I call this watercolor painting, “Front Lines”. It portrays a cloud of coronavirus parasites as they start to engulf a healthcare professional. The individual, though, is protected by a subtle yellow glow, representing the indomitable spirit and the mental fortitude these brave soldiers have when facing the virus head-on.
I painted this several weeks ago when COVID first started its significant uptick in the US. News sources and social media feeds were suddenly inundated with the horrific stories of what it was like on the front lines for medical professionals. I read about sores on doctors’ faces from constant mask-wear, about providers living away from their families for weeks in order to protect them, about a 25 patient caseload per nurse in Detroit. I couldn’t believe how hard they were working, how much they were risking, for the benefit of all, and so I was inspired to paint my Front Lines piece.
Fast forward five weeks later and not much has changed, except that my heartache and worry has expanded to include many sectors beyond medical professionals. I’m realizing that there are many different front lines in this strangely silent war. We have the economic front lines, where people are forced to shut down beloved small businesses or find themselves furloughed, suffering through a gut-wrenching fear of an unknown economic future. The battle of staying home with kids, where parents are overwhelmed and overworked and children are disoriented, frustrated and confused. Or the front lines of loneliness, where the lack of human interaction combined with an unknown future are causing an unsettling increase in anxiety and depression.
The common thread amongst these scenarios is that they all require a certain mental stamina, an internal peace, to withstand the hardship. As the weeks drag on, it seems that that emotional fortitude has become harder and harder to come by. We are all going to need to dig deep and find it, though, for regardless of the decisions made by our governmental leaders, it seems that COVID and its long-term effects will not be going away in the near future.
Enter Jesus. It is through Him that we will find the power to withstand all kinds of suffering, to find that elusive peace in the face of adversity. Recall when Jesus calms the storm in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus fell asleep in a boat with his disciples after a long day of parable-teaching. A fierce storm came upon them and the disciples feared they would capsize and so they woke Jesus up, saying “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” He wakes up and tells the wind, “Peace! Be still!” and the wind obeys. And then He asks his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41).
Why are we afraid, when we know that anything is possible through Christ? He has the power to calm the most ferocious storm, and I think we need to take a moment to ponder this, lean on this. We need to remember that our omnipotent Christ can calm any storm, physical or mental. Important since the real battle that many of us face day to day is not necessarily the virus itself, but the turmoil inside. If you are feeling any type of despair, anxiety or fear, take a moment or two or three to stop moving, stop scrolling, stop thinking. Simply pray for Jesus’ intercession, for the grace of serenity, strength and joy amidst all this upheaval. It is easily in His power to provide that strength you need, He is just waiting to be woken up and asked.
Regardless of the front lines you are facing, remember: Peace. Be still. Don’t be afraid.