Don't Be Afraid of Difficulties in 2023
COVID brings dreadful 2020 deja vu emotions for many. No one wants to be on lockdown again, and some people will flat out refuse to follow local health mandates as many cities, including Boston, New York and Chicago, are urging people to wear masks in public settings. There are ongoing bitter disputes in California school districts with some students vehemently objecting to wearing masks, which is causing a rift in relationships with peers and teachers. Personally, I have never stopped wearing a mask since the onset of COVID. Just from following updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is clear that the pandemic has never left. The omicron variant overtook the delta variant in 2021, and now we are dealing with the omicron subvariant XBB, which heavily spread through the northeastern part of the country during the beginning of the holiday season.
While home visiting my mother for Christmas in Georgia, I noticed bare shelves in a section of the meat department at a locally owned grocery store. Anyone wanting to buy bacon that day was out of luck. I took out my phone and snapped a picture as a man looked at me with some bewilderment for doing so but seemed content that there was a nice supply of packaged ham. In the produce area there was a handwritten poster advising shoppers to get their collard greens early because the store anticipated this Southern vegetable staple not being available within the next few weeks. As a native Georgian, I can verify that having no collard greens for New Year's dinner would be a huge disappointment. On a national level, other foods such as butter, eggs, bread, beef and flour are expected to be more difficult to find in coming months. Our farmers are still being affected by the global fertilizer crisis due to the long-term Russian conflict in Ukraine. All of this is pointing to food prices continuing to increase, as demand will soar while supplies are low. Paying more for food will cause many Americans to decrease spending on other things, resulting in the constant economic predictions of a recession greeting us in 2023.
This pervasive "handwriting on the wall" type of gloom in the news is sure to incite some fear and worry for the new year, and as I've thought about the challenges ahead, what particularly stands out to me is that this is the first time in my life where I am witnessing scarcity and health dangers of this magnitude. I remember the 1990 recession as a college student, but the circumstances back then were very different. There was an increase in gas prices due to the Gulf War, but shelves were not empty at grocery stores. As the early '90s progressed, we did have influenza outbreaks and our normal winter battles with colds, but our health was not collectively threatened on the worldwide scale as it is today.
As I am blessed to have the means for food, shelter and health insurance, I am entering 2023 with a grateful heart to continue trusting in God's provision for all of my needs. One of my mother's favorite scriptures is Psalm 37:25, which says, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." I like to pair this verse with Luke 12:27-28 where Jesus speaks of His Father's steady oversight of nature, explaining to the multitudes that God daily clothes the grass, so "how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?" One of the Greek translations for "clothe" is to "invest." So, knowing that God is invested in me gives me the strength and hope that I can handle whatever comes in the new year with Him. There will certainly be obstacles in 2023, but I'm determined not to give into fear when facing them.