How many people were diagnosed today with COVID-19? How many deaths have there been today? Which celebrities have been diagnosed today?
Had you asked me this last week when COVID-19 was beginning to spread rapidly in the United States, I would have been armed with the answers because I have been watching the news so closely. My husband and I would wake up in the morning, open our phones, and look at the news to see what we missed since we went to bed. A similar story followed throughout the day as we anxiously waited to see what exciting new headline would become a topic of conversation. It made it even easier when people we passed by sitting on benches, at the tables next to us at restaurants, and most of our friends were talking about it as well. I noticed two main responses when people began to opine on the crisis. The first was flippant: “Who cares, it’s only old people who get it,” or “It’s no worse than the flu.” The second was worldly fear: “This is the apocalypse.” In a matter of days, both responses seemed to overwhelm everyone, regardless of how deadly they thought the virus was.
Up until the week before COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, my husband was quick to remind me how much he dislikes the news and does not read it at all. Those were the days when the first thing we would read in the morning was Scripture, not headlines meant to inspire panic and fear. We hardly noticed how quickly the news became an addiction.
Of course, we weren’t the only ones. As the panic set in nationwide, our sinful nature caused us to seek our own protection first. The stock market was the first global victim of fear, despite a cursory glance at history that would tell us stocks will rebound from these events. The second victim was the grocery shelves. Matt and I resisted the urges to act on these two fears, despite ultimately not knowing what was to come. Still, we were eager to look to the news before Our Creator every day as the story unfolded. We saw a new idol that had crept into our hearts and minds. It’s like Peter knew that the enemy would be prowling around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)! Indeed, panic is not the appropriate response. Neither is flippancy, assuming everyone is overreacting because we have not personally been impacted. Instead, faith is the answer.
Saints Who Persevered
Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived out living by faith. He was a German pastor who refused to renounce the faith in World War II and became a spy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Ultimately, he was tortured and killed in this pursuit. Bonhoeffer best lived out what a dear and wise colleague of mine wisely told me amid this March panic: “Do not fear death. Fear being found unworthy.”
Another example I recall is Job. After having everything taken from him, enduring a diverse set of physical, social, and mental sufferings, he declared himself unworthy. (Job 40:4-5)
Joni Eareckson Tada also stands out as a current saint in the midst of deep affliction. If you have not read the autobiography, Joni, I highly recommend it. This woman, now 70, became a quadriplegic as a teenager. She was a believer before this accident, but her faith grew so deeply and strongly that she now is a well-known author, radio host, and public speaker. She states in her book, “This paralysis is my greatest mercy.” Might we say the same about the pandemic for our world as a whole?
In God whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?Psalm 56:4
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.Philippians 3:8
I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted”’Psalm 116:10
So, what does it look like to count all things as loss, to not be afraid of death, and to be found as a servant of God upon the day of Christ Jesus? It looks the same as it did before we worried about COVID-19. It looks like Philippians 2:4 looking not just to our own interests but also to the interests of others, and Psalm 145:8: Being merciful, forgiving, and compassionate.
People Act Differently When Fearful. Christians Should Not.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.Romans 12:9-12
When Matt and I realized our exclusively selfish response, I hopped into my doer-mode and tried to Google my way to an answer: “What do people need in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak?” It turned out one immediate need is blood, since many blood drives had been canceled. OK, we can go to the local blood center and donate. What else? We might have to be more creative as we exercise social distancing. Who has immune-comprised family members that might need us to run some errands? Have I called my elderly family members and friends to encourage them to stay home during this time? Is there anything they need that I can order for them online? Who do I know who is abroad right now, and have I prayed for them? Whose work is likely to be impacted by this most, and how can I encourage them?
Ultimately, we can do lots of things, but primarily we must entrust this crisis to our Lord, knowing that He will take care of us and produce in us the fruit of the Spirit if we will let Him in. You and I will not solve this crisis, but we can still care for others and live as if the Lord is completing a good work in us as we wait. Once more, this is what we can ask of Him – and He asks of us – regardless of any circumstance.
Furthermore, we must wage war against any idols that have appeared in this pandemic. Every time we feel unnecessary fear creeping in, we can simply call on the name of Jesus. We can use this time to memorize a scripture verse that helps us to remember our mission as believers and what we should rightly fear. We can ask those closest to us to hold us accountable to questions like the ones below.
I want to desire the Lord over avoiding sickness, loss of material things, or death of myself or loved ones. As such, I need to be reminded that fear is not King. Jesus is. May our lives represent that we believe Him, even when we are afflicted.
- How has this pandemic caused me to look to the interests of others?
- Am I acting first with a desire to exalt the Lord or maintain my own exaltation?
- What idols have this pandemic revealed in my heart?
- What truths will I remember when tempted by panic and fear?
- What saints and heroes of the faith will I recall who experienced similar trials that I have encountered as a result of the virus, and how was their faith strengthened as a result of the trials?
Stay tuned for more blogs on All the More about having faith during this pandemic. Let us know in the comments any topics you particularly would like as encouragement.
I loved your questions Bailey. Especially the ones about thinking of my neighbors, my idols and of people in scripture who have experienced similar trials.