We’ve been thrust into the most life altering scenario the world has seen since the second world war. We are isolated and stuck behind our own doors. Our commerce has ground to an eerie stillness with the streets of Times Square empty and Vegas’ casinos silent. Jobs are being lost by the millions. And the stock market staggers like a cornered boxer. It may seem the only thing to do is to ride out the storm, hunkered down, watching the drama play out before us on the tube. But there is a more proactive way for us to engage this catastrophe. In fact, our world needs us to show a different way. I propose six meaningful actions we can engage in to help our country at this time.
First, abide by the government’s call to social distancing and shelter in place. This one might be obvious, but it needs to be repeated because it is against our nature and our habits to hunker down when the weather is pleasant, and when we are feeling lonely. By choosing to participate in these guidelines, we are placing the lives of the vulnerable and elderly above our own convenience and pleasure. These actions touch the heart of God, who, when He walked among us, stopped to notice and heal the poor and paralyzed when others had learned to just walk past (Luke 5:18).
Second, connect with our neighbors and friends. Let us look out for one another at this time. Pick up the phone and call the one that might be lonely. Video chat with the friend that is working double time at the hospital. Wash your hands, and then drop off a letter at your neighbors’ houses asking for their phone numbers so you all can support one another. Maybe one person can’t find eggs, but someone else has a surplus. We can join together, and make sure that no one is left behind.
Third, fight your anxiety and fear. This might not seem important for the wellbeing of our nation, but it actually is. When you are gripped with fear, the best we can muster is entertaining ourselves, griping to one another, and judging those that aren’t doing what they are supposed to. We become the worst versions of ourselves. Rather, we must identify our fears, and those activities that cause them. And begin to diffuse them. One powerful way to do this is through our fourth action.
Pray for ourselves, and against the pandemic. Have you discovered the powerful freedom available through Philippians 4:6-7? “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Tell God what you are feeling. Be honest with your struggles. And then thank Him that you are alive. Thank Him for all the ways He has protected you in your life. Thank Him that we are going to make it through this, and even grow stronger in our faith because of it. How do you know if you’ve really prayed through your fears? Just like when you know your purchase went through when you are given a receipt, so when you’ve prayer through these challenges, you receive the peace of God in your heart. This is your receipt from the Lord.
Fifth, redeem the time. It is a joy to relax with an entertaining show or book. But let us also spent some time in producing in addition to our consuming. What skill can we learn or develop? Can we write a story, sing a song, knit a hat, build a bookshelf or plant a garden? When we’ve spent some time making or learning something, we have a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. And we reflect part of the creative nature of our God.
Sixth, share the hope you have in the Gospel. Finally, let us look for opportunities to proclaim that there is more to this life than that which has been taken from us. When the false hopes of money, and work, and social connection and politics have failed us, the follower of Jesus still has hope. We believe that we were made for more than this world and that one day we will get to experience the fullness of life as it was designed to be, free from sin, illness, fear and death, because of the forgiveness and eternal life that was purchased for us through the blood of Jesus Christ. That is a bright hope in midst of a dark time. And there are many that could use some hope right now.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons
The old saying goes, ‘Trust the Lord and lock your doors.’ Maybe in today’s world we would say, ‘Trust the Lord and wash your hands.’ And while it is easy to say, it becomes increasing difficult to do when cruise ships are quarantined, news outlets are sounding the alarm with each new infection, countries are locked down, and stocks are dropping like flower pedals off spring trees. Our hands are dry and cracked from the weather and the washing. And more importantly our souls get weary from worry and negativity. If we choose to ignore the waves of worry, sometimes they pour in through the side door. We have friends or family members that are concerned about the situation. We question if we should be worried about our elderly loved ones, or our own health if we have vulnerabilities.
If this world and life is all there is, we have much to fear. If we catch the virus, especially for the elderly and vulnerable, there is a significant possibility that we could die. Our lives would be cut short, and they would have ended in premature tragedy. But if this world was made by a God of love, who promises to protect us, and through faith in the death of Christ, has given us eternal life, then this virus is small indeed. At the worst, it could end our life over the course of a few painful days, and hasten our entry into the presence of our wonderful Savior for eternity. If that comfort isn’t real in our mind and emotions, we likely have become too attached to the luxuries and blessings of this life. It is time for us to get on our knees and tell the Lord that we have allowed our hearts to love our three bedroom home, our wonderful grandchildren, our secret fishing spot, and our rich cabernet, more than the one who loaned us these things. It is time for us to reattach ourselves to our hearts true home, where we will finally get to experience these things without the taint of sin and death and fear.
In the early centuries of the Christian faith a great plague stampeded across Europe and the Roman Empire. It killed one out of four that were infected, and by the time it had run its course, over 5 million people had died. In many areas a third of the population lay dead. Can you imagine the fear that swirled around the population, like shower water rising at one’s ankles in a backed up bathtub? What do you think was the response of the small Christian population? Were they tempted to fear? Were they worried? Did they call out to God for help? They probably experienced all these things, but we know from historical records they chose to act with courage. Because they had a solid conviction in God’s forgiveness for them through Christ purchasing them eternal life, in compassion they marched toward the plague of death, rather than away from it. When all their neighbors were in panic, abandoning loved ones in their hour of need, the Christians went in to tend the sick. They buried the bodies of strangers that had been left on the streets to the dogs. They weren’t afraid of illness. And many of them died. But they demonstrated their faith in a dark and scary moment. In the years afterward, millions of Roman citizens became followers of Jesus. And one of the reasons they gave for turning to Christ, was the profound kindness and courage demonstrated by Christians during the dark days of the epidemic.
Be encouraged. Dark days are an opportunity for us to demonstrate faith. And remember, “Trust the Lord. And wash your hands.”
May the Lord grant us protection and courage in the face of the coronavirus, especially among the elderly, the vulnerable and their medical providers. Grant wisdom to all national and medical leaders, that they may know the best course forward to contain the disease. And may even this be used to draw us deeper in our faith, and to show forth the confidence we have in the Gospel, through Christ. Amen.
Together in the Journey,
Fr. Cam Lemons