Once again, the world is experiencing a pandemic. Only this time it’s our turn to encounter travel bans, cancelled events, stockpiling and waves of uncertainty.
The response has been quite diverse. Some are waking up to a reality that has been looming for months. Others are running a “do not fear” campaign exhorting those who are anxious. Still some are promoting conspiracy theories, dismissing preventative action, or downplaying the virus as “just the flu”.
But for my family the threat is very real.
I am one of those in the “at risk” category. As one who is immunocompromised, my actions could literally be the difference between health and hospitalization.
For now, the virus is here to stay and will likely get worse before it gets better. Am I nervous? Of course. Am I taking precautions? You bet. A mutating virus to which humans have no immunity deserves our serious attention and responsible action.
How you respond to this crisis matters. Whether you realize it or not, your actions communicate a message. The question to ask yourself is, what kind of message do I want to send?
As a church, we have an opportunity to be the light in a darkening world and to literally love your neighbor as yourself.
What does that look like? Here are four ways to model Jesus in the coming weeks:
During this outbreak, many people are anxious and afraid. And they have good reason to be. As Christians it can be tempting to reach for our arsenal of “fear not” verses or label preventative action as not having enough faith.
But God does not do this. When we are afraid, God does not belittle, dismiss or rebuke our fear. He reassures it. God repeatedly comforts His timid flock, encouraging them with His presence, protection and provision (Is 41:10, Ps 23). Doing so brings relief, not reprimand.
Instead of judging or rebuking others for their fear, let’s validate and reassure them of who God is and how much He loves them. Jesus, the One who is our peace (Eph 2:14), offered compassion, love, comfort, encouragement, help and relief to those who needed it most.
Whether you realize it or not, there are many immunocompromised people who are relying on you to be responsible. And they are not just the elderly. Many young people and families are at risk too and are all counting on you to do your part.
Not all of us will be “fine”. Not all of us will have the supplies we need. Not all of us will experience mild symptoms if we get sick. Your health influences mine. Hoarding creates a deficit for someone else. As much as we promote individualism, the truth is we are all interdependent.
God does not differentiate between the young, old, weak, strong, sick or healthy. Survival of the fittest is not a concept in the Kingdom of God. “Jesus’ message is unique because of its excessive amount of concern for the vulnerable. Christians are rarely more incarnational than when they say: society may consider you expendable, but we won’t” (Relevant Magazine).
Philippians 2:1-4 compels us to be aware of others and to prioritize their needs to the same standard and with the same urgency as our own.
Loving others means personal sacrifice and adjusting our own routine for the benefit of another. Social distancing, rigorous personal hygiene, staying home when sick, checking on neighbors, offering to buy groceries for the elderly, lending supplies to those in need are just a few examples of how we can love others during this uncertain time.
Cancellations may be inconvenient but they can also be a blessing. Social restrictions may end up creating the space we need for reflection, rest and reconnection.
For the first time in a long time, I saw entire families going for walks together. Dads playing baseball in the backyard with their kids. Neighbors checking in on each other. Strangers catching up on the latest news in the grocery store. It takes me back to a slower time, when people were more connected and we made up our own fun at home.
This pandemic doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. If you’re going to be home more often, take the time you need for self-care and to reflect on your life. See it as an opportunity to create new memories as a family. Watch movies, play games, read books, do a puzzle, color, journal, pray, sing, call a friend, send a card, take an online class, work from home, start a new hobby, go for a walk, reorganize, do some spring cleaning; the ideas are endless.
What better time to offer the hope of Jesus than during the Easter season when the world looks dark and grim? Hope and grace are what set Christianity apart from all other religions.
In the Gospel story, there is always movement from darkness to light. What looked like a tragedy to the world was in reality the salvation of all mankind. In the midst of suffering, our God is a delivering God. He is a healing God (Ex 15:26). He is a God of the impossible, One who always brings life out of death (2 Cor. 4:8-12). Our God’s light shines through the broken cracks of His people, whose power and strength are best displayed through our weakness, not our strength (2 Cor. 4:6-7). He is a faith-building, awe-inspiring, soul-reviving God who resurrects hope from despair and joy from hardship.
The story God writes never ends in tragedy.
Even if our bodies fail, our spirit can be renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16). God will never forget or forsake His people. He always fulfills His promises.
Our hope is built, not upon grit, but on God. It is the person of Jesus who makes me brave. It is His nearness that is my peace, my strength, and my rest.
Our hope is then placed, not in the circumstances we see, but in the promises and character of a God we don’t see. For it is by faith we walk, not by sight (2 Cor 4:18, 5:7).
Our God is with us, even in this. And that is what we really need.
This post originally appeared on aacwomensblog.com