The Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 has been with us here in Arkansas for one year. It has wreaked havoc on thousands of lives, taking loved ones from families from across our state. Much sadness has been left in its trail.
Hundreds have lost their jobs, causing tremendous difficulty for so many families. As of this writing, 5,343 Arkansans have lost their lives because of this dread pandemic. Schools and institutions of higher learning have been affected. Many children have not been in a classroom with their friends in over a year, and many of those students have become greatly depressed as a result. College and university sports have been relegated to playing before cardboard cutouts and empty gymnasiums. Many schools canceled their athletic events altogether.
Fear, anger, frustration and indignation have been experienced by citizens from every walk of life. The medical professionals, first responders and government leaders have found themselves working tirelessly to improve conditions for our state, all the while being insulted and ridiculed because of the very things I just mentioned. It’s been a time of sadness for one long year.
Far too many families have been prevented from being with their loved ones in nursing homes, hospitals and hospice facilities — never being able to say goodbye to those who died because of COVID-19. Such heartbreaking sadness!
But adaptation has also been evident. Who would have ever thought one could walk into a grocery, a home improvement store or a medical clinic wearing a mask? What seemed foolish a year ago has now become the norm. School children sit apart from their classmates and, along with their teachers, wear their masks from the start of the school day until it’s time to go home. Our educators need to be commended for making learning a good experience despite the difficulties that it takes to teach under the circumstances.
Yet, according to Governor Asa Hutchinson there is a light at the end of the tunnel! By the end of this month, if statistics continue the way they are going, we will be seeing sadness turn to gladness.
It has been a difficult year for us who worship the Lord. Churches shut down almost immediately in March of 2020 but thank the Lord for technology. Media forms like Zoom, GoToMeeting and Facebook Live have enabled believers to see and hear from their worship teams, Sunday School teachers and pastors week after week. Although attendance was limited, social distancing was practiced and masks were worn, having only Sunday morning services became the norm this past year. Churches that have always had Sunday evening services and midweek meals and Bible studies, found themselves again either having no services or watching via the media that I previously mentioned. While some of this was very good, it also produced feelings of sadness because believers could not interact with one another in the houses of worship.
Recently, our Governor stated that now the state is no longer under mandate, but guidelines (not quite as strict.) He said that if hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases continued as they are now, the mask mandate will be taken away. While some might balk at such an idea, no one has to stop wearing the mask if they feel uncomfortable. Venues, including churches, will not be relegated to only a small percentage being able to attend. Singing, praying, giving and preaching will once again return to “the new normal” in Arkansas churches.
As I have conversed with believers this past week, excitement is beginning to mount. Even this past Sunday, I received reports from churches that attendance was the best it has been in many months. This is due to many senior saints having received the vaccine combating COVID-19. They feel good about returning to worship with brothers and sisters in Christ. Little by little, we are seeing sadness turn to gladness.
I have pondered this scripture often in recent days: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psa. 122:1).
I am looking forward to seeing more and more people return to worshiping together in their churches, to join their hearts and voices in praise and to fellowship with each other. That is when we know God is turning sadness into gladness.