The first time I experienced empty store shelves was after the Ice Storm in 1998. We were living in Montreal at the time when the entire power grid went off-line after the collapse of scores of massive hydro towers. I remember going into a Canadian Tire store looking for lamp oil and flashlight batteries. This happened just after Christmas so the store was still decorated and shelves were full of toys, cooking ware and appliances for sale. But the section of the store where you would normally find camping gear, batteries and lamp oil was desolate. The shelves were stripped bare. It was an eerie experience.
I think during this present crisis caused by COVID-19 many of us have had similar experiences. Who among us hasn’t been in COSTCO or No-Frills lately and found the toilet paper isle as cleaned-out as a whistle? Meat, frozen peas, pasta sauces – all rare items these days. We’re having to come to terms with a new phenomenon – scarcity.
For some of us, it’s much more serious that than. Some of you saw your last paycheque several weeks ago and have had to scramble to pay April’s rent. Not sure how you'll make ends meet in May. Some are seeing pantry shelves begin to empty and wonder how on earth they'll be replenished. Adding anxiety to this whole scene is the fact that none of us can really say how much longer this situation is going to last. When will we ever get back to normal? Will we ever get back to normal?
I came across a verse in Scripture the other day that I found encouraging as I pondered this. It’s Psalm 33:18-19, which says:
“The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.”
That word, “famine” struck me. It’s a word that means extreme scarcity. There was nothing more terrifying to the ancient Hebrews and their neighbours than famine. The area of Palestine was quite arid, with little standing water available – so they were totally dependent upon the seasonal rains for their food supply. When the rains didn’t come, it meant they were only a season or two away from going hungry.
Some of us are that afraid in this season of increased scarcity. We are experiencing food scarcity, income scarcity, companionship scarcity, maybe even time scarcity! It can feel like we’ve entered a season of famine. But remember, the psalmist tells us that God is able to keep us alive in such a season! The psalm continues:
“We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.”
Famine is scary. Terrifying really. But for this we have God and we put our trust in Him. He is able to keep us alive through this season of scarcity, whatever that looks like for us. He is able to look after us and be our help. His love for us is unfailing and we can rest in Him. So during this season, let’s not just hunker down and try to wait it out. Let’s rise to the occasion, by faith. Let’s show others what it looks like to put our trust in the Lord, even when we’re hungry.