From fear to faith
(The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2020 - 12:00am

I am 64 years old and I am afraid. It seems that the virus has a strange way of targeting those who avail themselves of discounts. I will gladly return all past discounts and waive future privileges, if only that will make COVID go away.

As I write this, I am nursing what feels like a slight fever. My bones ache and my mouth is dry. I kept sniffing the ginger and the garlic I am cooking just to be certain my sense of smell is still working. Getting locked down has caused stress, uncertainty, boredom, fear, and yes, anger.

I have learned to embrace my feelings. 

First, I acknowledge that fear is normal. When I hear how patients are left dying in the hospital and families could not even get near them, who would not feel afraid? I give myself a few hours to be afraid, angry, or upset. I rant – talk to friends, post my frustrations on FB.

I have friends I consider “fear companions,” with whom I can open up and pray.  I have also learned to approach God to freely express my fear, anger, anxiety, stress, and helplessness. Even King David, the mighty warrior who killed Goliath and defeated powerful nations felt fear – “Fear and trembling come upon me…. Horror overwhelms me,” Psalm 55: 4–8.

God has gradually turned my fears and worries to humble faith. Courage to face the day has replaced my paralyzing fears.

I also discipline myself to identify reasons to be thankful: the food in the refrigerator, the internet, the 99.9 bacterial soap, running water, my family, and friends.   I also appreciate the trees, the sky, and the birds that wake me up every day with their cheerful noise.

Then, I turn to Psalm 46 for assurance. I have embraced God as my shelter, my strength, and my supporter.

God is my Shelter, my Silungan. When it suddenly rains, we run to a shelter to protect us from the harsh elements.  In countries, where it is common to have a hurricane or tornado, the people can run to an underground shelter to protect themselves. I am learning that under any shelter, it will be foolish if I put only half my body. I can only be safe if I put my whole self under that shelter.  

God is my Strength, my Kalakasan.  In the beginning, I thought it would be easy. I could read books and watch my favorites in Netflix. I started strong. But as the days and weeks went by, I felt frail and easily irritated. The daily news of cases and deaths and abuses of politicians have worn me down. Social media could have also contributed to my weakening.  So I also claim mental, emotional and spiritual strength.  

God is my Supporter or Kasambahay.  A kasambahay lightens our load. Kasama sa bahay.  Madaling matalo kung wala tayong katuwang.  We can grow weary and tired. When we ask for help, God will not say, “Wait, time out. I am still on 14-day quarantine!”  No, God is our ever-present help in trouble!  I remember a favorite verse: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Finally, in verse 10, Be still and know that I am God. How can I be still when I cannot even condole with our neighbor whose father just passed? How can I be still when doctors are dying? How can I be still when locked-down poor communities are getting hungrier by the day? How can I be still when power and influence are abused? But this verse is as clear – Be still and behold the greatness of God. I remember when my children were young and they cry when they are hurt, I tell them, “Tahan na, anak. Nandito na si Nanay. Kalma lang.”

So I cry all my complaints to God.  Parang isang anak na nagsusumbong sa kanyang magulang. Then, in a loving way, I feel God asking me to give Him space in my heart. Tahan na, Nor. Tahan na.  Nandito pa din ako. 

*      *      *

Nor Gonzales is a communication specialist, a member of the Christian Writers Fellowship and contributor to the book, Passion and Power, published by OMF Literature.     - Leonora Aquino-Gonzales       

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