Fear, COVID-19, and the Church

The last few days have been surreal. Reactions to COVID-19 have been multifaceted and swift. Declarations of emergency. School closings. Spring sports suspended (children, high school, college, and professional). I could go on, but unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you already know all this.

I’m quite amazed at what has taken place and how fast it has happened. It is easy to be concerned. To watch or read the news is to immerse yourself in a cloud of concern. COVID-19 is extremely contagious. While not necessarily deadly to all who might catch it, its ease of transmission makes it troubling. What is evidently concerning is that the elderly with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

The speed of reactions is deeply concerning. The decisions to suspend public gatherings, cancel events, and isolate are aimed at mitigating public exposure to the virus. As Christians, we have an opportunity to reflect a confidence in God in the midst of a challenging situation. Here are 5 things we should remember in the days ahead.

  • While we should be prepared, we should not be afraid. Listen to the normal and wise advice about washing hands or avoiding crowds if you are vulnerable, but don’t give in to fear. Over and over again, God says to his people “Do not be afraid.” Of all the people in our world, Christians don’t have to fear. Throughout history God’s people have faced giants, armies, enemies, and persecutions. And God has always been victorious. God’s people overcome because God is sovereign. If you contract COVID-19, you don’t have to be afraid. If you are in isolation, you don’t have to be afraid (or alone, God promises to be with you). You do not have to fear.
  • While the church should react with regard to services and programs, this situation provides a unique opportunity for the church to be the church rather than just attend church. The ramifications of closings, suspensions, and cancellations will have lasting effects. Some churches may choose not to meet. Here’s a link to what Wilkesboro Baptist is doing this weekend. Churches that do meet may have low attendance. Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen at church buildings, recovery from this situation will require the church to be the church to others. Being the church means that Christians can bring sanity and calmness to those around us by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, providing for the financially depressed, or any other number of activities. My prayer is that we as Christians will be faithful and reflect the compassion and glory of God to those around us.
  • While we are right to act, we need to remember that humanity is not sovereign. I’m troubled by our human attempts at containment. And it’s not for the reasons you might think. The 21st century west is quite arrogant. We cannot change the weather. We cannot eradicate illnesses and viruses. We cannot cheat death. We are not sovereign. The Christian worldview does not encourage carelessness or negate preparation. However, the Christian worldview does put disease, illness, and death in context. Our reactions may slow down or stall the spread of the virus in the short term. And if so, the reactions may be worth it. But we cannot stop COVID-19. Indeed, we cannot stop every illness, sickness, disease, and death. Only the Great Physician can truly heal, rescue, and protect. The great lesson of this pandemic might actually be the humbling of our nation and the reminder that only God is sovereign.
  • While we might be isolated, we need to pray for the medical professionals. Many of you reading this will be able to isolate yourselves quite comfortably. Please remember in prayer the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who will be testing, caring, and ministering to the sick. They are on the front lines of this situation and need our encouragement and prayer support. Remember, this is new for them as well.
  • While we might be concerned about the future, we must have faith. It may seem callous to some to be concerned about the economic ramifications of our nation’s reaction. Whether callous or not, it is real. People are going to lose their jobs. Industries will slow and shut down. The stock markets will struggle. It already is painful economically and is likely to get worse. But we don’t have to lose faith. Remember the words of Habakkuk as he anticipated God’s judgment and its economic affect 2500 years ago.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

So, what should we do?

  1. Be wise. Use common sense. Follow the advice of health professionals.
  2. Be calm. There is a lot of fear mongering and misinformation. Seek the truth. Relax. God is in control. We will come through this.
  3. Pray. Any crisis is a reminder that we must depend on God. Take the time afforded you in the coming days to pause, pray, and seek God. I believe wholeheartedly that God will use this situation to bring us closer to him if we will let him.

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