The whole world is talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we know it has come to a screeching halt. The future remains uncertain. We stand on the precipice of something that could change the way our world and culture operate forever – or life could return to normal in a matter of months. We don’t know. We know people will get sick. We know some will die. We don’t know how many.
How do we respond to a crisis like this? Apathy is the wrong reaction. So is anxiety. How, then, do we navigate through this unique time?
I’m in the throes of working through it just like you are, but here are a few places my prayers are landing me.
Stay Informed, but Not Consumed
Knowledge is power, right? Ignorance is not bliss in a situation like this and it’s certainly not love – at best it’s selfish stupidity. This is the time to become informed and stay informed. Know what is going on globally, nationally, locally. Keep up with the latest recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and local and federal governments. Research to understand viruses, communicability, basic statistics, etc.
However, as important as it is to stay informed, it’s equally important not to be consumed. I’ve been spending far too much time reading headline after headline, article after article, without really learning anything new. The only fruit that yields is anxiety.
Therefore, I’m choosing to limit the amount of information I take in. My goal is no more than 3 times a day (morning, lunchtime, and night), 10 minutes at a time, using NPR and BBC to check for new developments I should be aware of and scroll through my Facebook feed (let’s be honest – pretty much everything on social media is related to COVID-10 right now. So I’m putting social media in the category of coronavirus-related reading). Even 10 minutes 3x/day is still probably too much, but less than once a day would be too little right now.
My encouragement? Set limits, and determine that for as much time as you spend taking in information about the COVID-19 crisis (this includes posts like this one!), you spend at least twice that in prayer, reading Scripture, and fellowshiping with other believers who live in your home or via technology. Prayer, Scripture, and fellowship will do far more to combat your apathy or anxiety than all the news reading/watching and research in the world could do.
Knowing how to live wisely in light of COVID-19 feels like a daunting task, even with the recommendations that are in place. There are still many micro-decisions to make. Do we have over that friend who gets depressed when she’s by herself too much, or do we stay completely to ourselves? How much groceries and household supplies do we keep on hand? Do we budget normally, or do we drastically pull back to a barebones budget in case of a recession? Do we tell our children everything or nothing, or something in between?
Where is the line between panic-living and denial-living, between overreaction and underreaction?
The truth is, “the line” doesn’t exist. It’s more like a large grey area that sits in between the two extremes. Navigating that grey area requires wisdom.
And you know what? Wisdom doesn’t begin with a fear of coronavirus. It doesn’t begin with a fear of quarantined living. It doesn’t begin with a fear of economic catastrophe.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Wisdom begins with fear of the Lord. He calls us to submit to earthly authorities (second to His authority), so we start by doing what our government is clearly asking of us. After that, we lay the rest at the feet of the Lord with reverence and awe and ask for wisdom. There, and only there, will we find wisdom, moment by moment, day by day, through the guidance of His Holy Spirit, the help of His people, and the comfort of His Word.
Every single “one another” command in the Bible still applies during this time. We are called to encourage one another. Serve one another. Exhort one another. Be generous to one another. Bear one another’s burdens. The list goes on. The pragmatics may look different for a season, but the call to love God and love others freely remains.
Loving your neighbor may mean washing your hands till they’re raw. It may mean risking your own health to serve someone in need. It may mean buying a week’s supply of toilet paper and diapers and wipes instead of a month’s (or more) so that the next person can find what they need. Or it may mean buying an extra pack every time you go out to give to those who couldn’t find any on the shelves. It can mean countless things depending on your unique situation.
Just like living wisely, loving others will have lots of challenging decisions that must start and end at the feet of Jesus in prayer, trust, and surrender. What we must constantly be asking ourselves as we go about our day is: “Is this action/response rooted in love?”
Let us be careful not to judge one another’s hearts as we navigate through the grey, but let us exhort one another to live to a higher standard in this time of panic, selfishness, fear, and self-preservation: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13).
So friends, I beseech you: love freely. And remember that loving freely will always mean sharing the hope that you have in Christ Jesus when hurting, anxious, confused people look to you for answers.
After all I’ve been through in the last year, little did I know that this March would bring another life-changing set of events, this time on a global scale. Yet again, I feel like I’m living in another alternate reality. Nothing feels normal. The future is uncertain. I am helpless and powerless. I am weary.
But if there is one thing I have learned in the past year, it is that God can be trusted. He is good, even when the world is falling apart. His promises never fail, even when everything else we thought we could count on does. He is always enough, even if our piggy banks drain empty and our stomachs are left grumbling. He provides, even before we knew what we needed.
God is not surprised by any of this. I don’t know what the outcome will be. Following Jesus doesn’t guarantee protection from illness, economic loss, hunger, hardship, and death.
But I do know God is my protector and my provider. He has already protected me from the bondage of evil and provided for my eternal salvation. What He says He will do. He is good. Nothing can take away the inheritance I have in Christ. The world is sinking sand, but on Christ the solid rock I stand.
Friends, the temptation to rely on ourselves, other people, the government, or something else is ever so strong in situations like these. No individual and no human institution is big enough to solve problems like these. Our world is broken, terminally ill. If it’s not COVID-19, it will be something else. Where can we turn when we are confronted with our finiteness, our humanity, our vulnerability, the reality of this broken world?
To Jesus. Press into Him, and trust deeply. He can handle it. You can’t.
Finally, dear readers, rejoice! Jesus is King! Jesus is Lord over all! He has risen from the grave victorious over sin and death and sorrow! He will return to consummate His Kingdom for once and for all!
Do not lose heart, but rejoice. Though our outer selves suffer now, our inner selves are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). We need not be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed, for “we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11).
These next few weeks or months may seem eternal. They will be difficult. But “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And oh, when that eternal weight of glory is revealed, what a joyous day that will be!
I can’t think of a better way to close this post out than with Paul’s prayer at the end of the book of Philippians:
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved…
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Blessings to you,
Britney Lyn Hamm