“You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone... With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.”
Psalms 91:1-12, 16 NRSV
How has COVID-19 affected people’s spiritual lives? How can God protect us through such suffering?
During this time of international suffering from COVID-19, which has universally affected almost every person on this planet in more ways than one, from the loss of a family member, the loss of a job, the loss of a house, it is important to remember that all of us ‘dwell in the shelter of the Lord’, Earth. We have entered an era where our safety is at risk each time we leave our residence, and not only our personal safety but the safety of each person we encounter. This is uncharted territory, for everyone, and personally it’s been a very hard transition trying to find God and find safety and security amidst the chaos.
God is our shelter, the only one who can protect us, and this is a hard truth to reconcile with when you look at the news, at the statistics, at the staggering numbers of God’s people who were not sheltered and protected from this pandemic. I spent a lot of 2020 being angry at God and not understanding why this was happening. I was just entering what felt like the prime of my life, I was 19 years old, finally feeling like I was getting a hang of the whole college thing, finally feeling like I was a part of the Young Harris College community, and then everyone’s world got turned upside down in what felt like an instant. I cannot think of a moment from March of 2020 to January of 2021 where things felt like they were going right in my personal life. I lost multiple family members, and it was hard to go to a God who had turned my life so dark so quickly, with no end in sight.
How can we feel God’s love and share God’s love during a global pandemic?
I think of the Corrie Ten Boom quote “When you are covered by His wings, it can get pretty dark.” It took surviving 2020 and going into 2021 to realize what this meant. When it says we ‘abide in His shadow for life,’ we abide in the darkness of the Lord, only when we get to Heaven will we fully see God’s light in its entirety. I think we see glimpses of God’s light each day, from the kind eyes of a stranger through a mask, from someone going out of their way to help you if you are in a time of need, to making care baskets for the houseless and transient, to paying it forward. God’s light shines in our humanity, our willingness to love and protect others amid a pandemic. These moments of compassion are so vital right now, when an act of humanity really is a matter of life or death. So, when we can feel the lightness of God even in total and utter darkness, we know the presence of the Spirit of God is nearby.
The best way to soothe any fears is to show God’s love through these seemingly minute tasks. Showing God’s love not only means to practice safety but to be a solid rock of support and love for those who are fearful of the world, which is totally valid right now. It is so easy to become a pessimist right now. I know I am. I wake up each day looking at the numbers of lives, numbers of God’s children that he uniquely created and calls His own are now no longer living among us in God’s refuge. My heart sinks and my faith has been tested. The enemy wants this to consume us, to be so overcome with anxiety that we believe that this is it and we might as well give up, the enemy wants us to disregard the kindness of strangers and dwell in the heaviness, stay in the darkness and refuse to see the light.
How should we overcome this horrible event even when hope appears to be bleak?
In Psalm 91:3 it is said he ‘will deliver [us] from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.’ This is the most gut-wrenching part of this scripture that is so hard for me to consume in the midst of a pandemic and its worldwide effects. Suffering is of the world, and there will be no more suffering once we leave it. But this does not mean we should make peace with the suffering we see every day as an inevitability, we should try to make Earth look as much like Heaven as possible. We should do our best to rid the Earth of this deadly pestilence, with our God-given resources and common-sense skills.
Scripture says all of God’s children ‘need not fear the terror of the night.’ Meaning that no one should go to bed worrying what the next day holds, whether they'll have a roof over their heads, whether they’ll eat today, whether they will be employed, whether they will be physically or emotionally abused, or whether they will be seeing another day. These issues are far too prevalent in the United States and all over the world. God weeps when His children weep and it should be our goal to do as much in our Earthly lives to hear the cry of the needy and respond. Everyone deserves to sleep well knowing that they are protected by not only the Lord but the Lord’s people.
The world is full of so much darkness right now. It is our job, as God’s children and good citizens of the Earth to bring light. Please, during this season of pestilence, be safe and be mindful of the safety of others.