What am I thankful for?
A functioning government.
Public servants. Police, fire, and government officials.
Family, my network of friends, and brothers and sisters in faith.
A God who brings order to chaos, is no stranger to suffering, and who descends with us into the valley of the shadow.
We’re in the early days of a crisis, and thus far the positive waves, creative spirit, and general neighborliness have been encouraging and inspiring. Here is another source of uplift:
The past few weeks have been chaotic, exhausting, and anxiety inducing. There are legitimate reasons for concern. There will be tremendous challenges ahead.
But as I’ve reflected on this pandemic, I have felt more amazement than fear, more gratitude than dread, more wonderment than despair. We live in a moment in time in which the earliest outbreaks of this disease could be noticed, diagnosed, and reported upon. Information about COVID-19 could then be disseminated across the globe.
Television and other media could provide imagery indicating to us the seriousness with which we should consider this disease. Radio, the web, social media feeds, newspapers, and television could be used to get the word out. Institutions–government, educational, religious–could be mobilized.
Some, but not all, jobs could shift to remote work. For jobs that could not be done remotely, businesses have been making hard decisions about how best to care for their employees, and government officials have been working diligently to enact measures that would help those most deeply affected by the outbreak.
Consider, for a moment, being alive during a previous moment in time when a global pandemic occured. Imagine, for a moment, seeing your neighbors become ill. A few appear to have nothing more than the common cold. But many are devastated by a hidden, invisible disease. Communities continue to function as normal, cities and towns carry on with the normal rhythms of commerce, religious communities continue to gather unabated. Neighbors become sick and die, funerals go on as normal. Trade continues, travel continues. As death counts increase, information moves from place to place and country to country, but more slowly than the disease. By the time immunity has been built, the disease has run its course, and the majority of those most vulnerable to such a disease have died. Only in retrospect can the human race assess the severity of the disease.
Granted, in a previous age, the globe was not as connected; movement was not near as fluid as it is today, and diseases were not as quickly spread. But they did spread, and information about those diseases did not move nearly as quick, nor were the treatments available nearly as effective.
The American economy will suffer a setback due to this disease, as will countless other global ventures. People have lost their jobs, or will see a decrease in work (there are individuals in my family who are facing this reality). There are people who have already died due to this disease.
School have been disrupted. Some states have halted instruction for the year. My children are receiving online instruction; the courses I teach at Truett have moved online.
Churches may not get to celebrate Easter together in their sacred spaces. Our congregation is considering a return to terrestrial radio to remain connected to those who are home bound and without connection to the internet. We’ve mourned the death of wonderful people who have been pillars in our congregation, and then been further saddened in observing the recommendation for restricting funeral gatherings to ten people or less.
Psalm 144:4 says, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” James 4:14 compares our life to a mist. Isaiah observes our flesh is like grass, springing up, then withering, a metaphor that is picked up again in 1 Peter. Life’s brevity has long been sobering for any who would consider it. Our days pass, and they pass quickly.
Psalm 90:12 reminds us, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” and 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
In these days, I’m reminded that life has always been fragile and our reality has always been contingent. It doesn’t take much to disrupt us. But as a person of faith, I have resources. I have reminders of my own mortality and the promise of eternal life. There are resources for wisdom and courage and admonitions to extend compassion, care, and love. I am reminded that God will never leave nor forsake us.
In Jesus, I encounter a man who was (and is) well acquainted with grief. I am reminded that Jesus led and leads our way as a servant, as a person who put the needs of others before his own, and who calls us to abandon all–even our very lives–for his sake and the sake of the gospel.
The question, then, that I now face concerns the work that is mine to do, and the ways that I am to serve.
To whom is God calling me, and how am I to faithfully answer the call? How am I to yield myself to the Spirit of God and to the divine leading, so that during days in which uncertainty prevails and chaos abounds, I might be a person in whom the peace of Christ dwells richly, and the Word of Christ abounds?
I do not yet know the answers to those questions, at least not in full. I am willing to find out. The finding out will be in the crisis.
Knowing this, in the days to come, I’ll seek to be faithful to God, concerned for my neighbor, steadfast in faith, casting out all fear, relying on grace, remaining in hope, diligent in love, trusting in spirit, bold in witness, and calm in chaos.
I began in thankfulness. Psalm 18:2 offers one more thing for which I can be thankful: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Thanks be to God. Lord, deliver us.