On Friday the 13th, it hit me. This could be the start of a horror movie: Corona Apocalypse.
The day before I had pulled my kids from school on an impulse. At the time, I was not sure it was the right thing to do, and to be honest, I still don't know if it was the right thing to do. Looking back, I realize it was an act driven by fear, fear for my children, fear for the unknown.
The truth is that there is a lot of uncertainty right now. Since pulling my children out of school, schools across the nation have closed, grocery store shelves have been emptied, businesses have gone bust, and the numbers of those infected keep rising. We are caught in an unprecedented crisis.
As we settle into a new normal, a time characterized by news flashes and updates, I am pondering my own response. How should a Christian respond to the new world of social isolation in a godly way?
I propose six ideas to consider.
1. Have Faith
It sounds far too simple, but this command is profound. It is a simple act of obedience that changes everything. Have faith that God is still in control. Have faith that whatever comes is from His hand. Have faith that His purposes will be accomplished on earth.
I am reminded of the hymn "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less", and I realize that my fears, although very real, are unfounded. We serve the God who made heavens and earth. Everything comes into being by the power of His Word. His promises are unfailing, and when I find myself overwhelmed by all the darkness and cannot see His face, He still does not change.
I am not called not to fear because I am healthy and brave and wise. I am called not to fear because my God commands it, and I trust in Him. He has proven His faithfulness to me through Scripture but also in my own life, and He will do it again.
2. Practice Peace
Ask God to fill your heart with peace. Invite God's peace into your mind and make the choice to be peaceful. Peace, like joy and love, is a choice, an exercise, and a habit. But, it is based on trust. Peace is only possible if you believe that God is who He says He is.
Sin, discord, destruction, and disease will always be a part of the fallen world. Nations will face different trials and tribulations. But John 16:33 Jesus tells us,
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation but take heart; I have overcome the world."
Christ has overcome this world, and He is preparing a place for his children in heaven.
According to the media and the WHO, as many as 3.4% of those infected will succumb to the virus. Should death frighten us? Should we be hanging on to possessions in this life? Jesus has already told us this world is not our home. Our lives are not our own. We have been bought at a price. A film that illustrates this struggle for peace beautifully and that I highly recommend is called Of Gods and Men. Although the circumstances are very different, the outcome is the same.
Knowing that we are eternal beings, made to live with Jesus throughout eternity, should give us an eternal perspective and a hope that those who do not yet know the Lord are not privy to. This makes it all the more urgent to share the good news of salvation with those around us.
Your peace in the face of a killer virus, economic downturn, and worldwide recession will become a testimony to your faith in a God who is sovereign.
Prayer is powerful. It is the weapon of the godly. In this time of uncertainty and social isolation, when our hands are tied, and we cannot serve, let us turn to prayer.
Too often, I forego prayer in favor of acting as a first step because I am a doer. When I do not succeed, I have to stumble back and humble myself in prayer. I am like a two-year-old who is continually grabbing the spoon from his experienced father while saying, "No, let me."
All the while, God, my patient Father, allows me to strive and stumble, knowing that I will throw up my hands in frustration and ask for help. If you are like me, let this time be different.
Instead of running and doing, let me be like Mary and sit at the feet of Christ and listen to what He wants me to do. Let me tell him my concerns, from my frail elderly neighbor to my children's college plans that are falling apart. Let me lean on His strength and ask that the Holy Spirit be vibrant in this time of need. Let me lift up those in our families, fellow believers, and the vulnerable.
Let me ask for protection for those who are leaders in their industries, and their employees, and their families. Let me ask the Lord to give guidance and wisdom to our president and other world leaders to guide us with prudence. Let me pray for those in the medical field that are working on a solution to this crisis.
Let me ask for wisdom, strength, and resources for these brave souls as they are working day and night. Let me pray for those who have lost their jobs due to the cutbacks, cancellations of national and global events, and the shutdown of organizations. Let me pray for unity and support within families going through these changes and that they come to know Jesus if they do not know Him already.
Let me ask God to protect local law enforcement agencies to keep the peace. Let me ask that God fill all medical and support personnel with ideas, breakthroughs, wisdom, discernment, energy, and restful nights as they adapt to changes and as they pick up extra work hours. Let me ask fervently for protection, provision and opportunities for the missionaries in countries that are affected by this virus. Let me implore God to provide finances, strength and health for their families and the churches they are shepherding.
Use the time away from the world to bring those in need before the throne of God.
4. Reach out
After spending such an intimate time of prayer with God, one can only react to the promptings of the Holy Spirit with obedience. While we strive to work diligently at our own vocations as much as is possible in this uncertain time, we look for ways God wants us to reach out to others. In the same way, as we serve those in our families and immediate communities, we should keep looking for opportunities to share the good news of the gospel. Lastly, we should engage and strengthen those in our church family through email or online classes.
There is a difference between social isolation and relational isolation. This time where we are forced to be by ourselves can become a time to reinvest in relationships that we have not nurtured and it can be a time to strengthen relationships that we value. We can do this by reaching out through phone, email, facetime or skype, and possibly through tangible actions such as bringing groceries to an elderly or quarantined neighbor, or gifting a grocery gift card to someone who has lost a job.
5. Be Obedient
Listen to those in authority over you. God calls his children to obey those in authority over us and to be good citizens. As Christians we should lead the charge to self isolate. We should be an example of what is right. We should be first to protect the frail and needy and we can do so through social distancing.
For this reason churches should be closed and our church community should gather online for worship services. God’s presence is not bound to a church building. Jesus assures us He is present where two or three are gathered together in His name.
This means that in the absence of a formalized church experience our own homes become churches. Let us then be gentle with one another, building each other up and strengthening one another in the faith,
6. Study and Prepare
In this modern age, where we all suffer from the disease of busyness, God has sent us an unexpected reprieve in the form of social distancing. Families are in close quarters. We have time to reconnect with each other and we have time to comfort each other.
For ideas on how to keep little ones busy and building relationships during this time of social distancing click here.
We have time to study the Word of God together. We can look at the world around us and interpret it through the lens of Scripture and prepare to enter a brave new world. A crisis of this magnitude is sure to change some of the things we thought would always stay the same. So, take this time of social isolation to regroup. Think through the goals you have set for your family, evaluate and correct the course you are on. Rethink priorities and plan accordingly.
In the end, a little fear is normal and drives responsible behavior like handwashing and staying safe, but a debilitating fear is not from God. When all is said and done, continue to serve with God with all your hearts, minds, and souls and be the hands of Christ in your families and communities. Allow the Great I AM in His sovereignty, to give peace, perseverance, and hope through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.
Let me leave you with a quote that Martin Luther penned as he faced the Black Death that swept through Europe in 1347.
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict or pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God wishes to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
-The Annotated Luther, Vol 4: Pastoral Writings, Page 404