How should we respond to the Coronavirus?
Unless you’ve been under a rock or otherwise off grid for the last few weeks, you are aware that a global pandemic is currently dominating thoughts and headlines. But in December of 2019 when the viral disease now known as COVID-19 first became known, the shock to global health and markets was not initially recognized. Today, however, the reality that the virus will have an immediate impact is becoming clear.
Global markets are up and down more than a yo-yo contest. Events and conferences are being canceled affecting not only the attendees but all the travel and hospitality services that support them. Schools are closing and people are instructed to practice “social distancing.” This has caused all manner of panic and now grocery stores are emptied out daily. While most outdoorsy people are happy to practice social distancing with a fishing or hiking trip, the trees don’t yet have their spring leaves, so the TP “shortage” is a real problem. How then should we who are Christians respond to this situation?
The first thing is to not panic. The command to “fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible. We need to remember Who we serve. God is still sovereign and has not lost control over the universe. This disease did not come as a surprise to Him. He is the one who spoke to nothing and the nothing became the cosmos (Genesis 1). He is the one who has compassion on people and heals so that He would be glorified according to His plans (John 9).
Next we should repent. Yes, I said it. We should repent. In the beginning God made everything and it was “good” and free from sin. There was no disease, death, or decay. This disease, along with all others, is the result of a sin marred world in which we live. We should be humble before God and repent. It is tempting to point the finger at others for this crisis in which we now find ourselves. I encourage us to resist that and come to God in repentance, like Daniel, who took responsibility for the sins of his people, even though he was a very righteous person. God uses crises to call us back to him (Daniel 9:8-9). We need to repent of not loving our neighbor as ourselves. We need to repent of our thoughts and deeds that take us far from God and turn back to Him that He would heal our nation.
Along the same lines we should pray. We should pray fervently for those affected by this crisis. Those who are suffering through the illness need healing. Those who are caring for the sick are constantly in great risk to themselves and those who are near to them. Those whose jobs are put on hold need financial help. The list goes on. But don’t stop there. Take this time to also be thankful. As we joke and complain about the shortage of TP, we in the U.S. have a shower full of running water right next to our toilets. We have homes in which we can shelter. Be thankful for the many blessings we have even in the middle of the inconveniences and issues that have come up in this time.
Now, more than ever, is a great time to actively love our neighbors. Not metaphorically, our actual neighbors. We can use social media and connect with our neighbors. We can organize a “block party.” Set up someone as a point person who can be contacted with any needs. That person can enlist help in the area. Are there at risk people in your area? You can shop for them. Are there some who simply need a little help? This is a great way to make sure nobody falls through the cracks. When this is all over, you can have an actual block party with all your neighbors you just met.
Finally, we need to be wise stewards. One way to do this is to be reasonable. There’s nothing wrong with taking reasonable precautions concerning hygiene at a time like this. However, it’s not necessary to have 496 rolls of toilet paper on hand. We love our neighbors and ourselves by taking precautions. Hording is a form of gluttony that deprives others of what they need. While this one may seem odd or even out of place at the moment, this may be a good time for big financial decisions. The Bible often instructs us to be wise and shrewd. The stock market is down and so are interest rates. This may be a good time to invest or refinance a loan. Talk with your financial professional about your situation. This is also a good time to think local. With all the closings, the small mom & pop type businesses in your area are in distress. Make sure to support your local stores.
People of faith should not be known for fear and panic. It’s okay to have legitimate concerns and take measured steps to protect ourselves. It’s not appropriate to panic and forget that our faith is not in markets and economies, but in a sovereign God that promises to never leave us or forsake us.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4:6-7