Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.”Isaiah 35:3-4a
Last week I was telling some Two Rivers friends about a recent episode of This American Life. The second act told the story of a Chinese man named Chen Qiushi who, despite not being a journalist, decided to go to Wuhan to report as unbiasedly as possible on what was actually happening there with the Coronavirus and the government’s response. Not only did he put himself at risk from the virus, but he put himself at risk from the Chinese government, all for the sake of Truth. The story is wonderful and brave and heartbreaking.
You can listen to the episode here, if you’re interested.
As I was telling them this, one friend said she wouldn’t be able to listen to it, because it would just increase her anxiety. We laughed about how different we all were. Some people need to avoid these types of stories during this season for their own peace of mind. But these are exactly the types of stories I live for: people doing brave and courageous and beautiful things in the face of fear and danger and tragedy. Humans being the most fully human they can be, the best versions of themselves, showing us the best of human resilience.
Over the last week, as I’ve been reading the news and reading tweets and Facebook posts, I’ve been hearing the above words of Isaiah 35:3-4a echoing in my head, and I wanted to share them with you. In this season of sickness, worry, fear, and isolation, we have an opportunity to live bravely, not just as human beings, but as the Church. As we find ourselves surrounded by people who are afraid, we have the opportunity to “strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.” We have the opportunity to say, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.” We are part of a movement that has from the very beginning chosen sacrificial love over self-preservation and self-interest. Not in the absence of fear, but in the very real presence of it. This is the legacy we are part of:
- Jesus, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, who laid down his life for us all.
- Esther, who rescued her people from genocide despite fearing for her life. “Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
- Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers and was falsely imprisoned, whose faithfulness to God ended up saving everyone during a famine, and who, after everything he had gone through, said to his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:7-8a).
- Paul, who was imprisoned and eventually killed for his faith in Jesus, who amongst many other incredible things wrote:
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 35-59)
And these are just a handful of examples. Please hear me that I’m not ignoring the suffering and fear. This isn’t some sort of cheerful optimism; this is the hard work of being a Christian in this world. When the world is broken and terrified, we look it squarely in the face and say, this is not the end. This is not all that there is. I believe this with everything in me. We don’t know what is coming, but we know God can be trusted. We know that there is more to life than our own security. May you find courage and refreshment in this season, and may you share it with every person you meet… From at least six feet away… After having washed your hands.
Needing some encouragement in this time? Here are a few suggestions:
- Do a deep dive look at what the Bible has to say about fear. This is my go-to website when I’m doing this type of topical study.
- Take stock of what you’re putting into your mind and your soul. Do you really need to constantly check for the latest updates about the virus? Maybe commit to choosing one or two trustworthy news sources, and only checking them once a day.
- Look for the stories of people being wonderfully, beautifully human. I’m currently obsessed with the videos of Italians singing together from their balconies while quarantined, like this one:
- Read this tweet about Julian of Norwich, then meditate on her words:
- Hang a copy of Psalm 23 over your sink. Read it every time you wash your hands. Which I hope you’re doing, like, all the time.
And finally, I’ll leave you with two of my favorite quotes I’ve been revisiting this week:
- “The life of the individual has meaning only insofar as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful. Life is sacred, that is to say, it is the supreme value, to which all other values are subordinate.” -Albert Einstein
- “Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It’s harsh, and cruel. But that’s why there’s us – champions. Doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be.” -Angel. Yes, that one. The vampire with a soul. Don’t judge me.