The Prime Minister has said that, ‘We’re going to have to live with this virus.’ When the changes on 19th July do finally come, Covid won’t have gone away, and it will be up to us to decide what is safe. Reports are showing that many older people are feeling anxious and fearful and have decided that they are not going to re-engage with society, including some who say that includes their churches. And who can blame them after a year of being drip fed a narrative of fear, that has referred to them as vulnerable and needing to be shielded? The risk may have dropped, but it’s difficult to calculate risk against strong emotion. However, our help comes from knowing what God does for us, and there are examples in the Scriptures that encourage.
Scripture itself is powerful. ‘The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ Hebrews 4:12. It’s the ‘discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart’ that hold sway here.
We’re told that the thoughts in our hearts should be on those things that are true, invisible, everlasting and imperishable (2 Corinthians 4:18) It shouldn’t be too difficult because for the past year we’ve been avoiding a virus that’s invisible!
God’s protection for us is mostly invisible. Think of Elisha, surrounded by the army of Aram wanting to take him prisoner because the King had discovered that God was using him to help Israeli strategy that was defeating them. Not surprisingly, his servant was fearful. So Elisha asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes and it says, ‘Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.’ (2 Kings 6:17). For the servant, the invisible reality was more powerful than the visible. And so it is for us.
In the same way we’re told that ‘the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,’ Psalm 34:7, and ‘As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore,’ Psalm 125:2.
If you know someone who is anxious, ask them to tell you of the times God has ‘delivered’ them. Recalling those times will help build their resilience.
Another reason is that for many older people not wanting to come out is that it takes energy to engage with others and they'd rather just hunker down and be comfortable. But God doesn't plan for His people to live as solitary Islands. He wants to use us in the little ways that mean so much. Think of Naomi returning to Israel after 10 years in Moab and how bitter she felt and how cut off from the life she'd known before. ‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ (which means pleasant) she told them. ‘Call me Mara, (which means bitter) because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.’ But look how wonderfully it all turned out! Her lovely daughter in law Ruth married Boaz, a compassionate and successful business man. Then Ruth and Boaz had a son which meant Naomi had a grandson. Life turned the corner for Naomi when she came out of their separation in Moab.