Powell: Hold on tight

Our world is topsy-turvy as a result of the coronavirus. People are being infected at an alarming rate. Medical gear is in short supply. People are dying without their loved ones being able to say goodbye. Grocery shoppers hoard. The economy is devastated by business closures and unemployment. The elderly are isolated. People are fearful.

John Powell

It feels like we are being held captive in a desolate valley. Our spirituality has been challenged, and we want to feel the cool breath of God again.

Carrying on with only a few changes is impossible. Life has radically changed, and events will continue to force change upon us. So much of life is beyond our control. It’s unnerving.

Are there answers?

As always when calamities happen, we ask, “Where is God when we need God the most?”

Maybe a better question is, “How are we letting God mold us to respond when disaster strikes?”

We can take courage from God’s promise to be present in turbulent times.

In Isaiah 40, the prophet uses the image of an eagle to encourage us: We have been given the spiritual strength to overcome adversity. The eagle, symbolizing endurance, reminds us that we have access to the spiritual fountain essential for survival. Isaiah asks a pivotal question: “Do you not know?”

How do we answer Isaiah’s question? Do we know that God provides everything we need — spiritual resources and each other — to survive and prosper?

We are all on this journey together, regardless of race, religion or nationality. It is a journey into the unknown. The future is always unknown, but now the uncertainty is greater.

The Apostle Paul has another message for us. He says we need to attend to other people’s needs just as we attend to ours (Phil. 2:4).

In times of crisis, God’s people keep the faith and don’t turn inward. When sequestered from each other, we reach out. If we stop being there for our relatives, friends and neighbors, no matter where they are, we cease to be a caring community.

If we care, we share.

Many people are connecting through video chats. During one of our congregation’s weekly small-group video gatherings, a member said we should see this time as a reset period, a time to re-evaluate our priorities.

If our disconnected body is to remain functional, we need to open ourselves to God’s replenishing Spirit. We need to rethink what’s important for all of us to live justly and safely together.

We are not alone. There are others with us on a path of discovery. We can’t let social distancing become relational distancing.

Our Creator has given us each other to share burdens. These might be physical, psychological or spiritual. God is with us in the midst of this disaster.

This is a time to be there for each other. If you can’t get out, reach out. Call your neighbors and let them know you are there to help them through their fears.

Do some extra spiritual reflection. It will help you to fortify your resolve to be a servant of our Creator.

When you are outside, smile or wave to others out for a walk. Use whatever technology you prefer to connect with friends and neighbors. Find ways to share the burdens, even though you are separated.

Hold tight to your faith and each other. Stay connected.

John Powell, of Ypsilanti, Mich., has worked as a pastor, preacher and teacher in Mennonite churches and institutions.

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