Most of us have found our experience of Covid-19 disruptive and confusing. The time has been filled with uncertainty and a sense that we could be in this state for a very long time. At this point, there is no one who can suggest a clear path to follow or a definitive response to the threat. All of this has had many impacts on all aspects of our lives from the household to the school to the work setting. Such disruption and confusion cause fear and anxiety.
Fear can be debilitating. It can enchain us in a way that we lose our freedom and capacity to act. It freezes us. Many years ago while cycling with a friend, he remarked that he did not like snakes and he hoped we would not see any along the way. Well, we did. My friend literally froze, could not move at all. The snake in fact was not a threat. It would not harm us. But that is not the point. Snakes were feared by my friend, harmless or not. And that is the point, fear takes away our freedom and restricts us.
The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah found himself threatened as he sought to speak God’s message to Israel.(Jer.20:10-13) Even his close friends were rejecting the message he bore and in doing so, they were rejecting him. He cried out: “Terror is all around.” In the midst of this “terror”, however the prophet recognized that he did not stand alone. With him stood the Lord, the God whose message he was proclaiming. In the midst of his rejection and fear, Jeremiah knew he could rely on the Lord, who was a God of “steadfast love”. (Ps.69)
For more than three months now we have found ourselves facing Covid-19. The threat of the contagion has generated fear around the world and in each of us. In response, we have placed ourselves in restrictions and isolation from one another. Fear and anxiety have disrupted our communities and our world. The fact that there were very limited options as to how we might respond to the pandemic made this loss of freedom acceptable, but it has been difficult.
At this point we seem to be making some advance in dealing with the disease, though we still have a long way to go. The experience has not been without hope and without a better recognition of who we are and who we are called to be in God’s plan. The threat of Covid-19 has generally been faced with an awareness that “we are in this together”, as a world, a country and as local communities. Being restricted in our social contacts and forced to live with physical distancing may have left us with a better awareness of how important our relationships are to us.
God holds us in “steadfast love”, even when we are locked in fear. To discover this as revealed in the relationships that we value, even in the midst of our separateness and isolation is to see that God remains our constant and steadfast companion. All our relationships reflect our relationship with God. We are not the center of our universe and we cannot control everything. When we think we can and try to do so, that is a recipe for fear and anxiety. Liberation comes when we see that “we are in this together”, and the recognition of this and the relationships on which it is built stands as a revelation of God’s love, alive in our real world. Jeremiah hints at this when he tells us: “The Lord is with me,… to you I have committed my cause.” (Jer.20:11, 12)