As this issue goes to press, much of Canada is still practising measures to hold COVID-19 at bay. Fatigue has set in; we’re tired of thinking about it, talking about it and praying about it. Yet some things still must be said:
God did not cause this pandemic
COVID-19 is not God’s punishment. We do not serve a fire-and-brimstone God, a cold-hearted deity who desires that humans suffer. God did not design the coronavirus to teach humans important lessons. This is not a test to see if we trust in God more than facemasks and physical distancing. (Yes, there is “smiting” in the Hebrew Scriptures, but we turn our eyes instead to Jesus, the most perfect expression of the Divine One.)
This is the time to remember that our Loving Parent is with us in this deadly illness, in the precious gift that is life itself. God is grieving with us in the fragility of human bodies and offering us the opportunity for patience and trust. Our God-given creativity is stretching to find new ways to connect with each other. Our God-given gifts are harnessed to solve the problems created by this novel coronavirus.
This is a time for wonder at the beautiful world and gratitude to its Creator, a time to sift out things that have weighed us down and to cultivate instead new habits of faithfulness.
We seek the truth
In the search for a cure, magical remedies are “revealed,” some innocuous and others downright dangerous. While intentions might be good, their purveyors offer neither scientific grounding nor medical accountability. Alongside them are moneymaking schemes that are really scams disguised to look like helpful advice.
Poke around on Facebook and YouTube and you’ll see the flourishing of conspiracy theories about who is really behind the coronavirus and what their hidden purposes are. These theories tie bits of science with a mishmash of political agenda and a smattering of religion. Sowing panic and confusion, pushers of conspiracies promote disinformation that perpetuates panic and hatred.
This is the time to listen to only the most reliable sources of information. It is the time to support solid scientific research and responsible medical counsel. This is the time to encourage careful journalistic reporting and statistical analysis. In an atmosphere of rumour and gossip, we must check information carefully and refuse to pass on conjectures and lies. We must strive for the truth.
We all could use a little mercy
In the face of this global illness, the human family is dealing with uncertainty, loss and grief. Physical pain, financial decline and potential death overwhelm our spirits. Some of us are managing to cope, but, in the process, our weaknesses and doubts are also revealed.
A song composed and sung by Mary Gauthier comes to mind: “Mercy Now.” She sings of a father at the end of his life, a brother struggling with mental illness, a church and a country sinking into a “poisoned pit,” all of whom “could use a little mercy now.” You can listen to it online at bit.ly/mercy-now.
This points to Micah 6:8, a favourite of many Mennonites: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV). Justice and humility are a part of the Anabaptist tradition; sometimes we practise them in not-so-humble ways! But what does it mean, right now in the midst of this pandemic, to practise the second requirement?
The song goes on: “Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now / I know we don’t deserve it but we need it anyhow / We hang in the balance dangled ’tween hell and hallowed ground / And every single one of us could use some mercy now.”
This is the time to realize how much we need each other, the time to practise kind deeds along with much forbearance. This is the time to extend mercy to ourselves, to each other and to the rest of the world, the human sphere as well as the natural.
Speaking of mercy, check out this issue’s Focus on Mental Health:
You will see in them mercy expressed.