If you’re anything like me, you’re getting sick (no pun intended) of hearing about the coronavirus. Everywhere I turn, there’s a new update or restriction or cancellation. March and April, which for us was supposed to be chock full of track practices and meets, archery practice for the State tournament, field trips, music competitions, and Confirmation activities, has suddenly cleared for an unspecified amount of time, leaving a conspicuous absence of activity. That unnerves and irritates me. My kids just finished a week of spring break, and now they have more time at home, which throws off my own schedule. And from what I can gather, this isn’t going to be a quick fix. Many states have already called off school (or imposed “distance learning”) for up to three weeks. This is going to drag out for a while. I fear we’ve only just begun.
Whether you think everyone is making a big deal out of nothing or whether you completely agree with the precautions, you’re still affected by COVID-19 whether you’re ever exposed to it or not. This has affected our country and many other countries around the world financially, physically, and emotionally. People are hoarding and stockpiling non-perishables, public gatherings are being restricted, travel is limited, the stock market is crashing… It’s madness. And yes, I’m irritated that this whole thing affects my own schedule. I’m annoyed that my kids might have to do distance learning the rest of the school year. I’m frustrated that church services might be canceled. I’m upset that my son’s Confirmation could be postponed. It irritates me that our summer travel plans might be affected. But when I look at that list, I see a common (and uncomfortable) theme.
All of those things above revolve around me. I’m annoyed that my plans are changing. What if God is using this to open my eyes to ways of serving my neighbor? No, the coronavirus hasn’t reached our own community yet, but it almost certainly will. We aren’t that far from Houston, where they’ve had numerous confirmed cases. So keeping the kids home from school might be an inconvenience to me, but it keeps germs from being passed to the girl whose mother works at a nursing home, where the residents are at a much higher risk for serious complications than kids with strong immune systems. If church is canceled, I might consider it a fearful or cowardly reaction, but let’s be honest. Many members who make a point to come to church each week are in a higher risk category: the elderly woman across the aisle who’s been in and out of the hospital with heart issues, the gentleman in the back who’s on oxygen… These faithful souls will come to church each week no matter what, which increases their risk of exposure to a virus that may prove fatal to them. So in a strange way, staying away from other people may actually help them.
At the same time, there are others who need me not to stay away. Small business owners and mom-and-pop restaurants are really struggling to stay in business with less customers willing to venture out into public. If you’re healthy, do what you can to support them in their livelihood.
And what about hoarding? While it’s wise to have enough non-perishables for your own family, remember that other people need those things too. Just after Jesus warns against storing up treasures on earth in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21), He says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, not about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:22-26).
God knows what we need. He has promised to provide for us. Worrying about the future will do us no good. Being careful is prudent. Worrying obsessively is not. Even in this time of uncertainty, God is in control. Who knows how He is working through this current health crisis? I can’t presume to understand His ways, but I do know that He promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). The world has faced health pandemics before, and it will do so again. Remember the words of Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Whatever unrest is in the world, God remains our refuge and strength.
I’ll be honest. I’m still irritated that the effects of COVID-19 are as far-reaching as they are. Even as I worked on this blog, my kids were interrupting me with requests and questions, and I was stewing about how our schedule has been thrown off for an indefinite period. My family can tell you I’m not jumping for joy about our current situation, with all of us staying home. I guess you could say I’m serving my neighbor with a grudging heart. But God is working on that heart. A couple days ago, I wasn’t even able to see that staying home could be a way to serve my neighbor. At least now I have enough perspective to see that. Maybe in a few more days, I’ll be a little less grudging about it. Maybe.
But in the meantime, the new restrictions and cancellations give a whole new meaning to Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Indeed. Rest in that knowledge. God is God. He will be exalted in all the earth.