by Ronel Oberholzer and Dr. Lizette Mobey
Joshua 3:13 “When the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD—the Lord of all the earth—touch down in the waters of the Jordan, its flowing waters will be cut off and will stand up in a heap.”
Living within the reality of “overwhelmedness.”
The ongoing pandemic has not only led to a rise in people experiencing increased symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and depression. Still, it has also led to an explosion of new words, phrases and terms trying to describe this myriad of feelings we are experiencing. Yet, the words of Dante describes it best: “Gladly the dreads I felt, too dire to tell, The hopeless, pathless, lightless hours forgot, I turn my tale to that which next befell, When the dawn opened, and the night was not.”
One of these new terms is “COVID burn-out”. This term tempts to describe the feeling of weariness and “overwhelmedness” we are experiencing from the ongoing pandemic measures and the constant cycle of bad news. We were not only forced to change our lifestyle and plans in light of a situation beyond our control, but it now seems that the situation is here to stay for quite some time. Coupled with the apparent impact on regular routines is a sense of impending doom as more people closer to us get infected. Also, religious debates on “Why is this happening?”; “who is to blame?”, and “where is God in this pandemic?” contribute to these feelings of fearing that something terrible is about to occur. There seems to be no clear answer to questions mentioned above, which adds to the sense of impending doom.
What is a sense of impending doom?
A sense of impending doom is a feeling of knowing that something life-threatening or tragic is about to occur even though there might not be an apparent danger[–2]. Indeed being amid a pandemic not only presents a definite threat but accentuates the fear of death. The feeling of impending doom can occur suddenly and wash over us at any time and anywhere, or it can form part of our usual sense of life’s challenges.
This sensation usually gives rise to powerful feelings of fear and anxiety. This reaction can be attributed to the body’s stress response. In short being anxious (worried, apprehensive, fretful, fearful and powerless) causes the body to secrete stress hormones into the bloodstream stimulating the fear centre of the brain which in turn causes the body to go into hyper-alert looking for danger and signals the body that danger is present. Ongoing stress feeds into constant fear, which in turn fuels the overwhelming sense of impending doom and gloom. This prolonged state eventually adds to so-called “burn-out.” Increasing self-awareness, emotional intelligence and self-care is proposed continuously to help deal with the feelings resulting from the current situation. Also, noticing, naming and classifying our emotions bridges the gap between our thoughts and emotions and makes us feel more in control and less isolated in our feelings. However, the question now arises on how we, as Christians, should view this sense of impending doom?
We propose to DARE! – To “dare” is to have the courage to do something. Let us look at the different parts of the acronym “DARE” within the context of our scripture Joshua 3:13 and against the backdrop of impending doom.
D: “Debunk”: “To expose the false feeling that something bad is going to happen”.
The Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness, facing hardships of deprivation, threats, and profound anxiety. They now stand on the banks of the Jordan, full of expectation to step into God’s promises. Think a moment about their situation. Their leader out of slavery have died, a new leader is appointed – will he be able to rise to the occasion?. They can see the promised land, but first, there is a considerable obstacle that they cannot overcome. A generation has died, a new generation has risen, the new is in front – but ahead of the new, there is a massive obstacle in the form of a raging river. The threat is real; impending doom: Should they turn back and stay in the desert, which by now has become their “safe and known space” or move forward into the unknown and quite possibly drown? This situation so reminds us of our current situation.
Back to Joshua. Joshua debunks the perceived threat by reframing the threat. He does not send his army or engineers first. Instead, he sends the priests who carried the ark of the covenant, which was the visible representation of God’s presence
. Joshua understood this was a spiritual challenge, not a feat of human strength engineering. Joshua followed the spiritual principle given to us in Zechariah 4:6 So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts’”.
Today we choose to:
Debunk the feeling of impending doom by making a choice, no treat perceived or otherwise is more prominent than God. The Psalmist writes Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word. It is an unspeakable comfort to a gracious soul, to think with what tenderness all its complaints are received by a gracious God”.
A: “Acknowledge”: “Accept or admit the truth”.
There is no one as blind as the person who did not want to see. Negative emotions generated by perceived threats – losses experienced due to the pandemic does not go away by magic. By admitting that the problem that they were facing were spiritual, Joshua indirectly admitted his and the Israelites inability to do something about the situation. This inability gave God the opening to fully step into the situation and take charge. It brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “when I am weak; I am strong.”
We tend to rely upon our human strength when our lives are running smoothly. However, when we face difficulties and threats, we feel weak. It is in these times that we can acknowledge God and rely on His strength. By relying upon Christ’s mighty power instead of upon our inadequate strength, we are powerful.
Today we choose to:
- Admit those negative emotions.
- Put my emotions into a prayer.
- Choose to leave it in the hands of God.
R: “Reach out”: “Take the first step in faith”.
The priest had to set foot in the Jordan before the water stopped and heaped up. They had to “reach out” in faith. They did not wait for the water to finish but had to step into the raging water. Only then did God stop the flow of the Jordan River and the Israelites could cross on dry ground. By daring the miracle happened!
Today we choose to:
- Change my focus.
- Be realistic about the news we receive.
- Begin to practice gratitude.
E: “Encouraged”: “To have hope”.
The priests were carrying the ark, symbolising God’s presence. For us, Jesus is our hope and encouragement as his name Immanuel means “God with us”. He is ever-present and has already cleared or the way to victory. As we keep our eyes on Him and follow Him, He clears our way through the raging river.
Today we chose to:
- Encourage another.
- Lift my head and focus on being present.
- Remove negativity from my life.
- Praise God.
DARE to step forward.
In conclusion, find comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone in your experience. Having a sense om impending doom is typical in an uncertain situation like today. Even the Israelites, having experienced God’s miracles throughout their 40-year journey felt a sense of doom as they stood before the raging Jordan, waiting to cross into new uncharted land. However, God was ever-present, and likewise, He promises to go before us just like He encouraged Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
So DARE to take to step into the raging river!