Nearly three weeks ago, the whole of New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown for the first time since March 2020. For most of 2020 and 2021, between coming out of our first lockdown and entering the most recent one, life was pretty normal for me, except that the country’s borders were largely shut. The current outbreak has been largely confined to Auckland and, as long as nothing dramatic changes before then, we are due to drop from our current alert level 3 to alert level 2 in a couple of days (I don’t live in Auckland). Even as the people I know in New Zealand but outside Auckland prepare to return to more normality, the number of stories I am hearing from people outside New Zealand of loved ones who are sick and dying of COVID seems to be increasing. Alongside this, a number of friends who live outside New Zealand have started to talk about the deep mental and emotional trauma they have experienced as a result of this pandemic.
Masks, lockdowns, vaccines and other measures can all have a place in protecting people from sickness and death from COVID but none are infallible. And even without COVID, we can never be fully insulated from sickness, accidents and death in other forms. The pandemic has made my mortality more conscious in my own mind, but has not changed the fact of it which was always there. As my Facebook feed of largely outside-New-Zealand friends has been filled with the reality of living with COVID in the community and as I have heard of yet another person sick or dying I have found hope, not in people’s attempts to stay ahead of the virus, but in God who is constant and doesn’t change.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains tremble at its swelling….
….The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalm 46: 1-3 & 7