Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!
Go to Kalneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?
- Amos 6:1-2
Woe to me because of my injury!
My wound is incurable!
Yet I said to myself,
“This is my sickness, and I must endure it.”
My tent is destroyed;
all its ropes are snapped.
My children are gone from me and are no more;
no one is left now to pitch my tent
or to set up my shelter.
The shepherds are senseless
and do not inquire of the Lord;
so they do not prosper
and all their flock is scattered.
Listen! The report is coming—
a great commotion from the land of the north!
It will make the towns of Judah desolate,
a haunt of jackals.
- Jeremiah 10:19-22
“Edith, a mother of eight, came home from a neighbor’s house one afternoon and noticed that things seemed a little too quiet. Curious, she peered through the screen door and saw five of here children huddled together. As she crept closer, trying to discover the center of their attention, she could not believe her eyes. Smack dab in the middle of the circle were five baby skunks!
“Edith screamed at the top of her voice, ‘Quick, children … run!’
“Each kid grabbed a skunk and ran.
“Some days are like that, aren’t they? Even when we try to solve them, pressures and problems tend to multiply.”
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Point
In saying that it ain’t that bad, I am referring to the lockdown, stay-at-home order, social distancing protocols, quarantines (self-inflicted or otherwise). I am not referring to a disease that results in the deaths of 2-3% of the people who get it, and more deadly among those like myself who are old, don’t breathe so well, and have immune deficiency disorders. For our sakes, this social distancing is saving lives. Think of yourself as a hero for doing as others have requested instead of being deprived.
Amos 6 starts with a lengthy “woe to the complacent,” and maybe complacency has been a global issue regarding God. Even believers don’t worship with the gusto that they should. Look at the letter to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3. Maybe our greatest heart’s desire shares time with the ballgame, a movie, or simply taking a nap. It kind of makes God out to be one of the many, rather than our all-in-all.
If I had been the kid who found the baby skunks, I think my Dad would scream for me not to touch anything before he said to run. He did so when we were digging for worms to go fishing, and we found a nest of baby copperheads (deadly snakes, even as babies). My Dad, knowing me, knew that I would scoop up all five of the skunks if he didn’t start with a warning not to touch them. His warnings were for my own good.
And then we are hit with a “stay-at-home” order… Just think of being trapped in your house under COVID-19 quarantine orders with five baby skunks, now maybe that would be “that bad.” For those that lost their jobs, that can be tough. For those who are claustrophobic and your state or municipality won’t let you go for a walk or mow the lawn or stand six-feet away from everyone, while being masked, while on your own porch, then that can be tough.
As for the job loss, I have been there. On December 20, 1993, I was laid off along with a couple hundred others when a NASA site closed. I got a new job on December 20, 1994, far from the last person to do so. Exactly one year after I had lost my job. After my unemployment ran out the first six months, the president of the USA, who ordered our NASA site to be closed, was given praise for the unemployment rate coming down, but as for the 200 in our area, they were still unemployed for the most part. But we were not included as being unemployed, because we had run out of unemployment benefits – the way they calculate the number. We became non-entities, neither employed nor ‘unemployed.’ You would think that we did not exist, but they sure wanted our income tax on the next April 15. If I didn’t work, what income? I cashed in my before tax savings to put food on the table. When you do that, they take a 10% penalty due to being under 60 years old, and you still pay taxes on that 10%, double-taxation. And to rub salt into the wound, my elder son applied for a college grant, graduating high school that year. He was turned down because I made too much money that year. I made no money, but the money that I took from savings was registered as income. And the state where I had worked had the least unemployment benefits (also taxable) of any state in the USA, at the time not even covering groceries for a family of four.
So, I am not making light of that, but if you get your job back when people are allowed to go back to work, it won’t be that bad.
But so many are complaining about not being able to visit with friends and family. I have been isolated since late December. My wife was in Tennessee, babysitting. We were trying to maintain two households with our Social Security until our son was back at work full time. As a result, I only left the house for church and groceries, not wanting to spend on anything unnecessary. Upon the isolation protocol, I lost the social interaction at church. That makes it a bit hard figuring out what day of the week it is, but I’ve had two months of this isolation more than the rest of the country. As the title of this post suggests, “It ain’t that bad!”
Just think, a month ago, social distancing was not required everywhere in the US, and hardly at all more than six weeks ago. I have survived nearly four months. We can all survive.
Now if I were still on the farm and I ran out of toilet paper, my Dad would suggest a corn cob, and he did on occasion. No! I have never tried it, and I don’t think that it would be enjoyable. But I was in the Army during the old C-ration days. You got one square of toilet paper with your ‘meal.’ A single sheet. The sergeant instructed all the new recruits to tear a hole from the middle and save the torn piece. Stick a finger through the hole. Use your finger to do all the cleaning business. Then, as you pull the sheet of toilet paper off your finger, use the single sheet of toilet paper to clean your finger. Now, what do you do with the part you tore to make the hole? That is used to clean underneath the dirty fingernail. Now! Toilet paper shortage – solved!
Amos, in the Scripture above, condemned complacency. Jeremiah, in the next Scripture, laments over his personal injury that he caused to himself and must endure. Maybe we can endure this illness that was caused by others, yet inflicted upon us due to our greed, complacency, and self-absorption. The Chinese wave cash in the air and we go running after it, knowing that their standards (all of them, but I’m thinking about human rights, environmental, persecution of Christians, basic hygiene, never hesitating when they want to spit, basic freedom, telling the truth when reporting death totals, etc.) are not up to par. Our voracious appetite for cheap stuff puts people from China traveling everywhere and people everywhere going to China on business. Thus, the world’s greed spread the virus. We were complacent, and some still are, about staying at home and away from others when out and about. Look at the pictures online of people in Wisconsin on voting day, without masks, crowded within inches of each other, waiting to get in the 6ft apart queue to vote. Why bother by that point? And why are we complacent? We focus on our wants, expecting our needs to be provided as our ‘right.’ We rarely focus on how our actions affect others, to some – never a consideration.
But even as bad as we have become toward our fellow man, what we are going through ‘ain’t that bad.’
Take a moment to focus on what you do have, how God has blessed you, and you will realize that this is a walk in the park compared to the deprivations of the Great Depression that was followed by the rationing during World War II. And that was nothing, I suppose, to the suffering during various pandemics of the past. The media focuses on the total numbers and how the US death toll is greater than Italy and Spain combined, but that is probably not the case when looking at the total population. The USA has more than three times the population of those two countries combined. Now, China is more densely populated, but their reported numbers, even the recently ‘corrected’ numbers, are probably grossly in error. And when you are ordered to stay at home in China, you stay at home or you are never heard from again. What we are going through ‘ain’t that bad.’
And even if it was as bad as our imagination can fear, God is stronger than our ability to imagine greater fear. We surrender that fear to God, and He takes care of the problem and the fear caused by the problem.
Stay safe. It ain’t that bad.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.