Last Thursday thirteen people died in one New York hospital alone. Emergency rooms in the city are in chaos. Parking lots are being used as triage rooms. And this is not on the other side of the country – this is next door, not more than two hundred miles away.
I’ll be honest – I’m scared. Even though I’ve taken precautions, I’m not in the highest risk group (getting there!), and I have faith, I’m finding it hard at times to not let the news get to me. It feels as though the coronavirus is unstoppable, an impending unseen army marching ever closer to my doorstep. Social distancing is getting easier now that it’s real to most everyone around me, but I still experience waves of panic washing over me as I pass by someone coughing on a trail ten feet away. I employ mindfulness techniques and prayer to calm myself, and my youngest daughter does a lovely job of stating facts to bring me back into reality when I am overwhelmed.
I wonder if this is a taste of how the Israelites felt when the hand of God struck down the firstborn in Egypt on the first Passover, while they hid behind their thresholds marked with the sacrificed lamb’s blood… I can’t imagine the sheer terror they must have had to squelch as the wailing moved from house to house around them. Would the threshold marks really be enough?
David too experienced fear and uncertainty time and time again, and we can infer from the sheer number of Psalms about deliverance that he turned to God every time. We read in Psalms 4:6-8 a prayer of hope: Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
None of us knows how we personally will emerge from this crisis. At best we will know a family who has lost their job for a short period and we will need to all pitch in to help them as we are able. At worst? Paul writing to the Philippians puts it best: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far… I believe that to be true and death holds no terror for me. Still, I’m frightened from time to time – for my family; that I might unknowingly infect someone else; to lose those who I love dearly – and I think I’m allowed to feel the fear. I need to take it one day at a time, one prayer at a time.
Father, forgive our fear and grant us peace as we trust you in this time.