Weeks of isolation drag on, masks become symbols of either submission or rebellion, death tolls mount. My “What’s next, Papa?” query takes on less ebullient faith and more plaintive whine as the weeks pass. Let’s face it: we—especially we who live in the Western world—aren’t especially resilient during long haul tough times. We want easy access answers: take a pill, stop the spread, answer my prayer…NOW!
“What’s next, Papa?” is not a question we may honestly want to ask. I remember receiving a letter from my mother less than a year after our son died. She wrote about her husband’s declining health and my immediate—unstated but nonetheless piercing—response: “NO! I can’t take this again so soon.” Or maybe you live in a long haul, no-easy-answers situation like my friend whose adult daughter’s mental state swoops from black depths to manic highs. Though living in the same house, my friend hasn’t heard “I love you, Mom” or relationship-enhancing words in years.
I’m re-reading Philip Yancey’s Reaching for the Invisible God. Perhaps you have never experienced doubt about God—or you have never allowed yourself to experience doubt, a condition perhaps more toxic—but Yancey’s honest probing about his own struggle sheds important light on how we approach the “what’s next?” question. Yes, I know and firmly believe that to “see” God we need look at Jesus (John 14:9), but I find consolation in my own timidity when I read, “In books like Job, Ecclesiastes, and Habakkuk, the Bible poses blunt questions that have no answers.” And giants of the faith like Luther, Moody, missionary C.F. Andrews and Bible characters Sarah, Jacob, Jeremiah, Thomas, Martha, Peter and others asked penetrating questions. Often with no answers.
Just this morning I quietly asked, “What’s next, Papa?” No lightning emblazoned answer appeared on the wall. In fact, I heard no answer. But then I recalled the words Oswald Chambers saw carved into the wood lintel at the exit of a small church in England: Do ye the next thyng. And so I sat down to write, soon I’ll make a quick (masked!) visit to the grocery store, return to more mundane tasks and rest tonight in the assurance that God—the invisible God—and I have walked together in harmony.