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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: October 16, 2021
By Judy Hoelzeman
St. Edward Church, Little Rock
Years ago, I saved a quote from the novel “Green Dolphin Street.” The main character, Marguerite, enters the convent after several heartaches in her life. She pours out her woes to the mother superior, hoping for sympathy. But Mother gives none.
Instead, she asks, “Because your parents have gone, because your earthly lover has failed you, you imagine that God has also withdrawn his presence?” When Marguerite says “Yes,” Mother answers with a sigh, “The way in which the human race perpetually insults Almighty God is quite deplorable.” In the last few months, I’ve started feeling like Marguerite — not quite abandoned, but anxious, fearful, sad and all too focused on myself and the COVID-19 pandemic. The feelings are not good, but they are understandable; our losses are real. But God has not abandoned us.
God’s words in the Scriptures are waiting to help us put things in perspective. Feelings of loss are predictable. The pandemic has upended cherished plans and traditions, some we thought we couldn’t live without. I never dreamed I would miss the funerals of my last two aunts, one aged 99 and hoping to make it to 100. Little things, big things, all missed. “I took for granted seeing … We never dreamed … I just assumed … We looked forward so much to ...” People all around the world are suffering tremendous losses of all kinds.
In Jeremiah 29:11- 12, God’s intention is clear. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not your woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope.” As we pray with this passage, we can ask God to help us see the good things, familiar things that he is giving us now, right alongside uncertainty
Though it may be hard to see, God does want good and happiness for us. At times like this, we must somehow be ready to look for happiness where God has put it, not necessarily where we have planned it. In Jeremiah 29:11- 12, God’s intention is clear. “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not your woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope.” As we pray with this passage, we can ask God to help us see the good things, familiar things that he is giving us now, right alongside the uncertainty and losses of the pandemic.
Other reactions to the pandemic are fear, anxiety and sadness. They have visited me like bad pennies, and they tend to feed on each other. These are natural responses to the pandemic, what we know about it and what we don’t. We start to believe it’s coming to an end, only to learn differently. People don’t act like we think they should (don’t take care of themselves, or don’t get vaccinated), and then anger jumps in too. The Bible is full of God’s promise to take care of us.
The verses listed below are short enough to memorize. Use them (or your own favorites) whenever you feel these strong, negative emotions coming on. Philippians 4:6, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything … make your requests known to God.” Psalm 46:11, “Be still and know that I am God.” 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” As we pray about the pandemic, God listens and lessens our pain. Our real growth, however, comes only when we let go and admit that we are powerless. Powerless over everything about the pandemic, except our reactions. God will have to do the rest. As always, prayer changes us, not God. Pray and know that Mother Superior was right: God has not withdrawn his presence.
Judy Hoelzeman is a member of St. Edward Church in Little Rock.