Thinking about the COVID situation as traumatic . . . it does tick the two major boxes of ‘danger’ and ‘helplessness’. This virus is dangerous and, because it is invisible and we don’t know who might have it even without symptoms, we feel helpless.
So . . . it is not surprising if we respond with ‘fight’, ‘flight’ and ‘freeze’.
The virologists and the health care people are ‘fighting’ – they actually have some thing they can do to fight this beast. And lots of people have ways of fighting for their families, for their work, for justice etc. Tragically, some are taking the opportunity to fight for more power or money or fame for themselves. Some, who have lost their livings, are fighting for their very survival. I wonder how many have been pointlessly and destructively fighting the people with whom they have been ‘locked down’? When we can’t fight the real danger, we may just fight whoever is in front of us.
‘Flight’ – that includes people who are simply denying the danger, but also flights into virtual worlds and addictive behaviours. There are more positive flights into the beauty of nature and the creativity of cooking – turning from the reality of the danger to the reality of God’s good creation. But there is also the ultimate flight of suicide – the flight from a lockdown from which there feels like there is no escape.
And what about ‘freezing’? Perhaps this is not so easily observable, but I can see it in myself. As news comes in of the sudden deaths, as I see people I love in destructive ‘fight’ or ‘flight’, I can feel the shock and notice the inner ‘shut down’. How many of us have been through those days when we find it difficult to do anything constructive? And especially to do the creative work which we know is important? So may people who, like myself, should be writing, have found it very difficult to write anything . . Some seem to have given up on life itself.
How we need to see the God who fights all evil, who is the only safe refuge to whom we can fly, and who never ‘freezes’ because He is never helpless. We read Psalm 71 this morning:
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
5 For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
7 I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.