The vast airport terminal echoed with the footsteps of an occasional person walking by me, otherwise it was eerily silent and empty. A massive shutdown of air travel in March of 2020 happened days before I was to return home from Vancouver Island to Manitoba, but I managed to secure a flight. A microscopic enemy, COVID-19, held the world hostage in the grip of a pandemic. During those early days as reports of rising numbers of infections and deaths flooded the news, we had no idea how deeply and permanently this virus would affect us all.
Like the rest of you, I adjusted to social distancing, wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer and doing without most of my usual social activities. However, I was accustomed to living a simple, quiet life so it wasn’t a huge change. In fact, it prompted a decision I had been praying about for some time, of whether I should retire from my job. After returning from out-of-province and self-isolating for two weeks, I realized that I would rather be home where I could pursue my writing goals and focus on ministry at our small church. Also, as a cancer survivor with an auto-immune disease, I was more at risk of contracting the virus if I continued to work with the public. Having the blessing of God’s peace made the decision to retire an easy one.
What impacted me more was the effect on my emotional and spiritual life caused by the seismic shift inflicted by COVID-19. Yes, I admit to grumbling sometimes about the inconvenience and isolation, yet in some ways the good results outweighed the bad. Health issues caused me to tire easily, so being home allowed me to pace my activities and rest when I needed it. Having adequate rest improved my creative and cognitive abilities. I revelled in having time for my favourite activities of reading, writing, photography and painting.
In assessing news and events related to the pandemic from a Christian worldview, I considered how I could speak God’s truth effectively into a panicking, fearful world. The answer was a simple one ˗˗ by living it.
Walking in peace, not panic.
Fostering faith, not fear.
Holding out hope, not hysteria.
Within my modest circle of influence I intentionally increased my words of affirmation, found ways to encourage those in service sectors, checked in with family more often and prayed with friends over the phone or Zoom. Small, everyday acts done with great love ˗˗ the love of Christ. The pandemic intensified the need for, and significance of, kindness and compassion in a world on edge.
Not long before Jesus was crucified, He spoke to His disciples about what was to happen to Him and to them. The disciples found much of His message baffling, so He concluded with words of reassurance.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Can any of us fully understand the complex events and unseen forces affecting our world today? We wonder if they are portents of the end times predicted in scripture ˗˗ earthquakes, famines, pestilence, wars and rumours of war. I do not have a thorough understanding of biblical prophecy, so when I read it I do so trusting in God’s providence to fulfill His will perfectly. Meditating on what Jesus said to His disciples in the above passage helps put things in perspective. Firstly, He did not say, you might have trouble, He said, you will have trouble. It is a given in this life. Then He encouraged them with these hope-filled words, but take heart! I have overcome the world.
His exhortation is worth repeating to our own weary souls when the troubles of this world weigh us down. It appears COVID-19 is with us to stay. And war is more than a rumour, it is a grim reality. Only in our Savior, Jesus Christ, can we find and share peace, because He has overcome the world through the power of His cross and the completion of His plan of salvation for all who believe in Him.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
More of Valerie's work can be read on her blog.