Perplexed, but not driven to despair

The Standard March 25, 2020

In mid-February 2020 the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its highest closing of record. U.S. unemployment was at a 50-year low. Needless to say, a significant number of people in our country were feeling secure or hopeful with the economy. That all changed, at least for a while, this month. Due to repercussions from the coronavirus pandemic, on March 13 the stock market crashed to its worst day since 1987. Many hourly wage-earners and small business owners have had to stop working altogether. Certain states are allowing only take-out or drive-through at restaurants. Schools in most states have been shut down for at least two weeks. Thanks to tremendous ingenuity and effort Pitt County Schools have set into motion ways to feed children ages 1-18. They offer grab and go curbside breakfast and lunch pick-up at almost all public elementary and middle schools. Also, 37 buses are doing daily routes to deliver at each stop lunch for that day plus breakfast for the following. In one day in our county they provided over 11,000 meals.

Many universities and colleges extended spring break for a week and will go to remote learning. Countless graduations, weddings, celebrations and trips will have to be postponed or cancelled. The most important issue, of course, is saving lives. Our prayer is that by using social distancing, staying at least six feet away from others and avoiding even small groups of people except for necessary trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank or doctor and being extremely conscientious about hand washing and disinfecting hard surfaces, we can flatten the curve of this virus. We are doing our part to curb the spread of coronavirus, even when we feel totally healthy, so that we don’t unknowingly pass it on, especially to the elderly or those who are immunocompromised and don’t overwhelm our hospitals, their beds, equipment and staff.

During this unprecedented time most of us are facing dramatic shifts in our daily lives. Families with school age children now have kids at home. Adults who can are working remotely. People in any number of jobs from waiters to performers to those working in jobs connected to the sports world or the entertainment industry are wondering how they will pay their bills. Health care workers, first responders, truck drivers, postal employees, farmers, researchers, nursing home personnel, grocery store employees, pharmacy workers, online retailers plus people in the food industry, media and sanitation are all working overtime. Faith communities are not gathering for worship, but many are offering services and Bible teaching online. All over people are offering help, free resources and donations.

These days are stressful and scary. It is perplexing that life can change so suddenly. It is a reminder of how little control we actually have. We are in unchartered territory, but God knows our future. God has chosen us, as vulnerable and shaky as we are, to accommodate the amazing treasure of his grace and love. We can spread it. He walks beside us and offers peace in troubled times.

The Apostle Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

In The Message Eugene Peterson translates it that “We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”

Jesus leaves us with these words: “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)

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