First, a story to share: once there were three men – a priest, a doctor, and an economist, out golfing. The group golfing just in front of them was playing REALLY slowly, so of course the three men were getting impatient. It soon got to the point that, in their eyes, they just HAD to get out their cellphones and tell the course manager to order the group in front of them to leave the golf course. The manager refused, telling them that the players in the group in front of them were all firemen who had been blinded while saving the golf clubhouse from a fire.
The three men each had a different reaction to this news. The priest was incredibly remorseful and, as a man of faith, he said he should not have cursed out the players ahead of him. The doctor said that he had taken the Hippocratic Oath and was supposed to help people like these blinded firemen, so he vowed to help them in whatever way possible from hereon. Finally the economist, who had been silent the whole time, suddenly spoke up and asked the manager, “Wouldn’t it be more efficient for them to golf at night?”
Those three golfers were pretty impatient people. We are presently living in an impatient land. Finishing our 8th COVID month – mid-March now to mid-November – we are running out of patience with the precautions. As the weather gets colder, as we stay inside more and more, and as we face Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are facing questions we haven’t faced before regarding how we are to act around other people, especially family – many of them who live elsewhere. How do we negotiate being together, yet still avoiding coming down with the virus? If we come down with it, how do we not spread it? And, especially: just how long do we have to deal with all of this?!
We are all enduring something which has been called “COVID fatigue.” I know someone working in an office, and she described how that fatigue worked there lately: slowly, over days and weeks and months, people in her office were going more and more without masks, standing closer and closer to each other…as if things were going back to normal. And then someone came down with something and had to take a test. Everyone else was put on alert. The test came back negative; the person had a regular cold that he got from his wife, who worked elsewhere. My friend tells me that she and her office coworkers are now back to playing it safer, like in the old days.
But overall COVID is making us experience a different level of stress than we would, normally. Dr. Kaye Hermanson of UC Davis has said, “We know there are two kinds of stress that have long-term effects on our mental well-being and physical health – intense stress and prolongedstress, and,” she adds, with COVID “we have both.” On top of all that, she says, “A lot of the things we generally did to cope – the things we enjoy and that give life meaning – have changed or been put off limits.” So we are impatient and wonder how long this will go on.
“How long, O Lord?” David from the Bible asks, at the very beginning of Psalm 13. “Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” It reminds me several people over the years who have come to me and told me, “When I pray, Pastor, I just don’t feel God’s presence. It’s like there’s this solid wall of silence. Why is that?” I sometimes direct them to psalms like Psalm 13 or the book of Lamentations, because God wants us to pour out to God our true feelings, so that God can deal with them and heal our faith. Back to Psalm 13: in verse two David continues his lament to God: “How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
Now we may not have anyone we would like to call an “enemy,” but we all have COVID and other world problems as our modern-day “enemies.” And the length of time that we have to deal with these problems wears us down. David concludes his lament to God: “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.” Now that last bit – “or I’ll die” – may seem over the top, but consider this: we often say of something, “this will be the death of me,” or “I’m worried to death about this,” or “This scares me to death.” There’s a lot of fear in our lives, even when we consider that legitimate caution is not the same as fear.
We know from scripture that fear is the opposite of God’s love, and that “living in the Spirit” will get us beyond fear, anxiety and worry. Paul learned this and shared it in his letters. Let me quote one of them, the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter five, verses fifteen to twenty-five – our BOOST FROM THE BIBLE for today. As I read the excerpt, please notice the reference to the Spirit – “do not quench the Spirit” – in the middle of this passage:
“See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of the prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do this.”
Note that ending – how, even though Paul tells them to do this or that, Paul wants them, first and foremost, to believe that God will pull us through anything: “The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do this.” Paul writes. God will pull us through by the power of the Holy Spirit, whose power we should not ignore or “quench.” Through the Holy Spirit we can do so many things that Paul asks of us. We can, every day, in opposition to COVID fatigue, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.” Let me repeat these three qualifiers: “always,” “without ceasing,” and “in all circumstances.” And Paul is not exaggerating. Continuing to rely upon God in this way will, Paul states five verses later, encourage “the God of Peace Himself” to “sanctify you entirely.” And it will allow us to defeat IMPATIENCE – defeat the impatience we often feel when problems go on and on and on.
David wrote many of the psalms, and, at the end of many of them, he proclaims faith in God much like he proclaims at the end of Psalm 13. After letting out all his impatient feelings on his Creator (“How long, O Lord…how long?”) David returns to his trust in God – the trust that always gets David through: “But I trusted in Your steadfast love,” he tells God. “My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
Often, we are impatient because we have taken things for granted. We want more and we want it NOW. Keeping that connection to God – that “prayer without ceasing” allows us to “give thanks in all circumstances,” not take anything for granted, “rejoice” every day, and be at peace. Even eight long months down this road, God’s energy will reinvigorate us, and make us God’s active AND PATIENT servants, all over again. Amen.
Go to kogcarmel.org and find King of Glory’s Sunday worship services as well – live at 10 am every Sunday. Archived worship services and boosts may be found at the bottom of King of Glory’s home page.