Every morning I read two online newspapers. The coronavirus is of course centre stage and most of the news items are about the pandemic. They reveal that COVID-19 deaths in the UK have topped 40,000; that masks may or may not afford protection; that the “R” number, which indicates the potential rate of infection, is creeping up again in some parts of England.
Yet the world is beginning to grow noisy again. There is more traffic on the roads and more people making for newly reopened shops. A greater variety of news items are beginning to appear on our screens each day. Those of us who have tentatively learnt to Zoom and to Skype are finding ourselves zooming more frequently.
In so many ways this new burst of activity is truly to be welcomed. Life seems to be struggling towards something slightly more recognisable as a new “normal”. There are real bonuses, like the tentative relaxation of some of the social distancing guidelines so those who have families can be reunited a little more, even 2 metres apart.
But the future brings its own unknowns – and anxieties too. In twelve short weeks some of those things on which we once depended have changed almost beyond recognition. Some are walking the intolerably lonely journey of bereavement. Health has become a far more fragile commodity. Some are still imprisoned in their own homes. ‘Self-isolating’ implies choice – for some there is no choice. Some feel unsafe in their own workplaces. For some, job security and financial stability has all but disappeared. Others are working harder than ever before in order to keep us and our children safe in an unsafe world.
For many years we had a family cottage in Aberdeenshire and we had a favourite walk. It’s called the Queen’s Drive because it was Queen Victoria’s favourite walk as well. It’s a circular walk and pleasantly undemanding, a wide grassy track sloping gently between lovely trees with glorious views. One year we decided to come back on a more exciting path. We tried it and the path got more and more difficult until it petered out and we found ourselves clinging to an almost vertical hillside of slippery grass with a sheer drop of about 150 feet below us. I remember feeling very unhappy indeed as I inched forward, holding on grimly to the stoutest pieces of heather.
That walk is up there in my memory with the other scariest moments of my life and I really thought we might both end up at the bottom of the cliff. I only looked down once. That was enough. After that I kept my eyes fixed on my athletic friend who was leading the way and I tried hard to always find the same holds in the hope that as they had supported him they might also support me.
COVID-19 has brought us fears and insecurities and the way out will bring more. I am just reading a new book “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?” by John C. Lennox (The Good Book Company). It is an encouraging read and only 62 pages long. The “blurb” on the back cover says:– “We are living through a unique, era-defining period. Many of our old certainties have gone, whatever our view of the world and whatever our beliefs. The coronavirus pandemic and its effects are perplexing and unsettling for all of us. How do we begin to think it through and cope with it?”
John Lennox tackles some hugely relevant questions and, refreshingly, he does not pretend to have all the answers. But like the psalmist, he brings the underlying conviction that God has not deserted his people. And at the heart of the world’s suffering is Jesus in whose suffering is our hope. There are things we simply cannot do in our own strength, but which become possible when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and know ourselves loved and led.
In the words of an old American hymn, When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes on Jesus. He is faithful to the end. Fix your eyes on Him.
With love and prayers,