Thursday, May 28, 2020

The One Certainty We Never Want to Talk About

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty weary of all the non-stop, 24/7 COVID-19 virus reporting and commentary. Yes, it’s a serious issue. And yes, we all need to take necessary precautions. Those who don’t are endangering both themselves and others. Yes, this is not the time to cast all care to the winds. Maybe we’ll never have that kind of “time” again. So, wear a mask when in crowds, keep your distance, repress the urge to shake hands and hug, keep washing and sanitizing your hands regardless, and try to refrain from touching your face – no matter how lovely or handsome it happens to be.

But I can see the other side, too. Folks who, just as soon as restrictions began to be lifted, couldn’t wait to hop in the car, head to the mall, go to the beach, stroll through the park, or resume whatever favorite activities they’ve been denied. We’re all worn out byf the incessant gloom and doom, and have grown increasingly eager to recapture some brightness and hope. As the Scriptures affirm, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

By now, even those most stable emotionally have nearly succumbed to the drumbeat of death tallies and less-than-optimistic projections for the future. Warding off a dreaded virus isn’t the way we desire to spend the immediate future, let alone the rest of our lives.

It seems, however, there’s an issue in play far greater than enduring the inconveniences of not being free to go here and there, doing this and that, as we were so accustomed. The daily statistics serve as a dismal reminder of a certainty: Death. They used to say, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Well, even taxes have been postponed for the time being, if you haven’t yet filed your income tax return for last year. But death, it’s right there, staring us in the face. And if we forget, the grim news anchors and reporters on ABC, CBS, NBC, and cable news outlets seem to take a perverse delight in providing us with reminders.

Deep down we know the truth. Our days are numbered. One day, ready or not, we’re going to pass from this life. But not today, right? Or tomorrow, either. Or next week, or next month, or next year, if you don’t mind. As actor/director Woody Allen once said, “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” We all can relate.

Not to add to the morbidity of these days, but this raises an even more profound issue. It comes down to a matter of faith – and where your faith happens to be. If you lack faith, trusting only in luck, karma, good fortune, serendipity or something similar, it’s hard to face each new day. With every tomorrow seeming more tenuous than ever, it’s easy to succumb to panic, despair, fear, or other unproductive emotions. How can one find peace amid such chaos?

That doesn’t mean those of us who find hope and assurance from the teachings of the Bible are exempt from anxiety and stress. Faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t mitigate the fact that we’re flesh and blood, with adrenaline and other stress hormones coursing through our veins to enable us to respond to external threats, whether it be a burglar or an unseen virus.

And yet, if we make the conscious decision to reestablish our trust in the Lord, and not the doomsday newscasters, we can indeed experience “the peace of God that transcends all understanding” described in Philippians 4:7. How can we have such peace, when everything we’ve known and relied on seems under attack? That’s why we’re told this peace “transcends” or “passes” all understanding. We can’t manufacture it. It truly comes from beyond ourselves. From God.

As much as we hate hearing about those who become victims of the dreaded virus, we can draw a positive from this dire time. It gives us an opportunity to do a personal reappraisal revisiting where our faith really lies. When circumstances are going well, we can claim to have faith – but we really don’t need it then. “I’ve got this,” we deceptively tell ourselves, thinking we’ve got every duck in a row. Ultimately, we don’t.

I like what Proverbs 24:10 has to say about this: “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength.” We’ve all been riding an emotional rollercoaster over the past few months, hoping for good news but hearing mostly bad. But in the end, what’s our foundation? From where do we draw our strength? When it feels like we’re “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), where do we find ourselves turning for comfort and reassurance?

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