…I feel sure that phrase is overused.
The world has known physical and economic distress on a grand scale before. Many people have suffered and died from disease, war, natural disaster; governments have been unprepared and healthcare providers have been under-resourced.
In this society, where we prize our individual freedoms, particularly of movement, religion and expression, the shock of being instructed to lockdown was not surprising. People were in disbelief, and some quickly began to reason that the rules shouldn’t apply to them.
We’re experiencing how modern technology impacts our response to the lockdown too, as we can easily find out what’s happening elsewhere. Online channels bring information and myth from across the world right into our home.
The uncertainties surrounding the pandemic response have generated a very definite 'atmosfear'. This, fuelled by social media, is now starting to turn to frustration, anger and weariness with the lockdown regulations.
Questions are coming from all angles. Who's responsible for the levels of illness and death? Why didn't they act sooner? Why was financial help for individuals or businesses not available more quickly? Must we really keep to these limiting lockdown rules? What will the impact of this be on the nation's mental health? How will we ever get back to normal?
Friends are grieving, unable to have traditional funeral or memorial services for loved ones; facing apparently unsurmountable financial challenges; fearing for their health and that of their families; feeling (& being) isolated; tackling this pandemic on the front line - in healthcare and other essential services - and risking their lives in so doing.
In the midst of this, as a working mum with new home-school commitments, I was struggling to know how to respond. Our family has remained relatively unaffected, so it’s easy to feel a bit out of touch.
Since lockdown began I found and finished a jigsaw - first started over a year ago! The satisfaction of finishing a tricky section is enormous, and it occurred to me that there was a very definite process of refinement required for completion.
The first sort through the 1500 pieces was simply to find edges and corners. Then to find birds and wildlife. Then to find castles and landmarks...and so on. Each time, the proper place for a piece that had previously meant nothing became obvious as I noticed a wing tip, or a slight shadow cast by a landmark.
It made me think how, even though we do not see a clear path out of this situation yet, and cannot fathom why our lifestyles have been so dramatically changed, there will come a point when we look back and see the significance of certain events and experiences. The pieces will fall into place.
We’ll appreciate the relationships we’re building, practice the patience we’ve learnt, grow from the struggles we’ve faced, and seize the opportunities our churches are creating as they worship online.
We can be encouraged that Jesus equips us to meet the challenges we face now, and forgives us when we fail. Remember how Peter denied Jesus three times, despite his intention to faithfully follow Jesus to the end? He thought his own strength and resolve would be enough and it wasn’t.
We’re not in this alone, and we’re not strong enough on our own. We call on God in times of trouble because we really need him, both individually and as a community.
In these unprecedented times, and in God’s strength, how can we best serve him?
‘Do what is right, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.’
Respect those in authority, and pray for them. Lockdown does apply to us, even though the challenge appears greater as time goes on. Let’s continue to heed it, limit the spread of COVID-19 here, and enable our healthcare system to apply its limited resources appropriately.
Guard our tongue and our fingertips! It’s right that there should be questions about how the pandemic is being handled, and that there should be effective accountability, but tone and timing matter. Let’s take care how we speak about, and to, one another. Let’s think before we tweet or vent online, and be measured in our statements and responses. Let’s be kind.
Love and value our neighbour, and that’s not just the person next door! Let’s check in with them; shop for them; telephone them; write them a note of encouragement; join with them to Clap for our Carers. Practical and emotional support is invaluable to those who cannot get out and about.
Let’s listen for God’s guidance, and ask for new strength to persevere. He is faithful and will walk with us through this time.
Sarah Sellars is a freelance copywriter and medicolegal training consultant. She and her family live in rural Co. Antrim and are members of Lisburn Cathedral.
She writes at www.killultales.blog.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.