There’s an emotional roller coaster that people have been on since March of this year. That’s when our country was locked down because of the COVID-19 virus. During the first couple of months of the lockdown, the roller coaster took people down into the depths of uncertainty and doubt. Then it seemed as though it was heading toward what appeared to be a light at the end of a tunnel. But last week, the roller coaster took a sharp turn and catapulted toward a new abyss of fear and uncertainty.
What caused the roller coaster to change course? It was the grim reports from the national media that the COVID-19 virus was spreading again at an unprecedented pace. For most adults, the roller coaster that they’ve been on for the past four months has generated massive uncertainty and doubt.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is a federal agency, recently developed a web page that provides advice on how to cope with the fear and anxiety that is associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what the CDC has at the beginning of its web page:
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:
● Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
● Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
● Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
● Worsening of chronic health problems.
● Worsening of mental health conditions.
● Increased use of tobacco and/or alcohol and other substances.
The web page then provides resources that people can use if they are having problems coping. The resources include toll-free phone numbers for the Disaster Distress Helpline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Child Abuse Hotline, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, the Veteran’s Crisis Line, and the Eldercare Locator.
One of the biggest problems that people are experiencing is that they feel completely isolated and alone.
The definition of “isolation” is “a condition of being apart or cut off from others.” For some, the isolation that they feel is outside of their control. For others, the isolation they are experiencing is due to their own deliberate withdrawal from the world and the people they have traditionally leaned on for support.
There’s a story in the New Testament that deals with what happened when a certain man who was close to our Lord deliberately and fearfully isolated himself from all his friends. It’s a familiar story that you will immediately recognize when I tell you which story it is. Can you guess what story I’m referring to?
It’s the story of Thomas who was one of our Lord’s original 12 apostles. After the crucifixion and death of Jesus, Thomas went into hiding and isolated himself from his fellow apostles. He was not in the room when our risen Lord first appeared to His apostles. Later, when Thomas had a chance to meet up with the apostles, he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He defiantly proclaimed that he would have to see Jesus to believe it. Here’s what his fellow apostle John said about the incident:
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” John 20:24-29.
When I was growing up during the 1960s, there was a common phrase that people would periodically use: “Don’t be a doubting Thomas.” Have you ever heard that phrase? Wikipedia defines a “doubting Thomas” as “a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.” Today, more than 2,000 years after Thomas doubted our Lord, that phrase is still being used. How’s that for a legacy?
But aren’t we all doubting Thomases?
The very first temptation that Satan used on a human being was when he persuaded Eve to doubt God. Since then, that temptation has repeatedly been used by Satan and his agents on people all over the world.
Today, there are many people who are having serious doubts about their future and the future of the world. Why? Because they’ve had four months of uncertainty and anxiety about the COVID-19 virus, and at the moment, there is no end in sight. To add insult to injury, for the past six weeks, there have been a minority of radical extremists who have been inciting violence and they are attempting to destroy all of our traditions. Their purpose is to eventually deprive us of the freedoms that were guaranteed to us in our constitution.
What has transpired over the past four months has created grave doubt in the minds and hearts of many of our citizens. Is there a long-term solution available for coping with the anxiety and fear that is associated with the sense of helplessness that has been created by the COVID-19 virus and the rioting and destruction?
I believe that there is a viable long-term solution. It’s the same solution that Thomas had available to him to cope with his doubts and fears. He failed to take advantage of the solution in the same way that most of us have failed to take advantage of the solution.
Do you know what the best long-term solution is for dealing with the doubts and fears that most people are experiencing? I’ll tell you what it is next week.
Thank you, Mr. Williams for tying the two aspects together so neatly, especially since we just celebrated the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Intimacy with God, repentance and reparation for our sins and the sins of our generation, and a renewed resolve to adhere to His commands is the only solution to our problems.