Pray, keep your distance, and don’t panic
At press time, Mississippi had reported 20 deaths and 900+ cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and the global death toll had topped 40,000. This is cause for prayer, concern, and — for mercy’s sake, if you haven’t done this already — lifestyle change.
A lot of folks have to work outside the home, even during a pandemic, in order to get by. And God only knows where we’d be without our medical professionals right now. But if that’s not you, and if you’re not practicing as much social distancing as possible, I hope this column will provide a loving, socially distant smack in your face.
COVID-19 is not the Black Plague. I personally do not feel threatened by it. But if we who are healthy don’t slow the spread of this virus, it will kill the elderly and others. Period. Don’t call yourself a Christian and endanger your neighbors with your recklessness.
OK, I’ll be nicer for the rest of the column, I promise! Here’s the other way we can be productive in this crisis: We can pray. I know I need to do it more.
If we believe in the sovereign Lord, His Word tells us how to respond to COVID-19, whether we think it’s His judgment or just His way of getting our attention (or both!):
“If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:13–14
If we don’t think we need to seek God’s help with COVID-19, we are deluding ourselves. I think the news and social media have shown that we cannot handle this on our own.
Of course I often learn that lesson the hard way, whether it’s about a virus or my own internal struggles. I met with some friends in a writing group just before self-quarantining started, and I wound up writing the following. It was God’s way of reminding me for the umpteenth time to give up my self-reliance and trust Him:
Often when I have too much free time, my mind wanders into the proverbial woods and explores every diversion from every trail until I struggle to find my way back.
Or rather, it’s the same trail, the same questions, leading me like gumdrops to the same house made of sweet self-sufficiency that will not stand — where the evil one awaits his opportunity.
But here’s the thing: If I’m Gretel, I have a Hansel — a better older Brother than in any fairytale — and He walks with me. In fact, one day He gave Himself to be fattened up with my misdeeds and fed to the enemy in the dark of those woods; but then He came back, and He huffed and He puffed, and His Holy Spirit blew down the house of lies on which I’d fed.
Sometimes I still go there, half-expecting the candy house to stand before me. I neglect the feast God offers, and I fear that my coming to His table isn’t enough. I start striving, and I follow those gumdrops into the dark.
But every time I get there, I find the enemy small, toothless and shivering. I find the house of lies melted and gone. My hand finds my older Brother’s, and I turn around.
If God is our Father, Jesus Christ is our ultimate older Brother: interceding on our behalf, dying in our place to pay for our sin, and coming back to life to give us new life. (And unlike the older brother in the prodigal son parable, Jesus is overjoyed when we return to Him and the Father.)
If you haven’t received Jesus as Savior — or if you’ve been trusting in yourself instead of His provision — turn around, beg Him for help, and get out of those woods. He will not fail to run to your side.
A few other COVID-19 thoughts: Please call and check on your elderly neighbors and those with poor access to resources. Also, order a delivery lunch on Sundays if you can, spend the same amount you would eating out after church, and tip double! Our food service workers need it.
• Dan Hall’s column on COVID-19 and how we can respond
• Libbo Crosswhite’s column on how we should take advantage of our extra time during #QuarantineLife
• Our cover story on Amy and Cliff Bates and their adoption journey