I am what my therapist calls a catastrophizer. I always play out the worst-case scenario in my head. I have done this for as long as I can remember. I used to think that it was just a way of being prudent and planning ahead. I have learned in the past few years that it is actually my desperate attempt at control — a way for me to avoid the disappointments and dashed expectations that inevitably come with life.

In full disclosure, this pandemic could not come at a worse time for me. I have so many exciting things going on in my life and work. Two weeks ago, the future seemed bright and promising. There was a moment when everything seemed to be falling into place, and I stumbled across a new song from Elevation Worship. The lyrics, taken from scripture, described the way I felt God’s presence and blessing moving in my life and in my family’s life.

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children and their children

Two weeks ago, I felt unironically blessed even as I worked through all the catastrophes that could arise to ruin everything. It seemed, for a moment, as though nothing could stop the blessing of God in my life. In my ruminating on the future, I did not plan on being isolated at home for the foreseeable future. I did not anticipate trips and meetings and classes being canceled. I did not anticipate churches moving worship online. I did not imagine virtual Holy Week and Easter.

May His presence go before you
And behind you and beside you
All around you and within you

He is with you
He is with you

In the morning in the evening
In your coming and your going
In your weeping and rejoicing

He is for you
He is for you

In a matter of days, the blessing seemed to evaporate. The future was — is — so unsure. What will the world look like after this? What will the church do? What will the church be?

At the end of a phone call with a clergy colleague this week, I surprised myself by saying, “In all of this, God is still God.”

I have never said those words before. I usually steer clear of phrases like that. As a good Episcopalian, my desire to be seen as tasteful is almost as great as my desire to be saved. And yet, I said it with firm belief: In all of this, God is still God.

The crescendo of that new song brings me to tears every time I hear it. Over and over again, they sing: 

He is for you
He is for you
He is for you
He is for you
He is for you
He is for you
He is for you
He is for you

What does it mean to have the blessing of God in a pandemic? What does it mean that God is for you at this moment?

There is a lot of over-functioning happening at this moment. We are seeing whole industries shuttered and others trying desperately to reimagine themselves for a new normal that we don’t fully understand. Parishes that had no online presence before this moment now rush to operate like virtual monasteries. I had a clergy colleague tell me that they are working harder and more frantically now than they ever have before. People and organizations are working hard to make the “most” of this catastrophe.

We have been asked to stay home and disconnect. Our various governments have said the best thing we can do at this moment is to observe the sabbath and we, perhaps unsurprisingly, have found a collective way to make it a contest. 

Here is a spoiler: no one is going to win this pandemic. You are not going to read all the books you have been wanting to read. You are not going to (finally) get in shape. Your kids are going to drive you crazy. You are going to fight with your spouse. The world we return to in the many weeks or months it will take to overcome this virus will look different from the world of two weeks ago.

And in it all, God is still God.

A collective downshift is a blessing. The selfless work (a marked upshift) of first responders, grocery store workers, and suddenly tech-savvy teachers is a blessing. The canals of Venice running clear is a blessing. The abandonment of our expectations is a blessing. 

Reflecting on her life with a chronic disease, Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

Even in this, God is for you. 

That is the blessing of a catastrophe, at least for this catastrophizer. I have nearly run out of worst-case scenarios. I can no longer imagine terrible things in the future. Instead, I am present to the fact that God is (and always has been) present to me.

If the Flannery O’Connor quote was too highfalutin, try this. The creepy stone demon creature in Frozen II (which I have now watched one million times) convicted me when he said, “When one can see no future, all one can do is the next right thing.”

That is a blessing, too. Do the next right thing, which very well could be nothing at all. 

I am as surprised as anyone to hear myself say that everything will be alright. It will be alright because God is still God, and God is with us.

We don’t know what the church will look like going forward. We don’t know how long we will be isolated. We don’t know how many people will get sick. We don’t know how many times we will have to watch Frozen II.

What we do know is that God is for us, even and especially now. That is a blessing.

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you and beside you
All around you and within you

He is with you
He is with you

In the morning in the evening
In your coming and your going
In your weeping and rejoicing 

He is for you
He is for you