Suffering and Thankfulness in the Year of COVID-19
In Matthew 6:19-21, we are reminded that, as Christians, our hopes and joys must be otherworldly in nature: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
This is especially poignant in a year where basic human joys have been denied…even the joys of Thanksgiving.
Dr. Anthony Fauci disheartened many Americans when he announced mid-October that “You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected.” 
Since that time, more and more states have urged people not to travel and, if they do, to exercise extreme precaution. This culminated in Colorado Governor Jared Polis stating: “The more family members that make that decision to self-quarantine, the more likely it is that you're not really bringing a loaded pistol for grandma's head.” 
A statement like this from an otherwise milquetoast politician would have been unthinkable a short nine months ago. Indeed, it feels as though decades have passed in less than a year.
Black or white, male or female, Democrat or Republican, all of us are eager for the troubles of this year to pass away with the New Year.
To paraphrase Dr. Orla Muldoon, the world is experiencing collective psychological trauma because of isolation and the perceived, constant, threat of death from the spread of COVID-19.  This is a phenomenon that is, in fact, worsened by the fact that we have collectively agreed to consider it traumatic. 
It is a defining year in everyone’s life. Much like Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and 9/11, everyone who remembers 2020 will have a story about where they were and what they were doing through the pandemic. That does not mean we must bow at the altar of fear.
Many people talk as though this year has been beyond the limits of what human beings should have to endure, however, we flatter ourselves. Our misery is not unique. If one wants proof, they could merely refute the claim that 2020 is the “worst year ever” by considering the black plague that swept through Europe in 541 AD in the midst of a mini-ice age.  The black plague was far deadlier to the world than the impacts of COVID-19, which has a much lower mortality rate.
In this sense, we must consider ourselves lucky. Truly, this year could still be far worse.
Suffering and pain should not surprise us, especially as Christians. We know from Genesis 3:17-19 that our lives in a world fallen from grace will be filled with misery, as the Lord says: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life… until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
The world may seem as though it has turned topsy turvy, visiting Grandma is considered dangerous and locking oneself away has become a noble deed. Nonetheless, the one constant is that God’s grace will preserve us through whatever is to come. As it says in Romans 3-4 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
It does not feel as though there is much for which we can be thankful, however, there is one thing for which we can and should always be grateful, even in a year that has fallen far from hoped-for expectations: the love of Christ which was so great as to endure the sufferings of the cross so that we might have the hope of salvation.
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 Yaron Steinbuch, “Dr. Fauci suggests canceling Thanksgiving gatherings amid COVID uptick,” New York Post (October 15, 2020), https://nypost.com/2020/10/15/fauci-warns-that-americans-may-need-to-cancel-thanksgiving/
 “Video: Polis Urges Coloradans To Be Careful This Thanksgiving And Not Bring ‘A Loaded Pistol For Grandma’s Head’,” CPR (November 13, 2020), https://www.cpr.org/2020/11/13/watch-video-polis-colorado-coronavirus-update-43/
 Orla Muldoon, “Collective Trauma Amid COVID: Excerpt from ‘Together Apart’,” Social Science Space (July 2020), https://www.socialsciencespace.com/2020/07/collective-trauma-amid-covid-excerpt-from-together-apart/
 Orla Muldoon, et al., “The social psychology of responses to trauma: social identity pathways associated with divergent traumatic responses,” European Review of Social Psychology (October 2018), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10463283.2020.1711628
 Harry Cockburn, “Plague and climate crisis behind ‘significant economic downturn’ for wine-growers in mid-6th century, archaeologists reveal,” Independent UK (July 27, 2020), https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/byzantine-empire-black-death-climate-israel-wine-economy-negev-desert-a9640656.html