It seems to me that we are all getting a little irritable, a little cranky, about this whole pandemic thing.
We can pretend it is no threat or just yell at the virus and everything else. These, however, seem… well, unfruitful, shall I say? There is an answer that rises from faith, but if you’re like me, you may not like it.
It seems to me that we are all getting a little irritable, a little cranky, about this whole pandemic thing. As the months roll by the situation shows little improvement. In fact, it is quite the opposite. As I prepared the most recent statistics for our Council to review, all the measures were worse than before. Covid-19 has hospitalized and claimed the lives of members of our congregation. It has directly impacted healthcare workers and essential personnel whom we know by name. While state leaders have finally begun to take aggressive mitigation steps, it seems to me all a little too late.
Now, as we enter the holiday season, the pandemic threatens our family gatherings, our rituals of travel and reunion, and (oh my Lord, say it isn’t so) football. The diversions we look to give us a means of dealing with the deadly seriousness of this threat to life are now being affected. Some continue to use denial tactics. On numerous occasions I’ve had people say, “Well, I don’t know anyone who has died of the virus.” I’m not sure if the suggestion is that it is all a hoax or just a way of saying it’s not a close enough threat to make me worry.
We continue to make safety a chief priority as a congregation. Right now, in a gathering of just 10 people in Polk county, there is a 69% chance someone in that group has the virus. In a gathering of 100, the chance is 99%. New cases in the county average 544 each day. In the state, we are experiencing an average of 4,000 new cases and 19 deaths every day. With all that said, I’m weary of this, probably just as you are. It is not safe for us to gather. Period. So, how do we cope?
As I mentioned, denial and crabbiness are choices. We can pretend it is no threat or just yell at the virus and everything else. These, however, seem… well, unfruitful, shall I say? There is an answer that rises from faith, but if you’re like me, you may not like it.
Paul writes, “be patient in suffering” in Romans 12:12. Great. The patience thing. Ask my wife. I’m horrible at patience. But Paul had more to say than just be patient. The whole verse says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” Perhaps I’m bad at patience because my efforts to endure anything with patience are not grounded. The grounding for patience is hope. Hope is born of knowing that, in Christ, the Covid-19 virus does not have the final word over my life – now or tomorrow. A missed Thanksgiving feast, family reunion, or even school time is not something that God cannot overcome. Our identity as beloved children of God cannot be taken away by the virus, a lockdown, or even death.
Paul also seems to suggest that patience is not a feeling or an on-demand function. Patience is nurtured when we persevere in prayer. When we can give thanks for what we have instead of complain about what we may miss; when we remember the suffering faced by the world in this trial; when we pray for others our heart is disciplined to be patient and wait for God.
Yes, our holidays, our worship, our work, our school, and much more may be seriously messed up by this pandemic. But still, rejoice in the hope given in Christ who is doing a new thing in this storm. Be patient as the Spirit guides you. Persevere in your prayer for what we have and what God is doing.
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor