We’ve put masks on the faces of preschoolers, who are highly unlikely to contract the virus and who learn how to interact as they learn to read people’s faces. We’ve taught them to be afraid of things they cannot see or understand. I wonder what the long term effects of that will be…
We keep sending middle schoolers home – again, people with relatively small risk of catching or passing the virus – to isolate them from their friends and essentially shelve the learning process until the next variant fades. How shocking is it that suicidal behaviors among teens have skyrocketed past an already tragic level?
Our grandparents who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities - who are absolutely the most vulnerable to this disease - are finding out that the loneliness they were experiencing before was a picnic in the park compared to their visitors being even more restricted, or banned altogether.
Many of our veterans are still trying to walk through the war zones of their own minds, only now it’s even harder to find help when counseling clinics can’t get them in until March. Misery definitely does not love company.
The mental health industry is booming, and that’s not a good thing unless you run a mental health clinic. Even there, though, the overflow of mental health clients is seriously impacting the existing mental health care providers, who are themselves stepping away from the field in increasing numbers, for their own mental health. When Jesus quotes the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself,” He was doing so sarcastically.
Our health care workers are exhausted, physically and mentally. Our teachers are trying to fight the good fight, but it’s tough to do when you get knocked off your feet by a variant less deadly but certainly still packing a punch. There weren’t enough subs before; now they’re even harder to find.
Clearly we are losing our minds. Not that we’re all stampeding into insanity – though it seems like it every time I turn on the news. I’m referring to our individual and collective mental health, stamina, and overall perseverance.
We do not know the long term effects of the vaccines, if any. There’s no way we could until the term plays out. But we do know what happens when we are repeatedly buffeted by the waves of fear and anxiety, isolation and depression. Our relationships suffer. Our society suffers. And ultimately we will discover even far greater collateral damage from the pandemic then we realized in the moment.
It is precisely when our minds are wavering that we need our hearts to stand firm. We cannot afford to lose those too, because then we lose our source of strength, of comfort, and of hope. That’s where Jesus lives, and we need Him, now.
Peter tells us, “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” Be prepared, he says, to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do so with gentleness and respect. Stop attacking. Start sharing.
Jesus Himself reminds us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.” He’s got this. More importantly, He’s got you! When you walk into SHLC, and you come into His presence in His house, look up at the Shepherd of the hills, the One who lays down His life so His sheep can have theirs back again. He’s holding one of His lambs. That’s you. And He says, “No one can snatch you out of My hand.”
This is what Paul means when he prays that the “eyes of your heart be enlightened, to know the hope to which He’s called you … and to see His incomparably great power for us who believe.” While our eyesight may not always work to perfection, we never want to lose our God-sight.
That’s why Paul says, in the midst of his quarantine in a Roman prison, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” This is the peace of mind and heart, gifted to us by the grace of Jesus Christ, that surpasses all human understanding, all human description.
Which brings me to another anatomical reference: we need to keep our backbone. With the presence, the power and the peace of Jesus Christ living in us and through us, we not only are lifted up out of our own darkness and depression. We become the muscle of the Messiah, reaching out and raising up those who may yet be paralyzed by fear or failure, or have been left for dead by those who have beaten them down and stolen their joy and purpose in life.
God tells Joshua and the Israelites repeatedly, “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Then He sends us in to make sure of it. Do not fear what they fear. We’ve got Jesus. He’s got us. Now be who He’s called you to be: servants. Helpers. Do-ers. You’ll need a spine for that.
Let me take it one step further. For those of us who are defined as male by both science and God in our possessing both an X and a Y in our pair of chromosomes, there’s another pair we dare not lose in the midst of all these mixed messages and massive challenges. Just as I am not afraid of the virus, I’m also not afraid of the vaccine. The Lord and I agreed that it was more important for me to carry the Gospel to those in need than to be concerned with potential harm. So I got the vaccine and booster. If God makes me the lab rat, so be it.
I absolutely respect your own personal conversations with Christ, and also the conscience He has given you. I do not believe in nor support forcing anyone to take actions that betray their God-given conscience. But as for me, I want to get into the hospitals and nursing homes to offer a little bit of Jesus to those in need, and if getting poked helps me do so, praise the Lord!
I also want to talk face to face with those who have served God by serving our country, and with our kids who are trying every day just to be themselves. I want my little buddies in the Pre-K to see me smiling and laughing with them, and I want to see them smiling in return. So far, God has blessed me as one of those in whom He has added a little bit of Moderna with a rather efficient immune system of His own design and construction. But first, He had to keep all my organs intact.
I have seen plenty of Mama Bears on a daily basis, rising up to protect their cubs during all this. For us Papa Bears, I conclude with a direct quote from my favorite Seminary professor: “God gave you gonads – use them for something other than procreation!” No fear.
Pastor Steve Kline was installed as Senior Pastor at SHLC on May 25, 2014, after serving 12 years as Senior Pastor at Zion in Wayside, WI. He was ordained in 1992 and previously served congregations in Pulaski and Hales Corners.