PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — ‘Behold I Am Doing A New Thing’

Paula Mehmel, senior pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford, Conn., along with her church leadership and staff, decided recently to move to virtual worship in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. In the meantime, she is doing some regular devotionals for her parish that she has decided to share. Here is today’s, from Isaiah 43:19.

As I awoke for my daily morning quiet time of prayer, Isaiah 43:19 was the first Bible passage that came to mind. And it seemed fitting because it has become apparent that everyday now, all things are new.

A little over a week ago, I kind of knew what to expect each day. Oh sure, there were curve balls, but it wasn’t like I was waking up to a whole new world each morning.

But now, that has completely change. And it is exhausting.

In the midst of all the fear and anxiety that this pandemic has created, there is also the reality that all of this change and uncertainty wears us out emotionally, physically and spiritually, even, or especially, if we are staying at home.

Having everything in our world change, even as our environment where we dwell does not, wears a person out. And not knowing what is around the next corner adds to the exhaustion.

As we begin this time of exile from the world as we knew it, and prepare with uncertainty for whatever lies in the near and distant future with trepidation, we can find hope in this passage from Isaiah.

The people of Israel (Judah actually) were in exile in Babylon. They knew that Jerusalem had been destroyed and the world as they knew it was unalterably changed.

All things were new. But the passage continues with the second part. “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” This is a passage of hope in the midst of exile.

And the key part to that passage is that God will make the way for the return from the wilderness exile. Not me.

During this time of great transition, I think one of the reasons I am exhausted is because at times I am the one who is trying to do the heavy lifting. Trying on my own to figure out a way through wilderness and how to find water in the desert.

Right now, more than ever, we need to trust in a God who could turn death into life and who can find a way through this wilderness.

I am not trying to be a Pollyanna (or Paula-anna) and ignore the hard realities we may face as we deal with this pandemic head-on or else experience the repercussions if we don’t. It isn’t going to be easy.

But as we begin this journey, we have a choice. We either try to forge it alone or go with God and the hope that God provides in a world where all things are new.

I am going to go with God because I can’t find a way in the wilderness or streams in the desert on my own.


O God who guides us in the wilderness, help us to follow you in these uncertain days and trust in your guidance, knowing you provide hope when we are lost and strength when we are weary. In the name of Jesus, who showed us the way, we pray. Amen.

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