Recent times have brought significant challenges to many within the Australian community. Drought, bushfires, severe storms have each taken their toll.
And now there is the coronavirus. While certain words – catastrophic, unprecedented – have almost become clichés, the reality is that every one of us is being affected, often in ways we’ve never before experienced. Once again, lives and livelihoods are at risk. The comforts and security that so many of us take for granted are under threat. And the uncertainty of both creates concern for all us; for some, there is significant fear and anxiety.
How might those of us who put our faith in Jesus Christ respond in the midst of this global trial? Certainly, each Christian’s response will be unique to their situation. But here are six reminders that can help all of us as we encounter the challenges of coronavirus:
1. Take expert advice seriously
In our connected world, misinformation abounds and feeds fear. It’s best to keep up to date with accurate information from a few government and health sources, such as the Australian Government Department of Health, and to put a limit on how much information you can consume each day. Don’t try to read everything out there!
Then once you have a sense of the practical and factual information, put the advice into action. Follow the social isolation recommendations. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Remain at home if you’re feeling unwell.
2. Think of others, especially the vulnerable
We saw remarkable community spirit during the bushfire crisis with people reaching out to others kindly and selflessly. Unfortunately, a pandemic like COVID-19 has the potential to drive us apart rather than drawing us together. But Christ’s love challenges us to do otherwise.
Christians have a long history of selfless action in serving those most at risk and providing care to others, often at great personal cost. And so as Christians:
- we don’t hoard groceries or toilet paper, knowing that others also have need when items are in short supply;
- we stay away from vulnerable people like the elderly or immunosuppressed to avoid transmitting disease but . . .
- we don’t forget about vulnerable people. Instead, we find other ways (texts, phone calls, etc) to stay in touch and we pray for them while also providing support, such as cooking or shopping for them when we can;
- we check in regularly with family, friends and neighbours living alone;
- we provide a listening ear to those feeling anxious and troubled whenever we can;
- we look for other creative ways to demonstrate Christian love in action.
3. Remember spiritual truths
We are always in need of the nourishment of Scripture, no more so than at a time like this.
Often we live under the illusion that we are in control of our lives. This pandemic reminds us that we are not. But there are no surprises and no uncertainty for our Creator and Redeemer, the one “who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
While circumstances change, our God does not. He is in complete control and he is completely good, watching over us with compassion and love. We have a hope that transcends the uncertainties of our lives and even death itself (1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Hebrews 2:14-15).
So, let’s remember that, “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
4. Call upon God in prayer
Our heavenly Father loves to hear of our needs, our heartaches and our longings. He promises to draw near to us as we draw near to him (James 4:8).
Prayer can ease the struggle in troubling times. As Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:5b-7, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve always loved how the great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, put it: “Carry your desires to the Lord of your life, the guardian of your soul. … This shall bring you God’s own peace. You shall not be able to understand the peace which you shall enjoy.”
So, let’s call upon our great God for those affected by the illness, for the bereaved, for health professionals, those working on a vaccine, etc.
5. Look after yourself so you can keep looking after others
We are earthly creatures as well as Christians with a heavenly home. We need to care for our physical, emotional and spiritual needs to be able to continue to care for others, even if we’re at home self-isolating.
That means we need to take time to rest and to try to get good sleep and exercise. We need to eat nutritious food and think of creative ways to have fun (Doing a jigsaw puzzle? Listening to music? A sewing or woodwork project? Those books we bought but never got to?) in this new context.
6. Cling to Hope
Three great Christian virtues – faith, hope and love – are so important at a time like this. We trust our ever-faithful God. Though the circumstances might seem bleak and the future uncertain, we don’t despair, knowing that we have a sure and certain hope in the grace of our Lord Jesus. He already encountered death for our sake that we might live forever in his love and presence.
That hope and confidence in him remains the source of our joy, as we reflect the love of God to others and look to the needs of those around us. “‘Take heart’, Jesus said, ‘I have overcome the world.’”
For more ideas and information during these times, see these resources:
Rev. Dr. Keith Condie is Co-Director/Founder with his wife Sarah of the Mental Health & Pastoral Care Institute at Anglican Deaconess Ministries. He has degrees in psychology, theology and history, and for his PhD, he looked at meditation in the thought of a seventeenth-century Puritan pastor, Richard Baxter. Keith has worked in child welfare for the state government as well as serving as an Assistant Minister in two churches in Sydney. For nearly 20 years, he was on the faculty at Moore Theological College as Dean of Students and lecturer in ministry and church history. Keith enjoys reading, keeping fit, cooking and the ritual of Thursday night family dinners, while escaping occasionally to the coast to walk along isolated beaches.