Sometimes God allows the wrecking ball to hit our building and then He helps us pick up the pieces. Sometimes He just stops the ball from hitting us at all. And then sometimes He makes the building so strong the ball just bounces off. Right now, we are experiencing a little of all three.
Since we first heard the words COVID-19, our lives have changed. Some of those changes have been for the better and some less than. All of those changes have affected us deeply. When I first heard about this virus, I treated it like all those that had come before it in my lifetime, with respect and a whole lot of distance. I knew no one who contracted West Nile Virus, SARS, or Ebola. I’ve seen pictures of people in other countries in medical masks before, but I had never worn one. I felt a small amount of fear when AIDS was first spoken of in Arkansas, but honestly that is as close as I can come to identifying with those who have wrestled with widespread viruses before. Now I know.
We all handle this differently, and in a sense, we are all handling it the same. At first, fear gripped us. We racked our minds, searching for ways to stay ‘clean’ when everyone else we assumed was ‘dirty.’ We religiously adopted hand washing and sanitizing techniques. If social distancing was required to protect our family and friends, then we distanced, even though we really didn’t know what it meant. We grieved as the business around us began to close their doors and prayed it was only temporary. We cried with our friends as they lost their jobs and praised God unemployment was so readily accessible. We learned to only order out and pickup our groceries in the parking lot. We all learned what Facebook streaming was like! Slowly our fear turned to anger and our anger to questions. “When will it end? When will life go back to normal?” Now we are waiting to find out what our new normal might be.
I read Psalm 46 this morning. I’ve tried to read at least one Psalm every day. Today the Psalm began with words of comfort: “God is our refuge (a safe place to run to) and strength, a very present (He is with us more than we are with ourselves) help in times of trouble.” When a word begins that way and we are facing what we are facing, I sit up and take notice. The Psalm moves quickly to this phrase: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.” What? Where did that come from? The answer is simple: straight from the heart and mind of God.
John describes this very river in his book of visions. In the last chapter of his book he says the source of this river is the throne of God and the Lamb. He says it flows through the streets of the city and nourishes the Tree of Life that grows on either side of its banks. I can just see it. As our streets are silent and our porches are full. As our business are much emptier than they should be in April and our Facebook streams are full, I can see this river flowing. It is wide and deep and its current is strong. It is not rushing but neither is it pooling in stagnant coves. Its waters are crystal clear, safe enough to wade in if our toddlers asked permission. And no matter how many twists and turns it makes, the vantage point this river allows is the Throne. This river is not designed to drown but to give life; it is not flowing to flood but to retrieve. When life is too much for me I think about this river and its source.
As I am writing this, a storm is gusting through Southwest AR…again. What is up with this Spring??? Uncertainty is looming on the horizon yet again, and the river still flows. Our virus cases are rising in AR and this river is still flowing. Storms rise and fall and this river keeps right on flowing.
We cannot see the world from God’s vantage point but we can see Him. You’ve memorized Psalm 46.10. “Be still and know that I am God.” Another translation interprets “Be still” as “Stop fighting.” I like that picture. The word is not to just sit and meditate. The word is to stop resisting God, to look to Him and trust Him as He uses every single weapon formed against us for our good. Can you do that? Not on your own. Will you do that? Not if you listen exclusively to our media. The only way you can possibly “stop fighting and know God” is if you turn your eyes to His throne and drink deeply of His waters. John says they bring healing to the nations. Maybe that is just the cure we’ve all been looking for.