"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." -Isaiah 43:1-3
We've been down this road before, this fearsome path of uncertainty.
Asian flu in the 1950s
Hong Kong flu in the 1960s
SARS in 2002-2004
H1N1 in 2009
The continuing HIV/AIDS pandemic
Each time there is real reason for concern; there are circumstances in which fear is a right and natural response. Fear can motivate us to take careful precautions to slow the spread of illness, to protect those we love and to safeguard our own health. Fear can mobilize action.
In the midst of our fears and our actions, God's clear message to us is, "Do not be afraid." Do not be overwhelmed by fear. Do not be consumed by fear. Do not allow fear to make your world so small that there is little room for anyone else. We are in this together, the entire world community. It's not about each individual "me," it is about us.
So in addition to taking precautions at church, at home, at the workplace, at school, and everywhere you go, offer up your fear to God. Offer up in prayer all who are affected by this outbreak. Lift up to God healthcare workers and researchers, as well as those who are sick and the family members and friends who care for them. Pray for those whose livelihoods and income are threatened. Recognize those who become ill as children of the one God, and therefore as our very own siblings, so that stigmatizing will not make a difficult circumstance even worse. Above all, hold tight to the power of God whose perfect love casts out fear.
Your sister in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.