They say we’re in for a long, dark winter. COVID-19 cases are surging out of control. Many states are breaking records and the U.S. single-day case count exceeded 180,000 on Nov. 13. It has been a long, difficult and wearisome journey since the first U.S. COVID-19 case appeared on Jan. 21 in Seattle.

We weathered the lockdown in March, huddling in our houses, shutting down non-essential businesses, shuttering restaurants and shops. We howled at dusk in our neighborhoods, a good-natured national protest against the virus. And we did it. We lowered the infection rate, survived the spring and earned a slight reprise from the restrictions in summer.

The bicycle business boomed as people took to streets and trails for natural distancing, fresh air and exercise. I pulled my 27-year-old Giant bike out of storage; the same one I rode across Wisconsin in 1997. It took six weeks for an appointment to have it tuned up, but I put over 400 miles on it and dropped 25 pounds of excess weight.

We walked our dogs and greeted neighbors who were walking theirs. We attended church outside, setting up our lawn chairs under shade trees on green lawns where small children played in the grass.

Many returned to work. Schools cautiously opened for students. Some ignored the COVID-19 restrictions altogether and rode their Harleys to the Sturgis motorcycle rally. But, as many of the epidemiological experts had predicted, fall and winter weather has resulted in an uncontrolled surge in COVID-19 cases. Increasingly, we’re hearing of people we know who’ve fallen prey to COVID-19.

The most painful period of the pandemic is immediately in front of us. We’re faced with foregoing our most cherished American traditions: gatherings as family around Thanksgiving and Christmas tables; packing churches to hear children sing in their shepherd and angel costumes; gathering to sing “The Messiah.” We can scarcely imagine the echo of holiday music in empty hallways at the mall or virtual worship streamed from empty churches at Christmas.

But, there’s hope. Scientists have identified two vaccines promising 90 percent and 95 percent effectiveness against COVID-19 by the end of the year. The experts predict we could have widespread distribution and “herd immunity” as early as spring or summer of 2021.

Now is the time, in this long hard winter, to redouble our efforts to protect our families, our friends and ourselves. We are like a marathon runner nearing the finish line, weary and exhausted, but determined. The end is in sight. It’s time to sprint to the finish. We must double-down with the disciplines of distancing, wearing our masks, washing our hands, never failing to encourage one another.

Jesus set the example for us. As Hebrews says, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

We can do this.

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit Email

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