One of my many roles as “Dad” in our home is to remove the occasional splinter. As a former cabinetmaker, I have experience in removing them from my own hands, so the job falls to me to remove splinters from my children. For those of you who have never had to help a child remove a splinter, let me say that there is no way to do it painlessly. I remember getting a splinter in my chest from a seesaw when I was in kindergarten, and I absolutely refused my needle-wielding mother from removing it. I have a few rules of splinter-removing, one of which is: “Don’t watch!” Another is: “This is going to hurt.” Yes, I fully admit that I am willing to intentionally hurt my child. Why? Because hurt has already come, and so it takes hurt to make things better. To leave the splinter in could lead to more hurt in the future, in the form of infections.
Right now, we are facing a world-wide crisis in the form of COVID-19. Hurt has already come, and many are dying. If drastic measures are not taken, it will not be thousands of Americans that die, but millions. We have no choice but to take some action, if we are going to save lives. The government has encouraged hand-washing and social distancing in order to slow the rate of infection. Part of that “social distancing” is the order to close businesses, churches, and places of socialization. This has made life difficult for some. For extroverts, it has been hard to stay away from other people, when normally they thrive on personal interaction. For those who are slightly claustrophobic, it has been hard to confine themselves to home or their property. While trips to the store have been limited, some are no doubt taking the same number of trips, just for something to do.
Others, when they go to the store, have been stocking up on items they feel they will need. Most famously, toilet paper has been bought up in large amounts, as well as food stores. It’s understandable why people feel like they need to be prepared, as we don’t know what the future will hold when it comes to staying at home. But the hoarding up of goods has created another problem: some have not had the goods they need. Some who need toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer or rice for normal use have not been able to buy what they need because others have stockpiled at home. Some, like emergency workers, who need masks and gloves have not been able to get them because others have amassed a collection at home. One person’s solution to the COVID-19 has created problems for others.
I understand the desire to be ready and to try to mitigate the hurt that the quarantine has brought. But I want to say: This is going to hurt. There is no way around the fact that we are going to have to go without, and that life will look different when/if this is all over. It’s natural to want to try to minimize the hurt we experience, but it is impossible to completely neutralize it. And some, in their intense desire to experience no pain or change from this crisis, have cause hurt in the lives of others. I want to encourage you, despite your inclination otherwise, to embrace the pain and hurt that this situation brings. Risk being without so that someone else can have. Don’t think only of yourself, but think of others at this time. Romans 12:3 encourages everyone “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly.” He encourages in Philippians 2:4 “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
I know you want to be out where other people are. This is going to hurt, but stay home and opt instead to interact electronically. I know you want to be prepared so that you won’t have to go hungry or without essentials. This is going to hurt, but buy only what you need, and use the extra you might get to be a blessing and help to someone else. I know you want life to be normal again, and you feel like you are going crazy at home, especially those who are having to spend more time with kids. This is going to hurt, but do what you can to stay indoors and invest in your family.
During World War II, the government instituted rations and changed factory production. Everyone endured pain so that the enemy could be defeated. To say, “I won’t go through pain! Let everyone bear the brunt of it!” was considered not only selfish, but immoral. Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding pain, inconvenience, and annoyance, simply because you want to avoid hurt. This is going to hurt. Bear it up, be thankful you aren’t on the front lines of this (and thank you to those who are confronting the virus head-on), and endure some pain.
I think of what Jesus did for us. It would have been easy to see us in our sin, destined for punishment and apart from God, and for Him to say, “But I don’t want to suffer so that they can be saved!” It would have been easy for Him to remain in heaven. Yet Christ came to this earth, suffered in life, and suffered in death so that we could have eternal life. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” He died on the cross, bearing our sin, so that we could benefit. He knew full well the pain. You can almost hear the Father and Spirit say, “This is going to hurt,” but so that He could save us, endured crucifixion, so that we, by faith, can receive Him as Saviour.
This is going to hurt, but it will be better in the end.