Coronavirus. COVID-19. I don’t even like typing the words right now. As I write this, cases of COVID-19 are steadily climbing in the U.S. and other parts of the world. It’s been declared a pandemic. We’re beginning to see some of the (necessary) dominos fall: The NBA, MLB, NHL, Champions League, Player’s Championship, NCAA basketball tournament, and more have postponed seasons or canceled events. Universities across the country are transitioning students to fully online classes and emptying dorms. Churches are weighing whether to cancel services. Worst-case scenarios are being floated on Twitter and national television. At this time, the fear and panic can threaten to overwhelm. How do we respond? Especially as believers, how do we react to an event like this? I don’t, under any circumstances, claim to have all the answers. Not by a long shot. However, I am a fan of controlling what I can control, so here are five of my personal suggestions for responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Exercise caution and common sense. Part of any event like this is filtering through the white noise and finding the reliable sources of information. Those reliable sources are hard at work sending out advice for minimizing risk of both contracting and communicating COVID-19. Listen to them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? Part of that prevention process is exercising caution and common sense. I recommend practicing an abundance of caution. Avoid shaking hands. Wash those hands. Don’t cough or sneeze into the open air. Not feeling well? Avoid others as much as possible. We’re now being asked to practice social distancing. Practice it. I know a lot of it can be inconvenient, but it is how we stop events like this. A lot of good can be accomplished if people will stop thinking of themselves as invincible, or stop pretending this is just another common cold, and exercise caution.
- Extend grace and compassion. Maybe this event will be over in a few weeks. Maybe it will linger for the next year. Maybe you think its no big deal. Maybe you’re feeling some anxiety. Either way, lots of people are afraid right now, and the least we can do is extend compassion. We all know what fear feels like, and we all like to be comforted in the midst of our own fears. Maybe you aren’t afraid of the virus, but someone you know is. Show them grace. Show them compassion. I’ve seen a lot of people angry and upset today because the NCAA tournament is canceled. I get it. But what’s more important? Getting to watch college basketball or helping relieve some of those anxieties about the virus spreading? If you think everything taking place right now is a lot of silly overreaction, that’s fine. You may be right. But you can still extend grace and compassion to those who are afraid.
- Look for ways to help. Social distancing may cut down on some of these opportunities, but as Christ-followers, we should always be looking for ways to help and minister to others. Do so while practicing that caution and common sense, please, but look for ways to help. Maybe you’re young and healthy enough to feel safe picking up some groceries and delivering them to an elderly neighbor, family member, or friend. Maybe you can help your church set up a livestream so members can still gather virtually while practicing social distancing. Maybe you can simply talk for a while with someone who is afraid. Russell Moore said, “Don’t quarantine the Great Commission.” Continue exercising caution, but look for ways to help others in this difficult time.
- Remember that God is on His throne. This pandemic did not catch God by surprise. I don’t pretend to know why things happen the way that they do, but I do know that they are under the control of a good and perfect God. No matter what happens, He is God. His love for His people endures. His power and reach never fall short. His eternal purposes do not fail. Rest today in the knowledge that the King of creation remains just that.
- Pray. J.D. Greear, Ronnie Floyd, and the SBC’s Executive Committee have called for a time of prayer this Sunday in SBC churches. In a graphic posted to social media, four specific prayers were set forth. My church will be joining together in prayer for these things on Sunday, but they are all things that each of us can also pray individually, with families, or with small groups throughout this time. They are listed below.
- “Ask God, in His mercy, to stop this pandemic and save lives – not only in our communities but around the world, particularly in places that are unequipped medically to deal with the virus. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
- Pray for President Donald Trump and other government leaders – international, federal, state, and local – to have the wisdom to direct us in the best courses of action for prevention and care. (Romans 13:1-4)
- Scripture says teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom in this moment of fear as the foundations of what we know are shaken, that others would realize how fragile life is and how real eternity is, and they would see their need to turn to God. (Psalm 90:12)
- Ask God to protect our missionaries and their families around the globe, using this global crisis to advance His Good News to the whole world. (Mark 16:15)
This is a difficult time for our nation and our world but, as my small group discussed tonight, this is also the time for Christ-followers to show who we are. Minister to others with grace and compassion. Look for safe and reasonable ways to help. Remember that God is in control and pray throughout this crisis. And let us always remember that God is good.