by Shelby Turner
I recently heard someone say the pandemic has been happening for over a year and a half now. And although I have lived each and every one of those unprecedented days, I had somehow lost track of just how long Covid has clouded reality. The headlines, the mandates, the fears, the loss of life — these things have become the somber backdrop I expect to darken everyday life. And there is no timeframe just yet for when a change of scenery will be cued, and this gloomy reality will give way to lighter and brighter days. Sometimes I forget that none of this is normal and dark days often require extra care and attention.
Maybe you, like me, have been plodding along in this unfortunate reality for so long that you haven’t stopped to consider how you’re really doing. So, maybe now is a good time to consider it. I wonder, How are you doing?
Are you overcome with anxiety and fear?
Are you drowning in heartache and grief?
Are you numb and disconnected?
Are you consumed with frustration and anger?
Are you pandemic weary?
If your answer is yes, to you, I say, “Friend, me too.”
One thing I find so incredible about the Bible is its ability to speak into any situation in life that arises. And truly, that even includes pandemics. In the way that only God could have done, God loaded Scripture with hope, truth, and comfort that meet our weary hearts and hands right where we are.
I remember one particularly trying and tender moment of the pandemic for me in late 2020. Feeling rather broken, I opened my Bible to the psalms and ended up reading Psalm 107:1-9. These verses tell about a group of Israelites who had been exiled from their homeland by God because of their willful disobedience of Him. After some time, they were allowed to return to their home, but the years they spent as exiles and outsiders had taken their toll on them. They were searching for a home, wandering in wastelands, trying to find their way back to what they had lost. Verse 5 says that as they trekked on, they were “hungry and thirsty;
their spirits failed within them.”
That resonated with me, so I began to look further into those verses. I discovered that the type of hunger the author of this psalm described was not simply a grumbling tummy type of hunger. They used a word that translates as the type of hunger pains one would feel in a famine, a pandemic, or a drought.
A lump caught in my throat when I discovered this. At times in the last year and a half, I have felt like I am wandering in a wasteland, trying to find some semblance of security. And I feel that kind of pandemic-induced hunger. It’s just in my soul and not my belly. My soul longs for safety and certainty. My spirit feels like it is failing within me on many days. The load seems too heavy. The path seems too long. I am too weary.
Yet, the story does not end there. Not for the exiles in Psalm 107, not for me, and not for you. Because verse 6 says, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” As I broke down this verse word by word, I found its meaning to be more applicable than it was at first glance. When these hungry, tired people cried to the Lord, they did not do it silently or timidly. The word used in this verse for cried means to cry “with a sound like thunder.” They cried to the Lord with a roar of distress. They let loose all they had been holding in, their sorrow tumbling out of their mouths like a slow rumble of thunder that builds and bellows as it rolls across the sky.
Perhaps the first step for us, once we have identified our pandemic weariness, is to cry out to the Lord in our trouble without holding back. God knows how we are really doing, and He is our safe place and refuge in times of distress. We can come to Him at our lowest and share with Him our deepest emotions.
When we cry out to the Lord, we know that He will respond. Psalm 107:6b-7 reads, “he rescued them from their distress. He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live.” God met every need of the homeless, hungry, and thirsty exiles. But He met it in His timing. These wandering people had been living in discomfort for seventy years. God had sustained them through that. And He was now leading them home on the right path to a place they could settle down. I imagine the exiled Israelites cried out to God many times in those seventy years. And most of those times, His answer was to wait. But, when it was time to lead them home, He did.
God’s presence is not withheld from His children by pandemic precautions. While we have learned to make distancing from others a habit the past year, He has been near. He was near before Covid. He is near during Covid. He will be near after Covid. He never abandons His people.
And then, in Psalm 107:8-9, we see the conclusion of the journey home for the exiles. “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all humanity. For he has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things.” When God satisfies and fills us, He does it in a way that only He can. Because He is good and He is joy, and He is life, His presence in our lives satisfies us completely.
As we wander through this pandemic, weary and waiting for the day we can exit from it, let’s take our needs to the Lord in prayer, knowing that He will respond and fill us with all that we need. And although there has been much pain, in the Lord, we find steadfast love that is greater than our heartache. If it could be placed on a scale, God’s goodness would outweigh every ounce of pain and panic we have felt. And He still has more to give. His reserves are neverending. The pandemic cannot outlast God’s tender care and love for His people. God does not weary like we do. Isaiah 40:28-29 gives us another glimpse of our tireless God.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never becomes faint or weary;
there is no limit to his understanding.
He gives strength to the faint
and strengthens the powerless.
And it for that reason that we can say even in times of distress and hardship, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).