Updated: Mar 22, 2020
These are uncertain times. COVID-19 has rapidly and radically affected just about every area of life. Everyday feels different from the day before. New restrictions, new precautions and for some of us, new fears. How do we respond? Or, more pointedly, how do we respond as followers of Jesus? That is the purpose of this blog. This weekly post will be written by a variety of people sharing how faith lands in their relationships, their work, their hopes and dreams. These are stories of what following Jesus looks like in our cultural moment.
While I am not prone to fear, I am not immune to it either. The sheer volume of news stories about COVID-19 makes hearing about anything else difficult to do. And slowly (sometimes not-so-slowly) fear begins to creep in. What if… and you can fill in the blank. Some of these fears are fueled by Hollywood apocalypse movies, most of which are so far fetched that “fear” is not really the right word. But not all my fears are irrational. Sheralyn has Type 1 diabetes, making her considerably more vulnerable to COVID-19. From what I gather, if I get infected with this virus, I will likely survive. If Sheralyn gets infected, all bets are off. This filters how I hear the news, what precautions we take and how well I sleep at night. But as a follower of Jesus—who encouraged us not to fear—I want to lean into hope, not fear.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me
your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)
Notice the largest parts belong to God: He leads, he guides, and he comforts. But there are parts that are mine. So here are my thoughts on pushing back the darkness and letting the Shepherd be my guide.
Walking. I used to bike to work. The impetus was to avoid buying a second vehicle, something I remain reluctant to do (you knew I was Dutch, right?) But over the winter I have found myself walking more and more. Biking went too fast; walking slows me down. And surprising gifts have emerged. Despite the challenging times we live in, when I walk, I am reminded that there is still beauty in the world. I feel the snow softly on my face. I hear birds singing. I breathe clean, fresh air. When I walk, I have time to listen, to think and to pray. And remember that God is still God. He is still leading, guiding and comforting. He still walks with me and I with him. What began as something practical has become something vital.
Reading. It has also been life-giving for me to have a novel on the go. Novels—at least good ones—capture my imagination and sweeps me into another story. I join Frodo on the quest to destroy the Ring, or I find myself struggling with men and women on the edges of the Second Chechen War (who knew there were two?!) The Bible does much the same: It captures my imagination and draws me into a much bigger story. This story is both wondrous and true. It describes times when things unfold “according to plan” and times when they most certainly do not. But through it all, God remains central and his unfailing love sustains them (us). Nothing quite reminds me of this more than reading the Psalms:
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8)
When the VBC staff met on Monday, we read these words together. It was so good to hear them again. Far more helpful for my mental health than how many new cases of COVID-19 there are in Europe (which I can do nothing about) or whether my soccer team can finish their season (suddenly not so important). These words ground me in a deeper story, in what is most real. God is still here. God is my refuge. God.
Connecting. Over the past week, it has become clear how important it is to journey with others. I have been deliberate at meeting with a few people in person, and connecting with countless others via phone calls, texts, emails, Facetime, Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts. I bet you did not know I that tech savvy! The other day I was texting with Mike Lalande and he reminded me of the quote I have written on my living room wall (yes… my house and he is reminding me…). It is from Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”It is a beautiful quote and a timely reminder. Even more so if you know the context in which she lived and wrote those words. She lived in England during a time of the plague. Amidst fear, sickness and isolation she wrote almost exclusively about the unfailing love of God.
All shall be well. May these words sustain you. And may you find or even make time in the coming days and weeks to walk, to read and to connect with one another. Be at Peace.