CORONAVIRUS: Perspectives and Hope

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Jesus said, Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give. Set your troubled hearts at rest, and banish your fear. – John 14:27

This verse ends my Morning Prayer Liturgy. Today, I was praying this verse just as sirens sounded in the distance, drawing steadily closer and closer. Anxiety started to rise in my heart.

This is an anxious time in our world and nation, isn’t it? Right now, you can’t escape the non-stop coverage of the coronavirus. For a while we heard that the outbreak was in China … then Italy … then Washington State … then suddenly next door in Mecklenberg County. For you, has it been like the sirens have been drawing closer and closer? What’s your level of anxiety at the moment?

Today we cancelled public worship for Sunday. It’s surely the wise thing to do. It’s complying with governmental guidelines – and scripture clearly calls Christians to be lawful citizens (unless and until the Nebuchadnezzers of this world call us to kneel before golden statues).

But I personally hate cancelling worship.

Yes, we have to be wise. Yes, we must be loving concerned for the elderly and infirmed. It’s certainly prudent to “flatten the curve” of the disease progression. And we must compassionately agree that even one death is twelve hundred too many! But fear is absolutely swallowing this world. And as a believer in a powerful God, I hate to give into fear!

Scripture tells us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline.”2 Tim 1:7

The confident command to God’s people was – and eternally is – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Josh 1:9  

Being prudent is good! It’s abundantly wise to be hypervigilant if you’re 82 or have a compromised immune system (or are carrying for anyone who’s vulnerable!). But I can’t help but think that our world is terrified because it doesn’t know the Father who has guaranteed his children millions upon millions of tomorrows.

As I said, we must absolutely confess that even one death is twelve hundred too many! Nevertheless, we’re acting totally out of proportion to the current risk. And as I predicted in a devotion a few weeks ago, this level of fear is creating a man-made disaster.

So far, only 40 Americans have died – and most of them in one Washington state nursing home – and yet we’re shutting down thousands upon thousands of businesses and schools. We are on the verge of shuttering our whole economy. Why? Think about this: Ninety Americans die each day in car accidents, and yet a half dozen times each day, every one of us climbs into a car, accepting that level of risk. Because of the ordinary, run-of-the-mill flu, 56,000 Americans die each year, and yet we annually accept that risk, too, as a normal part of life. What’s different about this coronavirus?

Fear is creating a man-made disaster.

At our current trajectory, we’re likely to crush our economy. And who’s going to get hurt the most? Mostly the poor. A majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with virtually no savings. And just as it will be the fragile people in our culture who will die from this disease, the most fragile people in our society, economically, will likely be crushed. (Now, I’m certainly not equating the value of even one human life to the value of a nations’s economic health – we know what’s more important – but stick with me for a minute …)

Our job market may act like dominoes. One shutdown will likely cause another. (Short of paychecks, people stop shopping, effecting the next business in line.) In this new economic reality, fragile businesses may die (much like fragile people will die of disease), and then even more jobs will be lost. Some businesses will disappear in the short-run, some may only come back slowly, others may disappear permanently. Good moms, as another example, may have to decide whether to work to put food on the table, or stay home with their kids because the schools are closed. Dominoes.

Yes, as I’ve said, even one death is twelve hundred too many, but I’ve lived through a natural disaster. No one died in the devastating fire that swept through our New Mexico town in 2000, but the next year as a pastor, I did four times as many funerals as normal – and they were for those in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s … all before I helped bury an eighty-year-old. I could trace most of these deaths, directly or indirectly, back to the disaster and to outsized stress.

Fear, stress, and anxiety destroy … perhaps as much or more than a rogue virus. And I’m sadly persuaded that our culture’s level of stress and anxiety is going to have devastating, long-lasting cultural consequences.

But it doesn’t have to be that way for you or for me. A few weeks ago when I wrote on the coronavirus, I cited 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Scripture tells us, “Dear brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about what will happen to the believers who have died, so that you will not grieve like those who have no hope.” The Apostle admits that, yes, even believers grieve – we grieve because we’ve loved – but it also tells us that while we’ll naturally have one eye on our loss (one eye on the world), we should also have our other eye on heaven! In other words, while the world grieves without hope, we grieve with the confidence that as hard as this is, something better’s coming!

Brothers and sisters, we are called to salt and light in a panicking world!!! Are you up for the job?! Yes, we’re called to be prudent. Yes, we’re called to be good citizens, abiding by governmental protocols. But … we don’t have to give into the world’s fear. In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle was talking about not grieving like those who have no hope. I think in the face of this contagion, we’re called to not react to this current situation like those who have no hope! Yes, we’re called to keep one eye on the earth (being prudent), but we’re also called to keep the other eye on heaven, boldly proclaiming that the worst this world (or this virus) can do to us is to send us to heaven one day early! So …

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”Josh 1:9  

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is looking forward to ministering to you fearlessly over these next few weeks … even if it’s from the midst of a governmentally-mandated “bunker”

Note: If you find yourself exceptionally worried, please call me!! Because the media is obsessing, you may be too! That’s the power of suggestion. But you don’t have to be! So please call!!

Jesus said, Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give. Set your troubled hearts at rest, and banish your fear. – John 14:27

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S.Lewis

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