By Matt Friend

Last week was one for the history books.

Our children will remember the Coronavirus Pandemic like many of us remember September 11, 2001. Toss in a crushing blow to the stock market, Friday the 13th, a full moon, the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, and a nasty scooter wreck for our son… My wife and I were beginning to think the now-famous meme is correct, “Who’s playing Jumanji?”

You’re concerned. The grocery store shelves are bare. You can’t find toilet paper, and (like the rest of us) you have no idea why!

So the question knocks at the door of your mind and won’t go away, “How should I respond?” Here are 5 responses to avoid.

#1 – Tightening your grip on life

So often that’s my tendency. Has it been yours?

How did you feel when the NCAA tournament was cancelled? What about the closures of Disney World, high school athletics, graduations? What were your thoughts as you watched your 401k leak like a sieve or as the guy in front of you bought the last roll of toilet paper?

If you’re like me, you want to hold tighter and fight harder. By nature, we tighten our grip on things that are temporary. We love to be in control.

But holding onto life and playing God is not how Jesus invites us to respond. He created life. He made and owns all things. He is eternal, but our lives are fleeting “like grass” (Psalm 103). Our days “quickly pass” (Psalm 90). “Generations come and generations go” (Ecclesiastes 1), like a “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Lecrae wisely speaks into our pain at a time like this, “We haven’t lost control of our lives; we’ve just lost the illusion we were ever in control.”

“We haven’t lost control of our lives; we’ve just lost the illusion we were ever in control.” -Lecrae Click To Tweet

#2 – Worrying and panicking

Have you experienced any anxiety in the last week?

Were you able to arrange a tutor for the kids? Do you still have a job? How’s your cabin fever? How many shoes have you thrown at the television?

In contrast to the plethora of voices vying for your attention, Jesus makes a bold and reassuring promise:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

Corrie ten Boom never battled the Coronavirus, but she led courageously in the face of a deadly philosophical virus—Nazi fascism. Her words still ring in our hearts, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.”

“Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.” -Corrie ten Boom Click To Tweet

#3 – Saying, “Everything is going to be okay.”

Have you ever recited those words to someone trying to bring comfort or calm? Perhaps to a child, a friend, or loved one?

I have.

In one sense, if a person knows Jesus, things will work out eternally okay. However, we have no such promise on this side of heaven. Not even Jesus told his followers that everything was going to be okay in a world broken by sin, injustice, war, disease, and pain.

On many occasions, Jesus and his band of leaders warned us, “Things will actually get worse before they get better.” It’s very possible that the same could be true for this pandemic.

Thankfully, the good news of Jesus offers us salvation, transformation, and (eventual) restoration in a renewed universe! Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. He arose from the grave to give us life. He ascended into heaven to give us hope. One day, he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things will pass away.

On many occasions, Jesus and his band of leaders warned us, “Things will actually get worse before they get better.” It’s very possible that the same could be true for this pandemic. Click To Tweet Thankfully, the good news of Jesus offers us salvation, transformation, and (eventual) restoration in a renewed universe! Click To Tweet

#4 – Saying, “Everyone is overreacting.”

Have you ever met a conspiracy theorist? I have. My close friends say I am one.

However, this is no time for conspiracy theories. They do little to alleviate human fear and suffering.

The ancient writer Isaiah cautioned against conspiracy theories during times of calamity…

This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people: “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.”  Isaiah 8:11-13 (NIV)

The mystics of old also advise us to avoid speaking dogmatically about any issue we know very little about…

He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him.  Proverbs 18:13 (KJV)

This pandemic might seem overblown to us who live in more insulated parts of the world, but it’s not overblown for others who have buried thousands of their loved ones and neighbors.

Instead, Jesus invites us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

#5 – Loving your traditions and habits more than people

Has this global pandemic interrupted any of your traditions or habits? It certainly has mine.

From my vantage point, the decisions of others have severely interrupted my life; nevertheless, Jesus invites…

Those of us who are strong to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)

Instead of being motivated by fear, let’s be motivated by love! Love for others is one of the greatest reasons to change our behavior. This applies to how we shop, work, travel, worship, educate our children, and interact with our neighbors.

In the meantime, conversations will not be cancelled. Relationships will not be cancelled. Love will not be cancelled. Singing will not be cancelled. Phone calls will not be cancelled. Reading will not be cancelled. Self-care will not be cancelled. FaceTime will not be cancelled. Letter-writing will not be cancelled. Kind words will not be cancelled. Hope will not be cancelled.

Instead of being motivated by fear, let’s be motivated by love! Love for others is one of the greatest reasons to change our behavior. Click To Tweet

Matt Friend, a Charleston native and tenth generation West Virginian, has served in pastoral ministry since 2002, and as the Senior Pastor of Bible Center Church since 2016. He and Sarah (his high school sweetheart and wife) are raising two daughters, Katie and Riley, and one son, Kadyn. Together, they are advocates for adoption and all things Charleston. In his free time he enjoys reading, running, kayaking, and spending time with his family and two dogs, Queso and Sabi.

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