Nature Isn’t Worried (a reflection on Coronavirus)

There is a war – between fear and love, disappointment and contentment, anxiety and gratitude, sickness and health. They are all so close they are touching. 

So contagious is fear that it stunts the growth of our love. So present is sickness that we’re constantly second guessing our health. So wide spread is anxiety that it’s building a dam between us and the raging, healing torrent of gratitude. 

And I wonder when this war will end, because I know in my bones it will. Every storybook I read reminds my soul of the ancient, true story that good will triumph over evil, that sickness and fear and death don’t have the final say. The worry that ‘God is not good’ was born in the Garden but was buried in the Grave; the stone rolled away and the empty echo inside was the truth that death has lost its sting, that sickness has lost its ultimate power. 
 
But in this raging inner-war of a global pandemic, how in God’s wide world do we lay down our worry and anxiety? I look to Jesus, desperate for an answer. He is always so quiet, so confident, so powerful in His answers, and most of them come in stories that will make sense to my human heart. Nature, he says. Look to nature.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

I tell Jesus, but the news is painted with pain! Then, here and there He shows me there are unparalleled moments of human connection and beauty. It’s true – something inside of us says, ‘but there has to still be good.’ And look at these silver linings we keep coming up with! Clear waters in the Venice canals, swans and dolphins in waters usually clogged with pollution. We watch videos of nitrogen dioxide emissions over Italy, China, NYC, LA, and Seattle suddenly plummet. The air is clearing, literally saving tens of thousands of lives usually lost by air pollution all over the world. 

Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronavirus, The New York Times.
Image Source: Sentinel-5P satellite data processed by Descartes Labs

And in this pause I wonder on my favorite part of nature – is Yosemite National Park deserted? Is it quieter, cleaner, more peaceful now, without the chaotic clutter of us? I don’t know, because we’re not there, but I can imagine if we were we would realize the trees aren’t anxious. The birds aren’t worrying. Those ancient rocks aren’t feeling disconnected from their purpose. They know exactly what they were made to do. I can almost hear God whispering it on the wind that passes from this national park to our home in Seattle…

"Nature isn’t worried, because nature knows I will care. See the birds of the air, the lilies of the field? They know I am unchanging. They know their purpose. They are doing exactly what they are made to do. They are flourishing during this time. You can too."

It’s a beautiful whisper for our worried souls – He cares for us, no matter what. He can grow us, no matter what.

100 years before this pandemic shut down the world, a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We now understand God’s rest to be at the same time the rest for His creation.” Many of us are resting, for the first time in a long time, and so is the earth. We have finally stopped over working the land, sending pollution into the air. Instead there is an inhale – a pause, a breath, for only few weeks of time but nonetheless still a pause. 

"We now understand God’s rest to be at the same time the rest for His creation." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This pause is an invitation into freedom from worry, into the hands of a God who is in control, who already conquered sickness and death, and who cares even more for us than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

The Lord is my shepherd;
      I shall not want.

     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;

    your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
ou prepare a table before me

    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23 ESV

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