Last Thursday, I went to the grocery store to pick up some laundry soap. Aldi, Sam’s Club, and Walmart have become my new go-to destinations for stretching my legs and engaging in meaningful conversations with the human race outside of my family (keeping six feet away, of course). There are only a handful of other businesses deemed necessary to remain open for the public, so my fellow townsfolk and I are allowed to frequent the grocery stores as much as we need to, while practicing social distancing or until our finances run out.
Over the last few weeks, it has become my habit to make funny quips to total strangers about the predicament we find ourselves in, but as time has passed (as of this writing, this is day seven of the President’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread”) a real weariness has set in. You can clearly see it on everyone’s faces, both store employees and customers.
Although we’re all pulling together as Americans, what choice do we really have? We all know we’re on day seven of 15, but do any of us really expect it to end that quickly? First, we were told we could gather in groups of 250, but the next day it was only 10. And just like that, we can no longer go to church! No wonder we’re battle weary. We’re still in shellshock! That’s why I prayed a silent prayer on the way to the store to be uplifting to anyone whose path I might cross.
People are desperate for hope.
So, it was really no surprise that just as I came around the end of the cleaning aisle, a woman looked directly at me and exclaimed, “This is just awful!”
“God is in control.” I gently replied, as we rolled our “buggies” (that’s what they call shopping carts here in the South) out of the way of other customers so we could chat for a minute without getting in anyone else’s space.
“Oh, I know!” she said emphatically, almost begrudgingly, because I’m sure she felt like I was preachin’ to the choir! After all, this is Kentucky, and almost everyone you meet in the grocery store (in my county, anyway) is a Bible lovin’, red hat affiliate, “Meet you after church at The Cracker Barrel” kind of Christian.
But here is the problem. On one hand this dear flustered woman agreed that God is in control, but on the other she complained that too many people bought freezers and were hoarding all the food! It’s obvious she was struggling with our new alternate reality as everything we Americans have known our whole lives has been stripped away from us in one. short. week. And quite frankly, it’s frightening and surreal!
You see, she had just come down the canned goods aisle, which is next to the frozen meat aisle, and I’m sure she was still in shock from seeing all the empty coolers and shelves. The only offering left in the whole long aisle of canned goods was some generic brand of pork ‘n beans. In the next aisle over, there were only two cans of turkey SPAM left. Even I couldn’t bring myself to buy that stuff. Well, I almost bought them for a joke for my husband, but I thought about how this whole shutdown isn’t a laughing matter anymore, so I left them for someone else.
On the shelves opposite the canned meat, there was still a good supply of ethnic foods, like Gefilte fish, and little jars of duck fat. Don’t know that I’ve ever had Gefilte fish or duck fat for that matter, but I wasn’t desperate enough to buy “exotic” food items when I could still purchase a four-pack of Alaskan wild-caught canned salmon. There were just a few packs left, so I left the rest for somebody else, and I left the Gefilte fish for some other savvy covid-19 stocker-upper, braver than myself.
I’m sure this nightmarish phenomenon of suffering “lack” in the land of “plenty” overwhelmed this poor lady with a sense of dread of which I am neither unsympathetic or immune. However, assuming a cheerful Pollyanna attitude and playing the “glad game” would have proved ill-timed. So I waited patiently for her to finish her end-of-the-aisle meltdown, and when she was done, she pushed her “buggy” past me to continue around the end-cap and down the next aisle, but not before looking me straight in the eyes again and exclaiming, “This is just awful!”
Speaking the truth in love was all I could offer her. Unfortunately, it seems my well-intentioned words fell on deaf ears. But those four words, GOD IS IN CONTROL, have become my daily bread. And as far as my neighbors go at the grocery store, a ready answer to quell the insanity we’re all experiencing as we try to cope with overly sensational news stories, and ever-changing governmental directives concerning the covid-19 virus.
When I first began to share with others that God is indeed in control of these crazy, unprecedented events that have threatened our most basic human needs in America, namely food and bathroom security, i.e. toilet-phobia (the irrational fear of running out of toilet paper), I almost choked on the words. They seemed hollow in the face of empty meat coolers, depleted canned goods aisles, bare pallets where the bottled water used to be kept, and countless numbers of empty cardboard boxes littering the shelves of the toilet paper isles in all the major stores. Can God really be in control of all this corona virus chaos? Can He really supply all our needs regardless of what we see with our eyes?
The stores are full of heavy-hearted shoppers, me included, who are just trying to take care of their families, albeit last minute, as we prepare for the possibility of a long and drawn-out national crisis. We have been scared out of our wits by misinformation, sensationalism, conflicting reports, and scary images of forced quarantines in China.
What we see happening to our planet is so mind boggling and outside of our normal scope of comprehension, it is easy to default to total fear, and as the enemy knows, fear is a great catalyst for change, and many in our world would seek exploit the American people when they are so dazed and exhausted.
But God . . .
That’s why earlier in the morning, before leaving home, I spent some time doing a little word study on Psalm 91:2 “I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” I use a Keyword Study Bible that has the Hebrew and Greek concordances right in the back, and I was sure I knew the context of the word “say” as used in the text, but I looked it up anyway because it was underlined and numbered.
The Hebrew word for “say” is number 559, ’amar, aw-mar which means: to say, talk, tell, declare, desire, commune, consider . . . But what I didn’t know is, this word also refers to thought as internal speech and what is being communicated by a person’s actions along with his words. So, what we focus our thoughts on, and the actions we take, clearly show our heavenly Father how much we trust Him!
So that is why I declare today, God is in control of this whole covid-19 mess! All of it! He’s not surprised, and His right hand is not to short to save!
I pray the Lord will bring those words to my dear fellow sojourner’s mind when fear threatens to consume her in the face of want. And when I am all alone, lost in thoughts that so quickly default to fear or despair, let me also remember that God is in control. Let me remember that God is my true supply and that He has a plan, and I can trust Him with all that concerns me and my family and my fellow man.
I will say to the Lord, My refuge and fortress, My God in whom I trust.
And no matter what I see with my eyes, what lack I may temporarily have to suffer, let me rejoice continually in the God of my salvation!
Although the fig tree shall not blossom,
neither shall fruit be in the vines;
the labor of the olive shall fail,
and the fields shall yield no meat;
the flock shall be cut off from the fold,
and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet,
and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.