The term for today is novel, an adjective meaning original or one of a kind, something not seen before. Unfortunately, we are talking about the novel coronavirus.
The coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is so contagious that we are now effectively on lockdown in Ohio, in most of the U.S. and the world. Indeed, this is a novel time as most of us have never been so restricted in our ability to engage the world.
The virus is having as dramatic an effect on our economic life as on our health. Many businesses are closed; we have not seen such unemployment numbers since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Anxiety, uncertainly, and fear are the consequences of this novel situation. We are fearful for ourselves, our families, and our friends, and anxious about our personal safety and security. We are fearful about the future, our country, and people around the world. Some of us are generally okay financially, with stable income during this extremely unstable time.
We are very concerned, but less at immediate risk than those who have lost their jobs, even temporarily. We, and our family members, friends and neighbors, in various stages of vulnerability, are wondering whether we will get sick, when the lockdown will end, if jobs will return, and if the government financial aid will be enough to sustain individuals and businesses for a few months.
1. Our anxieties are exacerbated by misinformation and confusion over who is in charge, and who is responsible for providing greatly needed resources. Is the federal government or state government in charge of gathering and expediting resources to address the crisis?
2. Meanwhile, the most ominous element is the reality of death, which is all around us. We see the rising numbers reported daily, and we see the huge strain the virus is putting on our health care system. We are fearful, and especially for those working in the health care system.
What is the antidote for fear? That question has perplexed me for years because fear manifests in so many different settings and understandings. One of President Franklin Roosevelt’s most famous statements is: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” But, we say, we do have something tangible to fear. It is not just about mindset, persistence, motivation or creativity.
Those of us in the religious community can turn to Scripture for hope, inspiration and comfort. I have found these passages to be helpful in trying times:
• Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
• Psalm 34:18: The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
• Matthew 6:34: Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself; sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
• John 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
In Ohio, we are trusting our conscientious and caring leaders — and each other — to help guide us to the other side of this pandemic; and to the other side of our fear. Ultimately, we remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Peace to everyone in this fearful time.
Skip Cornett, a retired Lutheran clergy, is active with the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio and Churches for Midle East Peace.