In These Difficult Days . . .

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“Coronavirus lockdowns have caused the Earth to effectively stop shaking” the headline read, for an article written by Chris Ciaccia, on Ciaccia also reported that CNN was told that Brussels saw a 30 to 50 percent reduction in ambient noise since the lockdown began in the middle of March. Because of less movement on our planet, seismologists are now able to pick up smaller earthquakes because there is less seismic noise. 

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Pandemic. The word itself is ominous. The experience of it more so. What has helped you cope? To do what we are told – social distancing, hand washing, masks, gloves – is a helpful guidepost to protect ourselves. At least we feel like we are doing something to compete with our fears and keep ourselves safe. These things are very important, but I need something or someone larger than this elusive, haunting virus to help me through this precarious time.

For me, that someone is God. God is the grand reservoir of meaning in the best of times and the worst of times. Few sources help us understand God and how God may help us navigate difficult  days like the Bible.

At times, the words of Scripture seem to leap from the page with a fitting application to present circumstances. That’s how I felt recently when I read Lamentations 3:20-24:

“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!’”

Lamentations, as its name implies, is a lament. The Covid-19 pandemic is a time of lament. The emerging, ever-changing characteristics and unknowns of this virus add to our lament. That is one more reason to find encouragement and hope in this biblical passage – The faithful love of the LORD never ends! God and God’s loving character do not change. While updates on Covid-19 are changing daily, new every day, God’s mercies are also fresh every morning.

When He Makes Me Lie Down

Busy. Always going somewhere; always doing something; no margin. This description fits too many of us too much of the time. To pause or try to stop can be difficult, even painful, like jumping out of a moving car.

Then a pandemic strikes, and our routines are upended. Now we struggle to respond to new imperatives like social distancing, isolation, and to just stay home. Schools, restaurants, bars, and movie theaters are closed, even church buildings. No sports. Can we handle this?

But could this forced pause become a blessing? Will we discover in this intermission something we have lost and long for more of it?

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He makes me lie down, David wrote in a well-known Bible passage, the 23rd Psalm. David explained he was made to lie down in green pastures, then was led beside quiet waters, and through it all, his soul was refreshed. Reading that, we realize he welcomed the interruption. Yet, being made to lie down suggests he didn’t want to do that. Is it possible that we could welcome being made to lie down?

Let’s not get tangled in who or what might make us lie down. David clearly believed it was God who made him lie down. Now, we’re being told to socially distance ourselves, isolate and stay home, by national, state and local government officials, not God. Right? But could God use these directives to make us lie down? Yes.

The encouraging words of another Bible passage, Romans 8:28, are relevant here: every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. No, I don’t believe God threw us a deadly virus so we’d hunker down in our homes. It is clear to me, however, that we live in a fallen world, and sin, sickness, and death are part of that world. But my hope is in Jesus Christ who is overcoming that fallen world and all that goes with it (John 16:33).

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Through Jesus, the continual weaving together of every detail of our lives into God’s perfect plan goes on, even in a pandemic. Board games come out and puzzles; siblings and parents play together. Families eat together. A husband and wife listen to each other. Parents build bridges with daughters and sons. We realize we’ve been like ships passing in the night. We live in the same house, but not in each other’s lives. We may think about our relationship with God and wonder if it’s what we would like it to be? We feel grateful for the things we take for granted. Things happen that simply do not happen in the rush of usual living. Is this some of what a refreshed soul feels like? I think it is.

Green pastures and quiet waters are inviting. Could we venture to believe that God wants us to have such experiences, and that, surprisingly, those experiences may happen when he makes us lie down?

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