Finding deeper appreciation in trying times

Published 3:59 pm Friday, July 31, 2020

We are living in a trying time — schools are trying to figure out a way to re-open safely; some churches have re-opened, others are still having online services. Restaurants have re-opened, but not at full capacity. People are encouraged to continue wearing masks and social distancing
The country looks a lot different today than it did a few months ago. Sports arenas and fields across the country sit empty. Theaters and other entertainment venues have gone dark. Popular summer and fall festivals have been cancelled.
There has been an uptick in Carter County cases of the coronavirus, with the daily numbers most often in the teens and at times in the 20s. This week, alone, we have had two deaths from the coronavirus — one, a friend I went to elementary school with and a lifelong acquaintance; another, the father of a former co-worker.
The coronavirus has changed the way we live for the time being.
Nursing home residents remain in lockdown. The pandemic perhaps has been hardest on this group of men and women. Through no fault of their own nor of the nursing home administrators, they cannot go out, cannot visit with their families. Most have had to go months without a haircut and have had to spend all summer inside. Very few have been outside to experience the sunshine on their face or to feel an evening breeze, or to hear the birds chirp — things we take for granted. It doesn’t seem fair that this group of people, once the backbone of our community, men and women who have worked hard, raised their families, and now in their golden years, are prisoners of COVID-19.
Take time this week to encourage this group of people with a card — not just one card, but many.
The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the will of nations and people around the world. It is a very painful test that continues to take away precious lives, even here in Carter County.
It has crippled life and took away many things we used to take for granted — things as simple as meeting loved ones and friends.
In this pandemic, it seems little things that others do for us are even more special. We are learning some hard lessons we need to hold on to, and we more than ever appreciate those family and church gatherings.
Think of the many family homecomings that have been canceled this year, and those church homecomings which bring members and former members together for a time of worship and fellowship. None of that is happening because of a virus that knows no boundaries and is no respecter of persons.
There are some things that are more appreciated in these times. First, I think we realize how important our faith in God is, and how blessed we are to have daily provisions of food, clothing, and shelter. I also think we value our relationships with others more than ever.
Most have found that our faith has been tested. The world and the disease and politics in it can wear us down and leave us low. We can easily get discouraged.
The pandemic is bigger than a lot of previous social shifts, not only because of its tragic outcomes, but also because it’s affecting so many of us at once and changing every aspect of life from the most significant (work, income, health) to the mundane (the availability of basic products).
Anything this big creates the opportunity for new thinking. If the size of the crisis is associated with the amount of new learning it can generate, surely our brilliance will be magnified many-fold when we emerge in the new normal.
In the meantime, we are learning patience. Whether you’re hoping for your work to return to normal, waiting for the quarantine to lift or just holding out until you can eat in your favorite restaurant again, patience is the name of the game. It’s true that patience is a virtue — and you’re developing it now.
You can reassure yourself that current realities will shift, and good things will come —ultimately — from today’s experiences and lessons. As Warren Buffet said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree a long time ago.”
We are part of a cataclysmic time. When I was a little girl, I thought history was something that happened to other people. The lesson — that living in this period is part of a greater whole of history — and we will get through it.
Now more than ever, this is a time where we need the strength and solace that comes with faith. We are going through trials and tribulations that few of us have experienced before. With coronavirus, these days take on added spiritual meaning. Yes, we’re still grateful for our blessings. Yes, we embrace the renewal of spirit. Yes, we acknowledge again that physical death is not the end.
But given the circumstances, there’s another invaluable takeaway: Hope. Not just the joy of life, but hope in the midst of suffering and hard times.
A cornerstone of faith is to look for light in the midst of darkness. We are drawn to our faith in trying times, even as many question God’s presence in the face of difficult times and when the sun doesn’t shine. It’s important for people to know it’s OK to ask questions because God is strong enough to handle our doubts. God is with us and He will be to the end.
Our prayer: Our Lord, may we see with the eyes of faith the lessons you are teaching us. Amen

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