God is always doing something new

Published 6:39 pm Monday, February 1, 2021

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By Charles Qualls

There are some moments that mark themselves indelibly, and forever we know exactly where we were when they happened. They are the signature moments of a generation. My parents knew where they were when the end of World War II was announced. They knew where they were when news broke about President [John] Kennedy’s assassination. I can recall the day that Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon. I can picture my college apartment the moment of the Challenger explosion. The parking deck I was navigating when news broke on the morning of 9/11.

This era we are living in doesn’t have just one elemental moment, but instead is defined for some reason in my mind as beginning with Jan. 27 of last year. That’s when I first heard of the COVID-19 virus in a meeting, and of the attendant recession that would likely come with it. Soon, it began to noticeably impact our lives and continuing on even unto now, the virus sure has changed things.

Someone joked, but I believe their observation will turn out to be true in time, that some future historians will become known by which quarter of 2020 they specialized in. This extended season has altered life as we know it. To some extent, it picked us up from one place and dropped us down in what feels like another. In one business magazine, I read recently, “We have been thrust out of our old models and ways of working and we have reached this point without planning for it. The primary response to this shift is to re-frame our thinking.” With that, they captured the moment with one of the great understatements of our time.

To some of us, this has been necessary. We’ve had no choice, depending on our line of work. Pastors talk about it all the time, because the changes have been pretty dramatic. We are a faith built around gathering, and an organization that relies on meetings. Suddenly that has been the one thing it was mostly not prudent to do, in our judgment. We do not have the market cornered on feeling disoriented, for one only needs to glance over at any of several industries to see that almost everyone has had to re-think what they do.

Some of the ways we have had to adapt and change, we were already on the way to doing. This odd era simply sped up the pace a bit. Some of those new ways are going to travel forward with us when things settle down. We’ve been able to open up our churches to cameras, live streaming and social media connections. In fact, we already were doing some of those things. We just didn’t plan to rely on that kind of thing for an extended time yet.

Sometimes, God is a little too quiet to suit us. Life can feel like it’s just running away with us, a bit out of control. Dark seasons challenge us to our very souls. But Isaiah 43:15-19 has a word of hope for us. God is always doing a new thing! Isaiah 43 affirms that God is always making a way. God is always doing a new thing. I fervently believe that is still true right now.

Let’s be sure that we place Isaiah in his correct context, a drawn-out period where soon God did not speak, would not speak, did not appear to act and would not act on any schedule that suited anyone. It means that people of faith in Isaiah’s time and beyond suffered. It means that people of faith were discouraged and confused. People of faith were left to try to make meaning of life absent a fresh word from God for a time. Some of them began to make things up, or began to abandon the faith because God wouldn’t speak or act on their schedule. Just like in our lifetimes.

We have much to learn from this experience that is still going on. If our faith has anything to contribute to how we do that learning, it is my chosen belief that God is still at work in our world. Quietly, maybe too quietly, but nonetheless doing a new thing. Even in the midst of what feels confining, what feels hopeless or overwhelming, God is at work doing a new thing. Building the next chapter, working the next great work in bringing the Kingdom near.


THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is the pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.