Psalm 66:8-20 (NRSV)
8Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
9who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
10For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
11You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;
12you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
13I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,
14those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
16Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.
17I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.
18If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
19But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
20Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.
Some have asserted that the pandemic is God testing or punishing people. The psalmist seems to have followed similar logic about another crisis: “You, O God, have tested us; you have tried us. . . . You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs.” But some of Scripture reflects people’s attempts to understand God more than their correct grasp of God. Elsewhere the Bible assures us God doesn’t impose burdens on us but relieves us of them: the burden of fear (Isa. 41:10), of weariness (Matt. 11:28), of earning salvation (Eph. 2:8), of death as the last word (Rev. 21:4).
And as all of us go forward and back in our faith—sometimes even sideways or in circles—while the psalmist misunderstands God in some ways, at the end he gets it right: “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.” Whatever you face today—illness, grief, lost work or overwork, anxiety, loneliness, or something unrelated to the coronavirus—God hears your prayer and wraps you in love.
God, thank you for the assurance of your love, especially in challenging times. Amen.