Governor Jim Justice has called for this to be a Day of Prayer in West Virginia, as our citizens adjust to life under the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic fallout.

“We should be looking to God every day,” said Justice, who is a devout Christian. “We surely to goodness want to look to God to pull us through this terrible situation that we’re going through right now,” he said on Talkline yesterday.

West Virginia is a deeply religious state. According to Pew Research, 78 percent of West Virginians identify themselves as Christian and half of those are Evangelical Protestants.

Folks here know their Bible and they know hard times so they’re used to turning to faith during adversity.

There is a popular verse in the Book of Isaiah that says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.”  And in Romans you will find the quote, “The pain that you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

Not all West Virginians are Christian, of course.

Jews like to tell the story of Jeremiah in the Hebrew Bible.  The great prophet saw the destruction of Jerusalem and was persecuted.  But at his darkest moment he bought a piece of land as instructed by God even as enemies descended on the city, demonstrating his faith in God’s guidance. As Jeremiah learned, it is not always easy to do the right thing.

Hindus have a simple but eloquent proverb that provides guidance. “If you are noble, you will find a noble world.”

We are tempted during adversity to act selfishly or justify immoral behavior.  However, if we can, in the face of these challenges, maintain our moral compass then we will have made our world a better place.

Muslims find strength in the guidance of Allah.  The website IqraSense.com provides insights about the Quran.  “One of the best remedies for tough times is to be patient,” it says.  “A state of patience requires that we not resort to complaining, and remember Allah often.”

While this is a Day of Prayer, one does not have to be a person of faith to do good.  I found a list of “10 Commandments for Atheists” (or “non-commandments” as some like to call them.) Number eight says, “We act morally when the happiness of others makes us happy.”  Number nine says “We benefit from living in, and supporting, an ethical society.”

Just those two suggest guidance for a happy, compassionate and empathetic life—qualities that come in handy during hardship when we need to be responsible and help each other.

While these faiths—and non-faiths—vary widely, I find some commonalty; Suffering and adversity are universal, but so are wisdom, empathy and the belief that we can persevere during difficult times.

 

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