John Barry has authored The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. He’s often asked to compare the 1918 flu pandemic with the ongoing coronavirus wave. Barry notes that while the flu pandemic caused many more deaths, the current contagion is longer-lasting with no end in sight. Most of us feel frustrated and depressed because we thought the worst would be over by now.
Generations ago, Americans had less faith that science and medicine would provide quick fixes to human suffering. But, as medical historian Howard Markel points out, we now live in an “instant society” impatient with the search for solutions. Many people seem recklessly anxious for things to get back to “normal,” neglecting even the most basic health precautions. Let him who follows every protocol be first to cast a stone!
Amid our restlessness and impatience, we hear Christ calling us to live a day at a time. “Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” says Jesus. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Perhaps our current predicament will pry us loose from the grip of the future and teach us the delight of today. That’s one thing all of us can pray for, while seeking God’s Kingdom 24 hours at a time.
We are living through an unexpected season in which the rhythms of life are disrupted. None of us knows how long this will last. But faith and history assure us we will get through to the end, just as other generations have done before us. Until then, we can attend faithfully to the present, live confident of God’s tomorrow, and say again at every dawn, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”