Overwhelmed, Pray to God
It is easy to feel overwhelmed in the days in which we are living. The sheer scope of the dead from corona virus leaves us numb. More deaths have occurred in 7 months this year from the virus than died in all of 2017 from any causes other than heart disease or cancer. The related economic woes still leave many without jobs. Add to that the Derecho in the Midwest that took out much of this year’s corn crop (worsening the situation for farmers already hard hit by the economy); the wild-fires in California, worsening drought in the Southwest US, twin tropical storms hitting the gulf coast this week, and one scraping the coast and moving into New England a few weeks ago. Then there is unrest in Belarus over elections, the explosions that destroyed much of Beirut (attributed to mismanagement due to corruption), and marches against inequality that have turned to violence in many nations. Indeed anger and rancor seem to be bubbling up all around us. Incivility in our public discourse has increased.
Of course the covid virus is not responsible for many of these things, but it has served to exacerbate already frayed nerves. Mental health workers have long noticed a link between fear and anger. When we fear the unknown virus, or the possibility of natural disaster, it leaves us with an unfocused anger: an anger waiting to be unleashed on the first person who triggers it. Add in the boredom due to staying inside, and the loss of the human contact that keeps us all sane at times, and it is a difficult mix. We want to blame someone, anyone, for causing all this.
Though we don’t feel comfortable with it, the obvious target for our anger is God. Why did God allow this? Why did God cause it? What does God think He is doing? Doesn’t He know how much suffering is going on? Actually such questions are healthy. They allow us to vent our anger to one who can take it, and will still love us. Indeed, focusing on God may eventually bring us some resolution to our anger. Many of the Psalms contain complaints against God for inaction in the face of individual or national suffering, though they are usually phrased more as “Why aren’t you doing anything yet?” (Psalms 79, 82, 83, 88, 89, 90, 102, and 109 to name a few). In most of these Psalms the voicing of the complaint is enough to bring the psalmist to an awareness of God’s grace and to finding God as a source of comfort in time of need.
The other target we see is often the victims themselves. Covid is God’s punishment on the US for whatever the person’s pet sin is (abortion, racism, etc). In Luke 13:1-5 Jesus is asked about a group of Galileans who had been unjustly killed during their worship by the governor. He asks if they were worse sinners than any others in Galilee who hadn’t suffered this way. Then he brings up a tower that collapsed in Jerusalem, killing 18 people, and asks if they were the worst sinners in Jerusalem. He closes by saying, “I tell you no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” My take-away from this is that we should not assign blame for any disaster to a group’s sinfulness. Instead we should all take a time of disaster as a reason to examine our own life for sin, and to repent as God has given us time to do so.
If we direct our attention to God, whether in complaint, or in confession, or in praise, or supplication; our time in Covid will have been well spent, and may bring us Peace.