Ebola, Compassion, and Trust

November 2, 2015

Last year, the United States was invaded by the worst kind of enemy possible: the Ebola virus. The mere mention of this deadly disease brings me to a point of horror far beyond anything I can record.

Up until then, Ebola had been to me what so many other worldly tragedies have been: something unfortunate that was happening somewhere else in the world. A horror sad, but unreal to me. And though moved by compassion for those suffering, little else occurred inside of me. I’d lift up a feeble prayer, but my heart wasn’t truly pricked. I would sympathize without empathizing.

I find that part of myself rather disgusting. The part that can look at the world’s filth and slyly dismiss it if it isn’t happening in my own living room. The part that heard that somewhere in Rwanda something bad was happening and said, “Oh, that’s too bad,” while 800,000 people were being mercilessly hacked with machetes. The part that knows that there are people in Africa, Asia, South America who won’t eat for DAYS due to lack of food or lack of money, but I still throw out the ALMOST expired milk.

My heart aches for the trials and tribulations around the world. Inside, I cry for the little girls who don’t stand a chance at a free life, and I curse those who stop it from happening. I hate having plenty when so many are in want. And I am terrified by the areas that suffer war day in and day out, not imagining how they can DARE to survive each day.

Yet, my reaction to their plight only goes so far. I am easily distracted by the to-do’s of my daily life. Whether by purposeful or accidental distraction, my mind doesn’t linger long on the wounds of others.

There have been those moments when my heartstrings were pulled hard enough to make me stop in my tracks and rocked my world, leaving a small hole in my heart for those suffering.

Why isn’t it a huge, gaping hole?

Then tragedy hit stateside: Hurricane Katrina. All of a sudden, destruction came to life as I watched the town in which I lived flooded by the hand of God and the negligence of man. The horrors of faraway countries came knocking on my door.

The hole in my heart grew much deeper; much larger. And all because the tragedy that others were experiencing everyday hit me in the face.

And recently, Ebola; up until now, a horrible, life-taking disease isolated to a remote and foreign land. “Aww, those poor people.” Small hole.

But the news of a living, breathing death working its way into our country, into our lives, ripped a hole in my heart far larger than Hurricane Katrina ever did. Katrina was isolated: the Gulf Coast. Yes, we lost our home, but Hubby and I were ok. We had resources.

Katrina was isolated, and carried with it a whirlwind of blessing on the other side.

Ebola carries neither.

It is not isolated, nor does it bring blessing. It brings death. And a death, I readily admit, of which I am very, very afraid.

You see, I am TERRIFIED (phobic) of viral disease. Up until now, my irrational fear has been focused on stupid, idiotic bugs that come and go swiftly; tummy bugs in particular.

And then God brought Ebola.

Not over in 24 hours.

A monster with talons big and deep enough to take those I love, or myself, away from this earth. When asked, “what’s the worst that could happen?” When I think of the “worst that could happen,” I look at my kitchen table and see empty chairs where my beating heart used to sit breathing. I can visually see empty pockets in our family portrait like the spaces left by a tooth fairy’s reward. Even as I write, I feel a cave forming inside my chest as all my insides dribble down to my toes.

The Bible tells us repeatedly, “do not be afraid; what can man do to me?”

I’ve rarely been afraid of man. Of ridicule, yes, but of harm; no. I see man as man; same as I. I’m not afraid of that.

Ebola has been allowed on this earth by God; not by man. Now, I’m afraid. Katrina came by the hand of God; again, afraid.

Which leads me to a strange, dichotomous place: how can I be afraid of the Almighty God and yet trust Him so very completely? To know that nothing can or will happen outside of His “ok”? How can I, in my heart of hearts, believe His will to be the best for me when it sometimes feels like the very worst thing possible?

I’ll be honest: I have no idea.

But trust Him, I do. And afraid as I may be, I choose to have my “mind set on what the Spirit desires” so that I may attain “life and peace” (Rom 8:5). The only alternative is to have my mind set on “what the flesh desires.” Doing so “leads to death” (Rom 8:5-6). The death of an active, vital life. The death of being present. The death of joy, and the death of peace.

God knows what He is doing. Somehow or another, I believe that. And I also believe that He really does have a reason for it all. I don’t always agree with His reasoning, but then again, I’m not Him.

All I can do is pray. Pray for our country, our citizens, my family.

And maybe, just maybe, this will help me realize that when things happen “in a faraway land,” it is just as awful as if it happened in my own home.