For the past seven weeks, we have all been wrestling with different stages of fear, anxiety, grief, anger, and hope.
At different levels, we have all questioned our own mortality; our financial stability; our careers and callings; our paths forward.
We have all seen how the COVID-19 crisis changed our lives in the blink of an eye. And we are all left to wonder: Will there be a “new” normal?
That question is not just a matter of timing. Of course, we’d all love to know the answer to the question: When will the New Normal begin?
But the more urgent question is this: What will the New Normal be? How will it affect my family and me? What will be the effect on the once-familiar people and places in my life? On my friends and colleagues? On my local parish, our Diocese, and our Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin?
That’s an overwhelming question, potentially.
And certainly, we can choose to respond to it in a continuous spirit of fear, anxiety, grief, or anger. Many people in our society will choose to live like that.
But as Christians, and as Armenians, that’s not the only choice before us. Our people have faced overwhelming fear before. But we are here today because those Armenian Christians of former times chose to look towards the light at the end of a dark tunnel. They placed their trust in God—and found hope, and a positive, giving spirit.
“Trust in Him at all times, O people,” says the book of Psalms (62:8); “pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us.”
That verse was a way of life for our parents and grandparents (and now, great grandparents). Compared to them, most of us have led much more comfortable lives—and it may be easy to say “Trust in God” when things are going well. But they showed us that our trust must extend through good times and bad.
More importantly, they proved that God is with us through all times: good, bad, and always.
Forward or Back?
Sometimes, in fact, God might be speaking to us through our trials. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of any kind,” says the Epistle of St. James (1:2-4), “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
How we eventually choose to emerge from this pandemic will be an index of our faith. We are human beings, so our choices at the best of times are prone to be faulty and fearful. But we are also children of the Armenian Church, so our choices must be grounded in the deepest trust in God, so we can chart a new and better path that will lead us, and our Diocese, forward.
What will you do? When this pandemic crisis ends—and it will—will you simply fall back into your old comfort zone? Or will you look on this whole, unsettling period as an opportunity to change your old ways of doing things in the truly important aspects of your life? Will you choose to fall easily back into the “Old Normal,” or persevere forward to a “New (and Better) Normal”?
That’s a question all of us must answer, as individuals and as a church.
What will your New Normal be?
Mona Karoghlanian offered this devotional meditation to open the April 29, 2020 meeting of the Diocesan Council, of which she is a member. Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan initiated the practice of each council member in turn offering a short devotion to begin each meeting.