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Astronauts return from space but trip home is diverted by pandemic: Trusting the God who knows our pain

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Astronauts return from space but trip home is diverted by pandemic
US astronaut Jessica Meir waves shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-15 space capsule near Kazakh in Kazakhstan, on April 17, 2020.

NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir returned safely today from the International Space Station. A capsule carrying them and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka touched down in Kazakhstan as scheduled.

However, all of Kazakhstan’s provinces are in coronavirus lockdown. As a result, search and rescue teams could not set up base in the area where the capsule landed. So the US astronauts will have to drive 186 miles to the city of Kzylorda, where they will board a NASA aircraft.

After 205 days in space, 3,280 orbits of Earth, and a trip of 86.9 million miles, their return home is being diverted by the virus.

One of the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic is so unprecedented is the fact that it is impacting our world in such an all-encompassing way. It’s hard to identify an area of our lives that is not being affected.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station could not catch the virus, of course. But when they returned to our planet, they joined the rest of us in facing this pandemic.

The solidarity of the virus’s effect, however, is also one of our strongest causes for hope.

Trusting the God who knows our pain

Medical researchers from around the world are working on therapies and vaccines. Governments from around the world are seeking ways to help each other with needed supplies. And the most common refrain I have heard in these days, “We’re all in this together,” is a source of hope.

Psychologists have long noted the “chameleon effect”—our nonconscious mimicry of the behaviors of those with whom we interact as we seek to connect with them. Studies show that we are drawn to people who feel the same way we do about the world. Happy people seek out happy people; those who are depressed or discouraged are drawn to people who are depressed or discouraged.

Suffering is a lonely experience. No one else can truly know the pain we are feeling. I was taught in counseling classes never to say, “I know how you feel.” Even if you and I are going through the same experience, our feelings about it may be very different.

However, knowing that the world is going through this together makes us feel less isolated. There is psychological strength in numbers.

Here’s the best news: we have a Savior who truly does know how we feel. He has faced every temptation we face (Hebrews 4:15). He has felt our grief (John 11:35), loneliness (Matthew 4:1–2), and pain (Matthew 27:27–35).

Jesus is like an astronaut who chose to come from the heavens to our fallen planet for the purpose of entering our suffering. And now, as we go through this pandemic, we don’t have to try to hold onto him.

That’s because he’s holding onto us (John 10:28–29).