John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (ESV)
The current pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus shaped like a spherical crown (corona) with protrusions. It has taken such a grip of so many countries that it will be months before new vaccines or crowd immunity stops it in its tracks.
As I went shopping recently, I remarked to Caroline by text at the time, "Pile of chicken heads outside shops over town" — derived from "running around like a headless chicken", a simile for panic and irrational actions. There were women crashing their trolleys into each other to be first into queues, and rows of empty shelves for paper products, meat, bread, etc. It was totally panic buying, apparently as contagious as the virus itself.
In the 1980s, I flew on Ugandan Airlines with some Kenyan high-level diplomats. The airline "lost" some of the passengers' tickets in order to get these interlopers onto the plane. God overruled, so I was the one and only exception to have a valid ticket after being previously chucked off the flight. On board, it was my first experience of rampant fear. I could literally see and smell the passengers' fear of the diplomatic entourage and hangers on. They recognized the capacity of dangerous power held by these elite men for harm or good. At the time, the experience of guns, travelling through check points, and so on, was an insight into my soft, sheltered, presumptive upbringing in the United Kingdom, and one that is seared into my memory.
My recent experience in the supermarket reminded me of that time. Anyone who has lived in an area where the rule of law is held by those with the guns will know what I mean. To get by, one has to learn forbearance, grace, expediency, quickness of thought, and a sharp eye to be aware of what is going on around one.
So here I am, writing in not a little disbelief that the combative presumption and selfishness of brute force and its concomitant fear has come to where I live in the safety of England. Amazing, dumbfounding, incomprehensible, but there it is: fear and panic abounds — for some who have no rock to stand on.
It was just what I needed, however, to wake me up from my lethargy. My life is held in God's hands, just as it was in Uganda. Life then was a daily challenge to get through without illness or suffering. Until these days, because I was content, I prayed when I felt like it, when I was ready to sit down with God, when I found the time to be at peace to hear from God.
Conversely, God watches over us all the time. I know that and I believe that. This crisis challenges me: I talk to God all the time, but where is my heart devotion? Do I trust in God more wholeheartedly now than I did back then when the need was more evident? I should do so, for I know that I am in His safe hands whatever the outcome, despite the world's distractions.
Who can separate us from the love of God and His gift of peace? Pray with me:
Prayer: Lord, here I am again before Your throne. Please hear my prayer and let Your light shine within. I am truly thankful for Your abiding presence which brings peace in the midst of turmoil. Forgive a wayward heart that is all too often focused on the world's experience, rather than on the One who is the author of life and the safe-keeper of my soul. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Pass Me Not O Gentle Saviour" (Lyrics)