by The Reverend Canon Dr. Sharyn Hall
In times of fear, when humans feel overwhelmed by forces beyond their control, they search for a higher power. When the Hebrew people felt overwhelmed by their struggles to survive against war and disease, the prophet Isaiah brought them a message. “Comfort, O Comfort my people, says your God.” The older meanings of the verb, ‘comfort’, are to encourage and to uplift. God may be telling the distraught Hebrew people, ‘Take heart, I am with you!’.
We need to hear that message today as our world seems overwhelmed by a relentless pandemic virus. Do we understand that God is with us in this wilderness of uncertainty and anxiety? In the words of Isaiah, we can believe that God is here in the wilderness giving us courage and hope for a path forward. That may sound too optimistic for our crisis today, but we can identify people who are taking heart, working tirelessly to give hope, and having faith that the human spirit strengthened by God’s Spirit will prevail.
As people of faith, we look to God the Creator who will ultimately turn our world right side up again. But what is our role in overcoming this crisis? As COVID-19 has become a pandemic and people are struggling to combat the virus, often we hear that we must follow the science. As scientists work to learn everything about this new virus, saving lives and reducing the spread of the virus are their first priorities. They recognize that this new virus challenges their understanding of infectious diseases and their ability to anticipate how this virus will progress.
Some people see science as the only power to combat and control the virus. Other people seek hope and solace in their faith in God. Science and religion often are portrayed as conflicting forces for the benefit of humanity, but lately they have met on more common ground.
In 1941, Albert Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
Isaiah’s words can inspire us to see God working in all aspects of human endeavour in this frightening time of disease and death. Who can help to overcome the physical and mental suffering of this dreadful disease? The answer is people, and many of those people are scientists, highly trained doctors and nurses, microbiologists, infectious disease specialists, and the list goes on. Who helps the scientists to have the will, the skill and the imagination to discover the wonders of science? In Isaiah’s words, the answer is God the Creator.
Faith in a divine Being and belief in science are not mutually incompatible. Scientists can be God’s instruments of care for God’s people, even if they do not acknowledge God’s guidance. People of faith give thanks for the talent, hard work and perseverance of scientists.
The wonders of science often are the discoveries of what has already been created in the endless possibilities of God’s creation. In this fearful time of global pandemic, we are called to pray for God’s strength and guidance for all who strive to comfort those who suffer and all who seek to discover a vaccine.
Isaiah encourages the people to have faith that God will be with them. “God gives power to the faint, and strength to the powerless…those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”