An embarrassing truth confronts us all. We first-world emperors have no clothes after all. Reassurances of our own lordship, the thoughts that have clothed most of us for most of our lives (we are what we make of ourselves, unconquerable, masters of our own destiny, no God necessary) have toppled like so many dominoes. We feel naked and afraid (of not having enough toilet paper, among other things); pursued by a microscopic monster that has chased us all underground.
Throughout history, people have gathered in times of crisis, gaining mutual strength. But COVID-19 warnings have sent us scurrying home for our own protection. In a bizarre twist, “United we stand, divided we fall,” flipped to “United we fall, divided we stand.” Discouraged from assembling we feel separation keenly. Even most churches, the places of peace, comfort and strength, are closed.
This is all so new and alarming, Lord, we pray. Hang on to us. Why didn’t God stop this if he saw it coming? some ask. Or at least warn us to stock extra essential items; not to take on that big pile of debt or make that trip South. Others wonder if God has washed his hands of us. Sloughed us away like the virus we’re trying to eliminate from our own skin.
Friends, may I gently remind you of some beloved ancient words? In a time when they faced great fear, Jesus forewarns his followers of his imminent death (John 16), and what would take place:
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Like us, Jesus understands alone-ness. He has felt it keenly. He knows we’re in trouble. And he reminds us we’re not alone. Our Father remains with us. Resurrection will come.
Years ago the Preacher spent six months in care battling another monster virus, West Nile Neurological Disease. We found ample time to read aloud what we call our daily six-pack; five chapters from Psalms and one from Proverbs. It provided strength for each day and hope for each tomorrow.
“Hon,” I said to the Preacher several days ago, when the COVID-19 worry-worm had burrowed deep, “let’s read our six-pack.” In Psalms 46, we read these words: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” Further down in the same chapter we read, “Be still, and know that I am God…”
Those words embraced our hearts like a quilt when cold, reminding us God invites us to fly to him in this crisis. I offer them to you, too.
Together (divided!) we’ll get through, even if the tp is scarce. Show love. Trust our Father in Heaven. Have faith that Jesus cares. And know that resurrection will come.