by Jo Walthall
Throughout the course of this COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve been following “information is beautiful,” a site that shares infographics with stats on the outbreak. According to one infographic, the media mentions of Covid-19 top 2.1 billion! And that’s just mainstream media; it doesn’t include all the memes, shares, “hey guys” videos, and “stay home”-button-adorned pictures on your social media feed.
If we’ve been saturated with this much “noise” over the course of a few months, can you imagine if media and social media had existed during the time of Moses? The headlines that would have been created over 40 years! The memes!
In these few short weeks of domestic discomfort we’ve been experiencing, I’ve been struck by this idea of waiting and how this period of uncertainty has been used by God many times throughout the Bible. This idea has really been reinforced by reading the kids’ Bible with my son. All the heroes of the Bible had a period of waiting: 400 years of slavery in Egypt, 40 years in a desert, inside the lions den, inside the belly of a fish, inside a jail cell, 100 years for a child, 3 days of blindness, 3 days in hell.
And in all these periods of waiting, God was working in these people. As individuals and as a whole. It’s uncomfortable to be sure, especially in an age where we have so many comforts. And while we each have our own personal burdens in life, it’s been quite a while since we’ve had such a jarring collective experience of discomfort.
Three things have begun to be revealed to me in this waiting game.
- Emotions do not exist in a vacuum. Sometimes in the midst of tragedy or great pain, it’s hard to think that the world still spins. But it does. After school closures were announced, I decided to reread We Were the Lucky Ones, which tells the story of a Jewish family from Poland during World War II. One of my favorite parts of the book is the reminder that even as war and death and disease rage around you, life goes on. Babies are born, people get married (albeit with much less pomp and circumstance), and people fall in love. It’s been freeing to allow myself to sit in these conflicting emotions. To wipe away tears of sadness while basking in the strengthening of my sons’ brotherly bond. To enjoy the time as a family of four while longing to see and hug our parents and siblings. Ecclesiastes 3 has been on my mind as we’ve gone through this crisis, but I’ve come to think that while everything has a time, it’s possible that those times may occur simultaneously.
- The only person in whom to put our trust is God. This is counter to the American Dream, and the previous decade has certainly been the poster child for that ideal: Work hard, do the right thing, and you’ll be successful. Get a job at a great company, enjoy the perks of that amazing benefits package, work your way up to a corner office, and pat yourself on the back at your success. Three weeks into the crisis, and unemployment levels are at record highs, and millions of others face daily uncertainties. In just a few short weeks, the hopes on which so many of us built our lives and planned our futures have been dashed or face a cloudy future. It’s been humbling to think about the foundation on which I have built my life. Do I, like David, wait in silence for God, since my hope is built on him? Or am I the fool with a life created on a foundation of sand?
- God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. I love Romans 8:28, but like many, I am often tempted to stop after the word “good.” In these times of uncertainty, I am tempted to think how God will come in and clean this mess so life can go back to normal—just like I sometimes daydream of winning the lottery or receiving a visit from a fairy godmother. While I have no doubt that God will defeat Covid-19 and he will have victory, I’ve started to wrestle with the idea that God will not simply wave a wand and “bippity boppity boo” it all away. Life may not—and probably will not—go back to the way it was. We may be called to live differently, to change our homes or jobs or give up extracurriculars. This is a scary idea to me. I liked my old life, after all. But this time of waiting has put into my head that I need to stop trying to force my own narrative and instead live the life God intended me to live. And that that life will be even more beautiful and wonderful than I could ever dream.
Many experts are saying that these next two weeks are likely to be the apex for deaths in this country. The surgeon general likened it to this generation’s Pearl Harbor. There is more waiting to endure. As we walk through this virus and especially as we walk through Holy Week, let this time of waiting unsettle you. Let it change you. Let it reshape you. And see where God takes us once we give him back the reigns. Just as Jesus conquered death and set humanity on a new path, so will God defeat coronavirus, and we will begin anew.