By HANNA BROADBRIDGE
We live in troubled times. We are confused, unsure of what is to come, frightened. Are we all living through a nightmare? Are we staring at an abyss of unimaginable proportions?
We see politicians, medical experts, economists admitting that they are driving on a road that is being asphalted as we are driving on it. We are on virgin territory and don’t know where we shall end up, or how long the road will be.
Did we ever imagine that the world would come to this? There have been political and academic murmurings about the likelihood of a new epidemic or even a pandemic, but these murmurings have not been taken seriously, let alone heeded.
Here in Denmark, as I write in the middle of March 2020, and as the stories and figures from Italy and elsewhere reach us, our government and the whole of the Danish parliament, irrespective of political party, have rallied round and informed the whole population of a mandatory lockdown of schools, all public offices and activities, even including the churches. All public employees have been sent home for at least two weeks with full pay. Schools and all other educational institutions, including libraries, have been closed. Courts, churches and other religious centers have been ordered to close — totally unprecedented except in a war situation. The only public (and some private) employees still expected to work are caregivers, hospital staff, the police, the military, and other critical job functions. This was all decided and happened on March 11 and 13, by which time all cross border traffic in Europe, except trucks carrying foods and industrial goods, was also brought to a halt. Danes abroad were told to come home as soon as possible, and air traffic has since then also been brought to a virtual standstill.
A variety of economic and financial support is being worked out by the politicians for the businesses and firms who have lost the normal activity and income. Eventually we shall all have to help these firms and companies when the problems are over, possibly through some extra tax, similar to the tax in Germany after the unification. The important thing for the Danish government is to have the businesses and firms ready to take up their normal activities with their expert staff raring to go when the situation improves.
On March 17, the Queen spoke to the nation (last time it happened was in 1945 at the end of the WWII when King Christian X spoke to the nation outside on New Year’s Eve) to urge us all to act and behave in accordance with the new rules and guidelines that have been issued, namely to protect ourselves, our families and friends and to make all the efforts possible to break the chain of infection and contagion. ”Anything else would be seen to be wanton. To show that we care for one another we have to be apart,” she said.
Streets are empty; parents have miraculously managed to get their young children looked after; and schools are teaching through the internet and other digital possibilities. Visiting family and friends, especially the ones who are housebound, has been banned. Everything is very quiet. Only the exuberant and soul-lifting sounds of the birds’ warbling in their enjoyment of the early spring sunshine break through the gloom and gray clouds.
However, disasters and grief have always happened, at a personal level, at a national level, and also at an international level. And we have come through them, found hope and comfort as well as new energy to deal with results and consequences.
In the winter of 1850-1851, Grundtvig had realized that his wife Lise was dying of the wear and tear of life, worry and work, and he was feeling sad and low. He started to write one of his best-loved hymns: “If you are feeling low, dear friend,” (’Er du modfalden, kære ven’ DDS 655) as much to comfort himself, to lift his own spirits, and to tell himself that his and our lives are in the hands of God. But he couldn’t finish it until later that year, by which time he had married again, this time to Marie Toft. However, and perhaps somewhat strangely, the text was not printed until it was sung at his funeral on Sept 11, 1872, and afterwards published in his Song-Work for the Danish Church.
Grundtvig was fully aware of the brutality and at times meaninglessness of life, what with his two sons participating in the war that Denmark had fought with Germany from 1848-1850, the political worries in Denmark, and the tensions in Europe, as well as his family leaving home and thus him and his wife to deal with their frailties. However, he would not let his faith be troubled, because he saw faith, hope, and love stretched out under us as baptized persons like a safety net of angels. As adult believers, he said, we can rely on our childhood baptism and childhood prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. This will always inspire us to be assured in our hope and firm belief that we shall overcome this too.
God’s message of trust in Him is relevant in major as well as minor catastrophes. We are told not to despair, but to look to God’s care for us, and then to look at the world at large, full of signs of God’s love. No war has been won by those who opposed God and his love. There are multitudes of angels to help us through our daily lives. No storm is too big for God to conquer, and we shall all find peace and comfort in God’s right hand, caressed by his angels. God’s spirit and love will see us through the darkness and lift our sadness. Our faith that stems from our baptism protects us and inspires us to hope – a hope that is always sustained by God’s love and spirit.