They entered the room in yellow layered gowns, double gloves and masks, and slapped a hazard symbol on my son's door. I was terrified. Jonathan was no longer allowed out of the room, and others were not permitted to enter. "What does my son have?" I finally snagged a nurse. "Your son has RSV," she explained. In 1998 RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) was the new kid on the block for dangerous respiratory viruses. My son, while at the babysitter's, became deathly ill with it. In a matter of hours, he went from a vibrant, playful toddler to a lethargic and dehydrated patient.
Earlier in the evening I had been tracked down in my university class to answer a desperate call from the babysitter. Jonathan needed immediate medical intervention. An emergency visit became an inpatient stay, and at only two years old, Jonathan would not sleep unless I held him. Finally, at two in the morning, I crawled into the hospital crib and sang him to sleep. Old enough to fight off help, and yet too young to understand the many strangers fussing over him, he was miserable. Exhausted myself, it was still my joy to hug, kiss, and love my baby. I prayed that he would get well quickly. But trust God during his suffering? I was not ready for that.
Looking back, I am struck by the differences between my response to Jonathan's childhood illness and my reaction to COVID-19. I was a "baby" Christian in 1998. I had been radically changed spiritually through motherhood, but I was still untested in my faith. While God was quickly laying a foundation of scripture, prayer, fellowship, and witnessing in my soul, I didn't know how to use the armor to stand firm and trust God in all things.
When Jonathan got sick, it was easy for me to slip back into my destructive thought patterns that were founded in fear. I knew with my head that God was trustworthy, but my heart still struggled with the lie that I perceived, I don't deserve this child. I was sure that I was being punished, even though in my mind, I knew God had forgiven my past sins.
Knowing I had received the free gift of salvation, I still held tight to the belief that I had to earn it. If I worked hard, did everything perfectly, then, and only then, would I be accepted by God. That kind of thinking is not rooted in trusting God, and it requires an exhausting and endless pace of always needing to be doing. I was convinced that God could rip my salvation away at any time if I was not good enough.
God used Jonathan's illness to make me aware that He did, and always would, sustain me. When it became clear that I needed to drop out of classes, my world shifted but did not fall apart, as I feared it might . As a result, I lost scholarship money, but I did not fail out of school. And, more important, I did not fail as a mother. Good things aren't dependent upon my personal failures or successes, they are the result of a God, full of goodness, who loves me. Learning to trust God, I became more patient, durable, and experienced in trusting God's faithfulness.
You may perceive COVID-19 as some sort of punishment for something you or the world has done. After all, I once viewed RSV as a punishment for my years of rebellion, but I no longer believe that. Over and over, God has shown me that His love has always been there, and not His punishment. The many layers of my experiences have led me to a sturdier trust—a trust that I now employ in this current time of uncertainty and isolation. I know He is present, and yet I wonder, does God cause suffering? No. Does He allow suffering? Yes. I have experienced great suffering, and yet, God has brought goodness out of it. I also know God did not spare His own son from suffering on the cross, which allowed justice, mercy, grace, love, and salvation to change the lives of many, including my own.
God is still on the throne during this pandemic. To battle these hard times, I take my fearful thoughts captive—you can too—and align them with scriptures such as,1 Corinthians 15:58. "So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless" (NLT).God is making me stronger everyday as I offer Him my fears so that I may honor Christ in my day to day activities.
I am commanded to do what I can to protect my neighbors, my family, and myself. That means I remain vigilant and take proper health precautions. I also strive to push away worry, as Jesus teaches in Matthew's Gospel: "Why do you have so little faith? Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Today’s trouble is enough for today." (Matthew 6:30-34, NLT).
As I stand with God, He guides me toward habits that alleviate worry. I have become selective in my news intake and am choosing written news over visual stimulus. This conscious effort to get a daily update, instead of clinging to the hour by hour saturation of news, has reduced the worry in my life significantly.
God wants the best for all of us, and He doesn't want to punish us. Instead, God wants to restore our lives and our relationship with Him. I am trying to not be rattled by COVID-19. At the same time, I am challenged by God to notice my neighbor more deeply, love and be present with my children, and learn more intensely about the trustworthiness of God.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
You will encounter fearful things in life. Are you learning to respond to suffering as Christ would? Study any of the Gospels, for they are a great place to observe Jesus' response to the sick, dying, and those caught in cycles of sin. Jesus prayed and quoted scripture; He encouraged and spent time with those around him, especially sinners. Our Savior heals and challenges growth when there is suffering. Pray that God will reveal the need around you. The need is great, so try not to be too overwhelmed.
Pick one or two ways you can encourage or help others from a distance. Prayer is the best way to refocus your fearful thoughts and place your trust in God. The Dented Fender website has a place to share your prayer concerns. Here is the link to the prayer site: https://www.thedentedfender.com/prayer Other resources for prayer can be found at Compassion International and other organizations that address the many aspects surrounding COVID-19. Blessings as we walk through this tunnel of unknowns, not alone, but in the presence of the Lord of Love.
Lord, I am afraid. You reassure me over and over that You are faithful, and I am not to be scared. Bring to mind Your Word, full of Your reassurance, so that I can hold fast during this time of the pandemic. Amen
Learn more about Karisa: https://www.thedentedfender.com/meet-our-writing-team