In the Middle of the Panic...
As we sit in the middle of the panic of coronavirus, I think it’s important to remember the words of Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth”. Whatever your thoughts on the current situation in this world and in our country, the reality is that we are all now feeling the effects of this virus. Businesses are taking hits, children are home from schools, seniors may fear infection, and all are wondering what happens next.
In that way, we must remember that our help comes from the Lord only. Yes, He works through governments and systems, but if this virus has proven anything, it’s that humanity is mortal – and we know it. All of history has built to the systems we now have in place, and yet they are crashing as the coronavirus spreads across the world. So whether panicked or not, stocked up or needing to shop, remember that your help comes from the Lord. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on how to proceed.
First, we must remember that God is sovereign. Yes, we may have never experienced something like this, and no we do not know what tomorrow will bring. However, the Bible tells us that God is in control. Isaiah 46:10 says that He declares “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’”. He is in control, and Romans 8:28 says, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”.
This leads us into the second thing to remember: that while God is sovereign, He is loving. The Scriptures constantly declare His faithfulness and steadfast love, and 1 John 4:8 sums it all up by saying, “…God is love”. Therefore, in the words of Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. His love does not mean that we will not suffer, but it does mean that He will use it for our eternal good. We can trust that God’s providence leads always to our best outcome.
Third, we must respect others and be precautionary. The first part of James 1:27 declares, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction”. Elsewhere, the Bible makes abundantly clear that love for others is the second greatest command (after love for God). Perhaps you think this is overblown; that is fine and understandable. However, to paraphrase the idea of Romans 14, respect and love others who are afraid in all of this. We are not reactionary but precautionary for those who are susceptible to fatal effects of this disease.
Fourth, if you are afraid, that’s okay. In fact, I dare say that’s a good place to be. Now, by that I do not mean that fear is a good place to stay, but time and again in the Scriptures, the Lord commands us not to be afraid. He knows; He is compassionate. He is kind. Jesus Himself suffered human emotions. You may be afraid for your health, your resources, your loneliness, or anything of the sort. The key is not to think that Christians are immune to emotions, but rather to subject those emotions to a sovereign and loving God. When Jesus was facing the cross, He prayed that if it be God’s will, another way would be uncovered. He took His feelings and gave them to God – that is the pattern taught to us also in the Psalms. Don’t simply tell yourself that you shouldn’t be afraid. Instead, tell God that you are afraid, and ask Him to speak His kind words of peace to your heart. One of my favorite passages in Scripture comes from Zechariah 1. It says, “Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me”. It shows us that the Lord does not get angry when we are afraid, but instead He uses those emotions to speak to us of His grace and power. To be reminded of these promises, see: Psalm 46, Isaiah 43:1-2, Isaiah 41:10, and countless other places. As Joseph reminds us in Genesis 50:20, things that may be meant for evil are used by God for good. Bring your fears to Him, and He will guard you in His perfect peace.
Fifth, we must be reminded that our faith is practical and not conceptual. If you are stuck at home, read through the book of Acts. We’re so blessed that we are not in war or persecution or famine. Yes, this hits home and it hits hard. However, this is only a small taste of what it would be like to never meet in the open with our Church family, and what it would be to live in a country where those food and toilet paper shelves will not be restocked. Use this time to thank God for the small blessings of this life and to understand that because we are so blessed, aspects of Scripture are lost on us. How much more meaning does the petition, “Give us today our daily bread” mean when you’re not sure if the shelves will carry all the food you want or need?
Sixth, while we must practice what they call “social distancing”, we must not distance ourselves from each other emotionally. Chat on the phone, send letters, do whatever we can. The entire New Testament was not written in a vacuum, but it was letters from Christians to other Christians to encourage their faith. Use this time to check on those who are less fortunate. We need each other. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that we are all one body; do not isolate but use this time to foster genuine relationships. When Sydney and I were dating, I was in Florida and she was in Alberta. We weren’t able to go to the movies and simply be around one another; we were forced to talk and create conversation. That deepened our relationship more than being around each other physically ever could. This virus allows us an opportunity to create deeper bonds. More than that, it also allows a wonderful conversation with your neighbor. Ask how they’re doing and see where it goes. Who knows, the Lord may have their hearts searching for hope.
Seventh, we must pray. We can remind ourselves of the above and of other things, but without prayer (including studying God’s Word), it’s simply us telling ourselves and not God telling us. Pray for your Church family, that they would be comforted in God’s arms, that those who are affected may find peace, and that they may be encouraged in their faith. Pray also for the pastors and missionaries and believers who are in the heat of the battle, caring for those who are sick and facing death. Pray for nurses and doctors who are undoubtedly overwhelmed. Pray for those working at grocery stores, department stores, and elsewhere who deal with the panic and long lines. Pray for everyone. Yet pray also – and especially – for those who are afraid with no hope. This time proves that we cannot put our trust in governments, and many are going to find out that we cannot put our trust in a well-stocked supply of toilet paper and hand-sanitizer either. Pray that God would cause unbelievers to see how quickly fear can grab ahold of their hearts, and that they would then see the only eternal hope is found in the Lord Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:1 says, “…I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people”. In our prosperous country and many parts of this world, this may be a gracious wake-up call from God to heed the middle verse of the entire Bible, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8). So in the command of the Apostle Paul, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Finally, these are uncertain times, but what is certain is that we tend towards fear and yet God is always in control. The battle here is not simply to curb this virus but to walk the line from fear to trust. In that way, pray also that God is glorified in this global panic and in the face of these difficult times. He is still watching over us. He promises in Genesis 8:22 that morning and evening, seed-time and harvest will continue as long as the earth exists, because He is sovereign, and He is good. Remember Matthew 6:33-34, and pray that above everything else, God will prove Himself supreme over this entire world. He watches over His children, and, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11).
3/20/2020 05:15:08 pm
Pastor, thank you for sending out this blog. While it is scary out in our world.
4/13/2020 08:56:27 am
Thanks Brenda. May God bless you and Tom, too!
7/5/2022 08:11:55 pm
This was lovely, thanks for sharing
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My name is Bryan Lanting. I am a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, and I am presently serving Mt View CRC as their pastor. I am married to a wonderful wife named Sydney, and both of us are loving life, loving Lynden, and loving the Lord!