly praying for protection, for lives saved, for the survival of ecosystems, for an end to violence. I’m just asking what we can presume upon God. What if COVID doesn’t go away quickly? What if there are more fires in the years to come? What if my side doesn’t win the election? Will it mean that God has forsaken us?
If nothing else, it should challenge certain pre-conceived notions Christians may have inherited about the world around them. For example, “God will make everything better again,” (That’s his overall goal but it may take a while) “I need to just look out for my family and he will see me through.” (Maybe that’s the problem: too many people just looking out for their own family!) “If we can just become a more Christian nation, all will be well.” (Really? When we called ourselves a Christian nation, there were a lot of really bad things going on under the radar. What does it mean to be a Christian nation, anyway? We had a civil war over this: which side was “Christian”?) “God will bless America – God always has.” (America is a young country, relatively speaking. How can we be so sure?)
There’s a lot I’m not trusting God for. Praying for, but not setting expectations on. But here is what I am trusting God for: God will be with us, and God will in the end be looking out for our welfare and our good. Depending on how the next six months unfold, believing this could take a heck of a lot of faith! We may need others to help us with this kind of faith. But trust me: with that kind of faith we can get through anything!
Said someone to Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”