A Pandemic Observed
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
I can’t help but continue to write on my present experience as part of a worldwide pandemic, however I want to offer something a bit different, God willing. There are millions of articles and videos out there on everything related to COVID-19, most of them being quite terrifying. The statistics are overwhelming, putting us in emotional chokeholds. Fear will freeze our blood, spiritually speaking. I want to be like Han Solo after C-3PO tells him the dire statistic of getting out of the asteroid field alive (3,720 to 1, as some Star Wars fans may recall): “Never tell me the odds.”
You know, obsessing over the odds could kill you, faster than a virus. There’s many ways to die in this life, and the physical one, the final one, isn’t at all as frightening as some of the others. To live without human connection and intimacy is much worse. To shut off emotionally or shut down our hearts in the wake of human suffering and tragedy is a spiritual pandemic that has effects far more reaching than COVID-19. People will do what people do in these times: hoarding, looting, bribing, fear-mongering, price-gouging, and the like. Generosity, compassion, and empathy may be threatened with extinction more and more as the weeks pass, as the shortages grow, as the news gets worse (and they will find a way to make it worse even if it isn’t—they always do).
What will the Church do in these days? What will I do? I want to just assume I could never sink so low as all that but the curling panic in my gut from time to time throughout the day tells me a different story. I don’t know what I’m capable of—I mean that in both a positive and negative way. I’m frightened these days may test me in ways that show utter weakness, vulnerability, and a vein of selfishness a mile wide. I also want to say that I just might have an amazing capacity for kindness and servanthood that even I don’t know is there, something invested over all these many years of believing in Jesus Christ, the greatest servant of all time. He has sown His precious seed in my heart and mind for so long that I have to, simply must trust that it will produce fruit in these days. I have to declare in faith: I am part of His solution. I am part of the compassionate and loving response that will certainly arise in these days, and be written in the annals of heaven, if not those of earth.
I was speaking with our Ignite students yesterday (our internship program), and we were talking about hitting “the wall”—a term used in Peter Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. The wall is called many things in our spiritual journey, one of them being “the wilderness.” I’ve been writing about that, as you may recall. But as I was speaking to the students I realized that humanity is hitting “the wall,” all together at once, and it is a very interesting time that possibly has never been seen before in human history. My question to the students became the question to myself, and the question I will pass on to you, as you read this: How can we prepare emotionally and spiritually for these times? Is it even possible?
The students rather wisely answered that it was impossible to prepare for things specifically, the concrete details we may not yet know, but certainly it is possible to prepare emotionally and spiritually. As a matter of fact the Word of God makes clear over and over that it is absolutely essential and critical that we do prepare and it is contingent upon us to do this to the best of our ability. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.*
Could COVID-19 be a massive wake-up call from God for the entire world, reiterating the words of Paul, bringing them to the forefront with new life and urgency? Many are already saying that. Prophecies are pouring in from all over the world about these days, how many people predicted them, what God is going to do through this. I guess that’s all well and good, but I think Paul summed it up quite effectively anyway. We are going to have to wake up, rise up, and let Christ shine on us. We will have to be a lot wiser with our opportunities, seizing them all, but not in the greedy way of the world but in the reckless abandonment of a life fully dedicated to the Sovereign God of the universe. The days are evil, as a matter of fact they are always evil, but sometimes evil hides in our more civilized societies. What happens when the mask comes off and we must show who we truly are, all of us? Evil and good will crystalize in sharp relief, and we must choose sides. What will we do in these evil days?
As I prayed this week, three words came to me:
Maybe I will explore that in the coming weeks some more through this blog, we’ll see. Seems like some great topics. For now I know that these days will call forth something new inside me, inside each one of us, and I want to answer the call with a heart filled with worshipful abandonment, trusting in a God I cannot see and sometimes cannot feel, but in faith knowing He is absolutely, 100%, without question, watching over me and mine. And you and yours as well. We must prepare as a people the way the Word tells us to—with worship, prayer, and trust, building ourselves up in faith, hope and love for our neighbors.
And maybe it’s time to shut the lid of your computer or tablet, turn off your phone, and grab a paper Bible tucked away somewhere. The world wants to tell you the odds, but the Word doesn’t even bother. We know the end of the story. We’ve read the final line. Let’s fix our eyes straight ahead and silence the voices of fear and distress by brilliantly navigating this “asteroid field” called COVID-19. If anyone can do it, it is the disciples of Jesus Christ.
Let's wake up, rise up, and not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good! Amen, and so be it.