"God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. He says, "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:1, 2, & 10. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1
My last month's post was about defeating giants. For those who could not relate or perhaps have (fortunately) never encountered a giant; what a difference a day makes! This new pandemic has a brought a formidable (invisible and deadly) giant to the world and forces us all to confront the dangers that it poses and the harsh reality that it will get worse before it gets better. We have all been kicked out of our comfort zone without sufficient warning. Our way of life has been altered and limits have been placed on our freedoms; limits we can choose to ignore, to our peril. But, of course, we are not going to ignore them. The magnitude of the destructive reach of this giant is beyond our mental grasp. This is the first time in my lifetime that I have ever seen churches, schools, malls, the economy, public events/gatherings, all sports, including the olympics, etc., all closed down (or postponed) at the same time due to the occurrence of a disease that immediately threatens our very lives, and directed to stay home. This is beyond serious. Alas, there is good news! This giant (like all giants) has a shelf life. This, too, shall pass.
I have to admit that while sheltering in and maintaining social distancing, I felt a sense of loss. At first this whole situation felt surreal and a little unsettling. The conspiracy theories began to float above my head. I grabbed at a few of them (I am of that generation). However, after listening to the experts, I realized that we had facts and strategies to combat the spread of this virus and that trumps theories. So, I acknowledged what I was feeling, got over it and followed the guidance being offered to keep myself and others safe. After all, this situation is only temporary, and if we all cooperate, we will collectively come out of this crisis and get back to our regular lives. This should be a time of reflection and a time to take stock of the many blessings that make up your life and mine and affords us the opportunity to save or enhance your life and/or the life of someone else.
Human nature begs an explanation. I really do not have one, given that I am not trained in the field of infectious diseases. So listen to the experts. However, there are so many angles that we can approach from when beginning discussions about this phenomenon. We must be clear-eyed and sober in our thinking. Blame is useless; this much I know. Some understanding is needed. First, we need to be still. Just slow down; it makes sense. However, in our fast paced society, just slowing down makes us anxious. I have known people who did not get to collect a single retirement check because they were too busy to take the time to take care of themselves while working. Neglected underlying illnesses came to bear and they succumbed. It is situations like this outbreak that compel us to focus the spotlight on our actions and our need to redirect our actions, if needed. Take this time to self-assess; time to figure out what (and who) is really important. Cease from striving; at least for a short while. I was watching "A Late Show with Stephen Colbert" broadcasting from his home. One of his guests was "Chance The Rapper" (also at home). Stephen Colbert made reference to Chance being a person of faith and asked what scripture comes to mind given what the world is experiencing now with the advent of the coronavirus. He said, "Matthew 11:28" - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Chance said this scripture spoke to him. In his opinion, "God is calling us to rest; and this is the time to do it; we need the rest." Food for thought!
For people of faith, of which I am one, (and everyone else for that matter), it is time to be quiet, reflective, and to understand that while we are strong and united, there are some giants that we simply cannot beat in our own strength. We must turn to the power that is greater than us. I am not proselytizing. I am just saying at times like these we need to tap into, lean on, call on that greater power. "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; He that keepeth thee will not slumber. The Lord will preserve thy going out and they coming in from this time and even forevermore." Psalm 121. You have time to read or in some cases reread the entire Psalm 121. We cannot go anywhere right now anyway. So, open the book. It will reassure you that God has not abdicated His throne; He is still in control. This has not taken Him by surprise. He is all knowing, all powerful, all loving, and faithful. He is still accessible. His plan for your life still has not changed. Jeremiah 29:11. Praise God. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. "For I am the Lord, I do not change." Malachi 3:6. Hebrews 13:8.
Psalm 46, noted above, was composed after King David's victory in battle against the enemies of ancient Israel. The psalmist draws our attention to the security in placing his trust in God as His source of power and comfort. This is in contrast to so many being deceived by believing that the accumulation of wealth, possessions and personal attributes like strength would be all that is needed to lead a happy, successful, and safe life. We don't have to own any possessions to see that this a misleading, if not an outright false assumption. We only have to read the headlines. Valuables do not offer lasting comfort, and can evaporate without notice. With stocks crashing, fires breaking out and thieves breaking in, many fortunes have been wiped out and lives left destitute or in ruins. "Do not store up treasures for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Matthew 6:19-21. The psalmist is sharing that he has found the ultimate, trustworthy, inexhaustible well of strength, and support that can be counted on in good times and when worse comes to worst. "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." Psalm 46; 2. Fear is not an option. This is where we need to be.
This pandemic points glaringly to the need to take care of our temple (our body). 1 Corinthians 6:15-20. I can't remember the exact quote, but there is a TV commercial that says you are better off well no matter what. My take on this is that even if you somehow come down with a debilitating disease, your chances of fighting and beating it will be greatly increased if you have been healthy throughout your life or if you have been managing your health by seeing doctors and getting appropriate treatments. We see that this COVID-19 wreaks havoc on a compromised immune system. Pay attention to your health. It is not too late to take care of yourself.
On the upside, the world is still a wonderful place and we have a lot to be thankful for; never forget that. Do not ingest the news 24/7; just listen long enough to be informed, and then change the channel. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming overwhelmed and feeling powerless in the face of this giant. I implore you to breathe and to keep in mind that hope is alive! Look toward the light.
1. Set your thoughts higher. You can choose to believe that there is light at the end of this tunnel or not. I am telling you that there is and the experts agree. A reminder, we individually and collectively have been through wars, depression, recession, heartache, national tragedies, diseases and disasters. Remember 911? And you know what? We have come out stronger and wiser as a result. Why would we or should we surrender now? We are not going to. Do not dwell on this pandemic. Rather, think of times when you have had or do have cause to rejoice. Think about what you are grateful for. "Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." Philippians 4:8.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself. Inherent in this command is the directive to take care of yourself also. Now is the time to get back to (or continue) exercising and eating healthy. Get some rest; it is good for the immune system. If there is something that you can do to help someone else (while being safe), then do it. Follow the safety guidelines so as not to cause harm to yourself or others. You can give money, make phone calls to check up on an elderly person or an anxious friend, etc. In the aftermath, may we truly embrace kindness, love, empathy and compassion for our fellowman. Mark 12:31. Remember, "we are all in this together."
3. Document your blessings (name them one by one). This pandemic can almost blot out how blessed we still are. Don't let it. Lest you forget, write down some things that will keep you centered and appreciative. I will start you off: we woke up this morning, we have food and shelter, we live in a great country with technology, doctors, and expertly trained medical staff, and medical help is available. We have loved ones and things we love, and we are not alone, etc. Add to this list and give God thanks. You will see that you have many reasons to rejoice! In all things give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
4. Obey the guidelines: wash your hands often, observe social distancing and stay home. If you must leave home, do so in accordance with the safety precautions issued (wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and wash those hands). This is only for a season, and it too will pass. Please do your part to bring this season to an end. Follow the guidelines. A note to young people; you are not invincible. It's just a feeling that you are, and feelings are not reliable. Do not risk your life or the life of those you love and others by ignoring the wisdom of following the guidelines. Please follow the precautions so that this season will end with all of us safely on the other side of it. Thank you.
5. Pray. - Prayer changes things. I remember when our nation knew that. It was a blessed and wonderful sight to see our lawmakers gathered on the steps of the Capital with heads bowed in prayer after 911. Let's do it again; individually and collectively. We need God to heal our land. 2 Corinthians 7:14. We have not because we ask not. Take the time out (you have some now) and sincerely pray and ask God to bring us safely through this crisis. Let's pray together (virtually, if need be) and seek God's wisdom, mercy and grace on how to bring this pandemic to an end and to learn from this and be better as a people; more appreciative of God's love and enthusiastic to let the world know from whence comes our help.
Special Thanks: Thank you to all those essential workers: first responders, doctors, nurses, health care workers, grocery store workers, all those employed in the field of produce, NYC Transit workers (my daughter Nia, a NYC Transit worker), postal workers, military workers, etc., for putting your lives on the line to keep the city moving. We owe you a debt of gratitude. May God bless you richly; protect you and keep you safe, as you continue to serve the public while following safety guidelines. We are truly grateful.
Here's to welcoming the end of this season!! God bless you all, and please be safe!!!
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