God’s Grace and COVID-19: What it’s like to get Married During a Pandemic
God’s Grace and COVID-19: What it’s like to get Married During a Pandemic
by Sarah (Cheng) Chu
Wedding planning was pretty stressful and time-consuming: It was what I worked on once I was off work or had spare time. I love making plans and knowing what will happen: it gives me a means of control. Through the years, God sanctified my heart of this love and changed me to trust HIS control, not mine. Combining my struggle with control and wedding planning, it slowly became a silent idol even though I fought to not let it be.
When we first heard about COVID-19, I honestly didn’t think much of it, like the Ebola Virus. But by early March, it especially affected the LA area. I’m a nurse, so my workplace started sending out daily updates to keep their staff informed and prepared. Even then, neither of us didn’t think much of it because it still seemed so far away from us, especially for our wedding.
On March 11, I remember being at work when Naomi, our wedding planner, contacted Phil and I to tell us that we needed to immediately change our plans due to an update from the CA department of Health. Then on, the next 48 hours were completely overwhelming, uncertain, and sad: I barely slept and cried for the next three days. We were in constant communication with our family, friends and vendors. Phil and I were calling our family and friends every day to keep them updated. We were having to change plans, even creating a contingency plan. Eventually, as the orders tightened, cancellations were made and most of our plans fell through. From March 11 to 17, it seemed like there was a new report every 12 hours. Changes had to be made and updates given to our family and friends: My frustration, sadness and anxiety grew. I felt stuck in uncertainty because I just wanted some permanence. Some certainty.
I struggled with feeling frustration, anger, self-pity and sadness. All I could think was, “Why me? I’ve waited for this time and God gave me it. Now, He’s going to take it away? And after all the planning I have done? I didn’t choose this. Why am I being cheated and robbed of our wedding?” Over and over I would think this and say this to Phil. Phil, my family, my bridal party and guests would remind me of God’s constant faithfulness, sovereignty and grace. Even though I knew these truths, I could not believe or trust them deep in my heart. I knew I am a sinner saved by the blood of Christ. God gave me everything, not even sparing His precious only Son for me. He has shown me His unfailing goodness, faithfulness and grace over and over to me. Yet I wanted more, thinking I deserved more. I didn’t deserve to have my wedding plans changed. I didn’t believe that this would happen if He was good, faithful and gracious. On Friday morning I was struck by realizing my deep sin and how completely undeserving I am of anything!
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Eph 2:1-7
How could I have doubted God? How could I doubt His goodness, faithfulness and grace? He did not leave me nor forsake me during this time even though nothing was going “right” (Heb. 13:5-6). He truly is my refuge and strength: my ever-present help in times of trouble or in the midst of a growing pandemic (Ps 46:1). Only HE is constant, unchanging, never failing unlike my plans or this world: I can trust and rest in Him.
Because He IS faithful, sovereign and gracious, He allowed this virus to affect our wedding. Because, in so much kindness, love and grace, He used this virus to reveal the silent idol of my heart. My wedding. My sinful love for my plans. My sinful desire for control. God used this virus to reveal and convict me of my idols and sin that I had been blind to, bringing me to a heart of repentance and knowing the beauty and worth of Christ that greatly surpasses even plans of our wedding (Phil. 3:8-9). Thank God for this virus because it drew me closer to Him, growing my trust of His goodness, faithfulness and grace.
Even though you can see my heart of rebellion and sin during this time, God still lavished on me undeserved grace. One of the biggest things that stuck out to me was the overwhelming support, encouragement, prayers and Christ-like love that our family and friends displayed throughout this entire time. Daily, our family and friends demonstrated God’s love in tangible ways that I would never have anticipated. Both of our parents were involved, immediately offering their homes for our back-up wedding plans. Family and friends were quick to support us, encouraging and praying for us, even crying with us on multiple occasions. Even though our wedding plans were so fluid, their responses were always so full of patience, love and grace. This was especially evident by their words, “Whatever happens, I’ll be there! I’ll do whatever it takes to get you guys married!” Every guest we called responded with words of support, encouragement and love (which made Sarah cry all the more haha). Many of our guests were willing and unafraid to come out despite the growing recommendations from the government to limit social interactions. Our vendors graciously tried to refund us, postpone bookings with them or somehow limit the financial loss while being flexible with the uncertain future.
On March 17th, Phil was at work and I felt the need to start moving all my belongings to our new apartment. Although our Plan B was March 21st, I felt an urgency to move. Later that afternoon, as Phil and I were continuing to unpack, we received a text from Naomi informing us that we must get married that night because the OC was locking down at 11PM. We just stared at each other in shock because we never anticipated that the OC would go into lockdown before LA. Frantically, we called our immediate family and bridal party to inform them of the OC lockdown and the urgent need to get married that night. We also called Pastor Wayne to ask him if he was free to marry us within 5 hours. By God’s grace, our immediate family, bridal party and Pastor Wayne came.
At 8:00PM, we got married at my parent’s home with most of our immediate family and bridal party surrounding us. And it was the most intimate, special and beautiful wedding.
Was it what we planned for eight months? No.
Do we have the professional photos that will help us remember our wedding day years from now? Not at all, just photos from our phones.
Did we have Domino’s pizza for dinner? YES :^)
Was it perfect? Yes it was, but only because it was what God sovereignly and lovingly planned for us.
The wedding was so heartfelt and tearful at times. As we stood before Wayne, we realized that God still graciously willed and created a way for us to be married.
Our goal for our wedding was actually two things: Get married and put on display God to those around us, glorifying Him with the wedding but the planning process as well. We thought, “We’ll have worship (Phil specifically says, “Hymns”) at our wedding and make sure the Gospel is preached so those who attend will hear. And let’s make sure we reflect Christ during this time by how we treat our vendors and use our resources for the wedding.” What we didn’t realize was that glorifying could God mean painfully dying to ourselves. Later, we found out that, because our wedding was live-streamed via IG, non-believers who watched our wedding and actually listened to the Gospel being preached. Phil and I were stunned because of how God sovereignly moved in our wedding season to preach His name. Glorifying God is not always the immediate response nor is it the easiest thing to do, yet, it is the most joyful and worthy! Since we were created to magnify and glorify Him, our joy is complete when we do so.
P.S. We later found out from our friend that because of God’s grace (though unknown to us at that time), Wayne was able to marry us despite having a prior church commitment due to many of the pastoral leadership and staff willingly taking over for Wayne. We love you Wayne!!!
The Riches of Grace during Quarantine Life:
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a nurse currently working at a local hospital. When I first started nursing school, I knew that I would encounter different life threatening sickness from patients. Phil and I had talked about the high risks as a nurse and how it could affect our life, marriage and any future plans. Though, both of us knew that my health and our future together was in the Lord’s hands.
When COVID-19 came, I didn’t think it would really affect me and work. I currently work at a Neuro/Stroke Progressive Care Unit and was not part of a designated COVID unit team. Of course I was thankful that I didn’t have to be part of those units but I knew that my time to care for COVID patients would come soon.
Eventually, the time came when I worked in the COVID unit and cared for a positive patient. I remember my first shift there: my heart was beating a bit faster with fear and the anxiety was present. COVID-19 was real and people can contract it. Since I was working with COVID patients, it meant I was exposed and thus a potential carrier. In fact, it meant I needed to quarantine myself for an indefinite amount of time away from our family and friends to prevent spreading the virus.
Not being able to be physically near our family, especially our parents, broke my heart. Only having recently moved out of my parents’ home, I was not used to being physically distant from them, especially not being able to touch them. I can no longer hug my dad and mom. The last time I hugged them was the day after my wedding when I moved the last of my belongings and said goodbye. I remember walking home from their house (Funny enough, we live actually a mile away from my parents) and crying because it hit me that I was a carrier and I could give my parents the virus.
My heart struggled with so many emotions and sin the first two weeks of lockdown. There was frustration, discontentment, self-pity and fear. I was frustrated and discontent being a nurse because I swore to care for and protect people. I was self-pitying over what I had to give up and lose. I was over being labeled as a “carrier.” I was over having to wear a mask not only for 12+ hours at work but also outside of work. I was fearful of giving my loved ones the virus. Fearful of having to work overtime and being at the hospital for long hours. Fearful of being unable to endure this pandemic.
Adjusting and living a new routine for the past eight weeks of my life have been one of the most painful yet joyful times of my life. So much of me was not glorifying God because of my hidden sins and idols. Yet, as He always is, God is good, faithful and gracious. God allowed this virus to be created so I could witness God’s rich grace. And even in the midst of losing so much this season, it was God’s grace that led me to knowing Christ more. If it were not for this pandemic, I would not have been able to spend time reading His word, praying to God, and examining my heart.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”. Phil.3:8
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Ps 34:8
The second grace is that I realized I don’t need to fear. I don’t need to fear what this virus can do to me because God is so much greater than what this world could ever threaten me with. In God, I do not need to fear death itself because my God was the one to overcome death through His resurrection. How much sweeter is to trust in God than what I fear? This truth has brought my heart this unexplainable peace! Instead of fearing that I will run out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or supplies, I can know God.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling”. Ps 46.1-3
This Psalm immediately came to mind when news of COVID came out because I knew God is my constant true protection more than any protection that I could get from PPE. I am reminded that during this uncertain time, with constant changing variables, God is the only constant in my life who I can rely on and take refuge in. God has given me peace knowing that I can trust my health and well-being in Him, for “better or worse.” And if I do get the virus, my goal in life is to glorify God. If his plan for me is to contract the virus, I don’t even need to fear death because my future is with the Lord. Whether me or my loved ones get the virus or not: I can rest and hope in the promise of an eternal peace with Christ. And although I fear the loss of them, God reminded me that He is always with me and that He will never leave me nor forsake me.
Lastly, we are always in awe of the daily graces from God. Over the past eight weeks, we’ve reflected on how much God has worked in our lives and through others. Every day, we have seen His graces. Here are examples of God’s daily grace to us:
- Phil works at home teaching his 3rd grade students which gives us more time together than most newlyweds have.
- We’ve been able to take walks around our new neighborhood every day and literally see the splendor of God’s creation during springtime (allergy season for Phil though haha).
- We live less than a mile away from our parents and often get to walk to their house to say hello and visit via 6 feet away.
- There’s been so many video chats with our family and friends that have blessed us and encouraged us. Thank you God for technology!!
- Quiet mornings when we simply sit with our coffee and ready God’s Word without the busyness of getting to work.
- Experiencing the fun and beauty of car dining aka sitting and eating in our car or even our car’s trunk haha
- Being more thankful for times of face-to-face interaction.
- Texts and messages from our parents saying their praying for us, our marriage and Sarah’s work.
- So many people from church telling Sarah they’re praying for her and her safety and health. We have gotten to know some people from church we haven’t really met and interacted with because they have reached out to us to let us know they’re praying for us.
- We have a sweet arts-n-craft yarn and wood frame that is on our fridge from a young girl at church that reminds us to trust in the Lord always.
Phil and I hope that you all can see the amazing daily riches of grace that God lavishes on us. Despite how prone to wander and sinful we are, He is rich in mercy, great in love and abundant in grace! Praise be to God!