By Richard Gammill
Special to The PREVIEW
As the year 2020 grinds to a close, it is tempting to roll up our sleeves, take the long-awaited vaccination shot and try to forget this terrible year.
Can we find peace only by forgetting or is there a way to be at peace within our self even while we live through these fearful events? Does peace require escape or can we embrace the realities of life and be at rest in our soul?
My wife’s uncle died 25 years ago, “full of years,” in the biblical phrase. He had farmed all his life in Clackamas County, Ore., and was buried in a pioneer cemetery. Near his burial site, I found the grave site of his sister, who had died in 1918 as an infant. That was the first time I ever heard of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. I later learned that tragic event infected nearly 500 million people worldwide, almost one-third of the world’s population at that time, and took more than 25 million lives.
Despite the deadly scope of the disease, President Woodrow Wilson rarely made public references to the peril it posed. Newspapers gave no daily updates of the rate of infection or the death count. Those infected received treatments, people buried their dead and local officials cautiously imposed some protective measures, wanting to prevent panic as World War I came to a close.
As mysteriously as it came, the spread of the deadly flu ended in December 1920. Before long, it faded from national memory.
How could we ever forget 2020? This awful year has not only brought COVID-19, but also an extended hurricane season, devastating forest fires that destroyed hundreds of homes, violent racial demonstrations, huge economic losses — all while our leaders dither and divide.
A promising answer is in the biblical Book of Psalms.
Psalm 42 records such a time in the life of King David. His soul is in agony, vacillating between a deep longing for God and moments of deep despair. Verse one: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Then, in verse five, the agony of the present moment crashes upon him: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”
This psalm, like many others, shows that we don’t have to turn our back on reality and deny the existence of some bad things in order to maintain an intimate faith in God. He can bring peace to our heart in the midst of the storm. Nor does the present painful moment deny the mighty presence of God. The psalm ends with an admonition: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”