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I’m a pastor, not an infectious disease expert. But there’s one thing I know about the unprecedented coronavirus crisis: we need hope.
I find that hope in words Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night of his crucifixion. He said: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not only as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Here’s something else I know about the frightening pandemic in front of us: We can choose to respond with faith and wisdom instead of fear and panic. Here are three ways we can do that in the midst of this chaos.
In the middle of all the uncertainty that surrounds us, it is difficult for us to think of a better thing to do than to pray. And it is difficult to think of a better prayer than the one spoken by a desperate but confident Judean King Jehoshaphat.
In his context, this ancient king faced a dangerous enemy closing in on his nation, but his faith wasn’t shaken. When you read this verse it sounds almost as if it could have been in the news today.
King Jehoshaphat said in II Chronicles 20:9: “If disaster comes upon us, swords, judgment or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this temple and in your presence, for your name is in this temple, and we will cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear us and save us.”
That’s all we can do in a situation like this. We try to understand it, but even the most brilliant scientists and academics in the world don’t have all the right answers. And so here we are, in a situation where we can either pray or we can worry.
We should remain alert and do our best to take precautions, but also realize that worrying is not going to change any of this. It won’t help us fight off illness. It won’t move us to action.
It takes the same amount of energy to worry as it does to pray, and one leads to peace and the other leads to panic.
Control your mind
The great teacher Oswald Chambers once said: “Your mind is the greatest gift God has given you, and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him.”
And I love the eloquent way Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but he has given us a spirit of power and of love and a sound mind.”
The human imagination is a powerful force. It can create a beautiful vision of a desirable future, or it can conjure up the worst-case scenario. These dark products of the imagination can put us in the grip of fear, a place where a loving God would never have us go.
Life is so much less stressful when we remember we have a captain of the ship we can trust. We know who He is, and we know He knows what He is doing. He is worthy of our trust – I’ve been around long enough to realize that.
Be a good neighbor
Whenever we face a crisis like this, most of us are concerned about our own well-being, and we should be. We also worry about our families. I’m concerned about my wife and I know she’s concerned about me. I’m concerned about my children and grandchildren and I know they are concerned about us.
Yet throughout history, followers of Christ have often stood out because they were willing to lay down their own needs for the sake of others.
Another pastor just wrote recently: “Throughout history, Christians have often stood out because they were willing to help the sick even during plagues, pandemics, and persecutions. … By stepping into the mess of sickness and disease, they were able to demonstrate their faith to a watching world.”
Take care of yourself, yes, but let’s not forget there may be others around us more desperate for help than we are. Unfortunately, we now have to socially distance ourselves from each other. That means physical contact should be limited.
But I would like to suggest that while we’re distancing ourselves from each other physically, why don’t we try to get closer together spiritually?
How do we do that? Use that thing in your hand that you use frequently even when there’s no pandemic – your phone. It’s a powerful tool during this time of isolation.
I’m committing to spending five minutes every day calling somebody to encourage them, pray with them, and make sure they know they’re deeply cared for in this crisis. I hope you’ll join me in this new routine.
If everybody tries their hand at some spiritual closeness, I think we’ll come out the other side stronger than we’ve ever been.