28 SEPTEMBER 2020
Two Hundred Thousand and Counting
Dr. Paul Riddle, Spiritual Care Director at Lifeline Chaplaincy in Houston Texas, wrote this on September 22, the day the death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic surpassed 200,000 in the United States. I appreciate Paul's willingness to share it with our NationsUnivesity community.
Two hundred thousand American lives [and now 1,000,000 lives world-wide] have been claimed by a disease we didn't even know existed when this year began. In America's case this amounts to almost the total number of American lives claimed by World War 1, Korea, and Vietnam combined (211,241) and almost half the number of American lives claimed by World War 2 (405,399). As a chaplain, and as a member of the human race, I believe this moment deserves attention and reflection.
Please join me in a moment of silent prayer to honor our fellow Americans who have died of COVID-19, as well as the people in other countries worldwide whose lives the disease has taken so far
On this day of lament, I invite your attention to Psalm 46, which offers assurance of God's steadfast love and presence in the midst of troubled times:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city;[b] it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[c]
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth."
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. (NRSV)
"God is our refuge and strength." A refuge is not merely a place of protection. It is also a place for gathering strength. I believe that Psalm 46 offers both comfort and a challenge: The comfort of God's steadfast love, and a challenge to practice that love by using our skills and talents to make our troubled world a better place.
The pandemic has exposed many areas of human need, and individuals and groups throughout our society are stepping up in countless ways to address those needs. Many of you are involved in these efforts, whether through involvement with Lifeline Chaplaincy, NationsUnivesity or in other ways.
As we reflect on the lives that have been lost to COVID-19, and the families and communities that have been affected, may each of us become more intentional this week in looking for ways to use our particular skills, gifts, and resources to address needs in our communities. May we counter the darkness of our present moment with the light of God's love. He is indeed our refuge and strength.
So, in this dark hour we collectively ask God to heal the sick, comfort the grieving, protect all who are employed in high-risk jobs, provide for those who are experiencing financial difficulties, and guide our local, national, and world leaders. We ask also for open and helping hearts as we look for ways to be the hands and feet of Christ to those around us, remaining mindful that we are all grieving and experiencing deep disorientation.
Note: This article was originally penned by Dr. Paul Riddle. The ending prayer came from the Chaplain's personal home congregation.