The world has been thrown into chaos. There doesn’t seem to be an escape. No matter where we go, we will find masks, isolation, quarantine, hand sanitiser and elbow bumping all because of a mutation of flu. It has sent the world into panic. And I confess, it’s hard not to be “of the world” but rather only “in” it. It’s no easy feat to not be swept up into the storm of terror that has clouded the skies of our comprehension.
Yet, we are called to be different. We are called to be a light in a dark world.
So how, practically, can Christians cope in the midst of this pandemic?
Let’s start with you.
Trust the Lord and lean on His promises
We all believe that God is unchanging. That He is the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. Then, that would naturally mean that the God who split the sea, rained down food in a desert, raised Lazarus, and raised Christ from the dead is still in control! That’s a pretty amazing thought! We need to lift our eyes above the waves of anxiety and look into the face of God. If you’re anything like me, you may be given in to fear, then trust and a peace that only God can give is something that we need to keep praying for.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Phillipians 4:4-7
“But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. – Job 23:8-10
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” – Psalm 145:18
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15
Be above reproach
We don’t know what others see. Even though we may be “abiding” by the rules, it’s important to make sure it looks like that too. If people know you are a Christian, then they are watching you. Some people justify doing the wrong thing because “if they (the Christian) do it, then it must be okay.” It is not a time to see how close to the law we can push things. If we have been told to stay at home, then stay at home! If we have been told to only go out when necessary, don’t “pop out” because you don’t have ingredients or feel like a chocolate. Wait until you need things. If you have been instructed not to jog or go walking, don’t go walking! It doesn’t matter if it’s early and no one is around. It doesn’t matter if you are “walking” to the shop when you have a car. It doesn’t matter if you have a forest close by where no one will be and you can walk a wide berth around them. Listen!
Yesterday, I saw a couple across the valley walk down with their dogs to their garden gate that opens onto the forest. Immediately, I thought the worst of them and willed them not to go out. We have been asked to report those going against the law. And I certainly didn’t want to have to make that decision. I watched them open the gate and started to get frustrated. But…they let their dogs out into the forest for a caper and stayed at the gate! They stood on a rock in their garden so they could see their pets. They peered through the fence to keep an eye on them. But even when they went out of sight, they did not leave to look for them. They left the gate open for them to return. And it actually brought me to tears. Because that, South Africa, is listening to the law. They didn’t know I was watching them. Likewise, we don’t know who sees us. Our intentions might be good and honourable. We might be within the law. We might be pushing the law, just this once. Whatever the case, we don’t know how it is perceived by others. Do your best to make sure your actions are above reproach.
“13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 14:13-17
Help out where you can
There is precious little we can do from the confines of our four walls. But it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. The beauty about this age is that we have technology. Check in on your domestic worker and your gardener. See how they are and pray for them and their families. Check in on the elderly you know – those at your church and others in your community. Pray for them too. Check in on those you know who are alone or depressed. Check in on your friends. And if you go to the shops and you know someone on the way who could use someone picking up their groceries, do that and leave it at their gate. Our shopping centre has been doing deliveries and is inundated with orders. They have asked our church to help out. What a ministry!
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:39
Do not give up “meeting” together
We are told in Hebrews that we should not give up meeting together. These times require complete isolation so we have had to abandon the idea of attending church, small groups, Bible studies and prayer meetings. BUT, we can still “meet” together. You can live stream a service. You can listen to a sermon on YouTube or a podcast. You can sing together with your family. You can have a Bible study or service over the fence with neighbours (something we plan on doing). Yes, it may be a little weird. Of course, it’s not normal. But, where you can, don’t make a habit of not fellowshipping with the body. Call one another. Have group calls or a Bible study over Zoom. We are blessed to have neighbours on both side who are Christians as well as the friends living on our property. We joined a Zoom meeting for church and listened to the sermon and prayed with fellow congregation members. Afterwards, we all chatted to one another. Then we sang songs with our neighbours. And it actually was quite emotional because we were still connected even though we were apart. So find a way to stay connected and “meet” together. Stay in the habit of “attending” church as a family in the comfort of your living room. Because, it will be hard to carry on afterwards if you break the “habit”.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” –Hebrews 10:24-25
Take captive and tell yourself the things you know are true:
In the midst of the panic, fear, anxiety and terror of the unknown, it’s hard to keep your head! I’ve given into my fears many times, rolling over the possibilities again and again in my head. Useful? Not at all! “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Matt 6:27) It’s important for our well-being, for our relationship with the Lord and for our witness to others to take captive these negative thoughts of “what if” and instead replace them with the truths we do know. Pray through the fears you are feeling, surrender them and ask God to help you believe His truths. Here are a few to get you started.
“8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Phillipians 4:8-9
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4: 5
“…And we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5b
There is plenty to pray about! Pray for those at risk such as the elderly and the ill. Pray for those living in crowded areas or crowded homes – those who would not have the option to self-isolate or are isolating but those around them aren’t. Pray for those who are ignorant about the dangers and putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. Pray for those who are acting without consideration for others. Pray for our president, his cabinet and others across the world bearing the weight of the country on their shoulders – pray for wisdom and clarity. Most importantly pray that the body of Christ would be a light shining in the darkness and that people would seek the Lord while He may be found.
“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” – Zechariah 7:10
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” – Galatians 2:10
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 17:14
Teach your children to lean on the Lord
Here’s the truth of the matter: we can’t expect them to do what we’re not doing. Pray that you will trust so you can help them to see faith in practice. Talk about how we can do what we like to try and stop the virus from spreading but thankfully God is in control. Pray for those around you. Pray for peace knowing that God has all of us in His hands. Ask them how Jesus would respond in a situation like this. Use these circumstances as opportunities to talk to them about God.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
Don’t say that you are trusting the Lord and then be irresponsible. Take the necessary precautions. Exercise wisdom. God has given us a brain and logic. He has given wisdom to those who ask for it. Use it!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
Encourage one another
There is a lot of fake news going viral. There are also a hoard of scary figures, worrying facts and images and videos that, although sometimes true, are causing unnecessary panic. Don’t use this time to build up fear. But rather encourage others in this time with uplifting things. Encourage others with words from the Bible. Let’s get the focus where it needs to be – on Him.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Listen to the law
We are told to respect those in authority. Whether we approve of the leader of our country or not, God has put that person in leadership for a reason. Most likely for our good – not what we deem as good but good for our spiritual lives. And regardless of whether we agree or not, we are called to respect and obey those who are in authority. So listen to what is put in place by the government. He has called us to be considerate. Even if you see it as inconvenient or unnecessary, as I said earlier, be above reproach!
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” – Titus 3:1-2
Enjoy the days given to you
This sounds flippant and a bit romanticised. But, in all honesty, this pandemic has probably made all of us sit up and take note that our lives are not in our hands. We have no clue when we will be called home. It could be tomorrow. It could be in 70 years. Only God knows. So thank Him for today, be filled with His joy and live it for His glory!
“Teach us to realise the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12
Use this a gospel opportunity
There are a lot of confused, scared and grieving people out there who have suddenly come face to face with their human frailty and the fact that death is a reality. Suddenly no amount of money can stop this virus. No negotiations, no power, no status, in short, nothing can stand in the way of infection. We can’t escape it. Virtually no place in the world is untouched. This has left the human race vulnerable and possibly more receptive to receiving the gospel than ever before! Don’t waste the opportunities. For the first time, people who may not have before, will sit up and take note. Tell others that life goes beyond this broken world. That there is hope for eternity. That there is a place untouched by pain, illness, death, grief and fear. We have been offered the gift of life at no charge. Jesus has told us that there is no way to live in eternity without Him. If we trust Him, thank Him and accept the sacrifice He has made in our place, we can be with Him in glory forever!
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2
And remember this! Hang onto this!
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
He’s got us! Take heart!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
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Aww, thanks Ames!