Lamentations 3:19-26 (New Living Translation) The thought of my suffering is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘the Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him! The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.’ So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.
As the potential health risks posed by the COVID-19 virus have become more apparent, medical, public health and governmental officials are advising extreme caution in order to slow down the spread of coronavirus and keep as many people as possible healthy and safe. The fact that methods recommended to arrest the spread of Corona are a hard sell for many Americans is no surprise. It is in our DNA in America to actively fight back not incubate. The central message of our nation’s history from the Puritans settlers, the frontier people, the expeditioners, to goldminers heading westward has always been get up and do what needs to be done—not stay home, be quiet, wash your hands, and don’t take social risk. INACTION goes against our basic nature and instinct in solving problems.
We are a nation that values concrete plans, ideas, resolve, action. Fighting an invisible enemy such as Coronavirus is an abstraction for a nation that is often obsessed with outcomes and measurable accomplishments. We have been conditioned for generations to be a people of rugged individualism and now we are asked—in some cases demanded—to be rugged individualists in a very different way. We are being asked to hibernate, to maintain social distance, to incubate for the betterment of our society. This hibernation for some may be seen as cowering or conforming; like puppies dogs under the command of an over restrictive master.
Truth be told for many it’s boring, difficult and challenging. It’s homeschooling kids, reconfiguring your schedule, rearranging appointments, missing out on social patterns, missing church, disconnecting from friends and family, and tragically for some it means unemployment. Some have responded defiantly like the college kids on Spring Break in Florida who decided to go ahead with the beach parties and drinking gatherings and then were forcefully shut down and chastised. For others of us we might find watching a sporting event as a good distraction in the midst of our hibernation—only to be reminded that Sports of all kinds are on shut down. No college basketball finals, NBA playoffs, golf tournaments, spring training baseball or NHL hockey—OMG—I think I will scream!
So much for our core belief that if we fight hard enough and use sheer willpower we can outmuscle or overpower every obstacle. Clearly the Covid-19 pandemic is an enemy we are challenged to outsmart instead of outmuscle, and it’s testing us to our core. Maybe we need to adjust our thinking—can social distancing and hibernating be seen as a resolute commitment to the greater cause? Can intentional social isolation be seen as heroic action, a necessary inconvenience that will be instrumental in eventually reclaiming our freedom and normalcy? In other words to stay at home and deliberately not go out to the store—or wherever—is potentially a sacrificial action for the higher good.
If we are called to simply sit it out for a while—can we do it? Is the mastering of these hibernating moments and following the health and safety guidelines of our National and State Leadership seen as a sacrifice we are making for our nation; or is it seen as a prison sentence for which grumbling and agitation are continually manifest. “Americans often just want to know what to do” says John Baick, a historian at Western New England University,
“If it’s charge that hill, it charge that hill. If it’s take that beach, it’s take that beach. If it’s shelter in place and wash up and don’t take unnecessary risks– that is what it has to be. It might make a great HBO series—in 45 parts. I hope Tom Hanks stars in it.”
Dear friends may we choose to take the challenge that is before us as an opportunity for betterment. May we take more time to connect with God through prayer and reading His Holy Word. Might we allow our hibernation and isolation to be transformed to meditation, consecration, inspiration. As your Pastor please know that I continue to pray for you. This virus will eventually run its course or be defeated all together, but know that while it is a problem, we are wise to be thoughtful and prayerful. And we can always draw comfort from the words of Jesus our Lord, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
Pastor Robert Zimmerman