3 Keys to a Christian Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

“There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). That was easier to believe a couple of weeks ago. Although this certainly isn't the first time a crisis has captured the world's attention, few to none have had the sort of global impact as the advent of Covid-19. Maybe you have noticed a change in your mood. Going to the store makes you anxious. Troubling questions have begun to surface with greater regularity and intensity. Why has God allowed these events to happen? Where is this all headed? How do I find him in the midst of this madness?

In times like these, it is easy to become so glued to our televisions that we effectively mute God. Coronavirus and its deadly impact have flooded mainstream media coverage. Social media is awash with humorous memes about social distancing. And living somewhere between the humor and the horror, perhaps you are wondering, what am I to do?

Unless we are careful to peel our eyes from our screens and open our Bibles, inclining our ears to hear the Lord’s voice speaking to us from his Word, other voices will dominate the conversation. That doesn’t mean that the Bible should be our only source of guidance. It won’t answer every question about the Coronavirus—or any virus, for that matter—because even if the Bible does encourage handwashing (upon penalty of death, no less; Exodus 30:21), its purpose lies elsewhere. We still need experts to weigh in on the various medical, social, political, and economic factors. In other words, Christians should be diligent hand washers, not because of Exodus 30:21, but because infectious disease specialists say it is one of the best ways to prevent viral spread.

What we will find in Scripture to help us through this unique time is everything we need to know in order to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We’ll find guidance that applies whether our best-laid plans go awry or the world turns upside down. In fact, as Christians, you and I face the same difficult choice today that we faced yesterday, and will face again tomorrow. That is, will we trust in and follow Jesus?

So what does that look like in the face of rapidly changing response plans, ominous projections, and much uncertainty about the future? What, in short, should characterize your response?

1. Faith, not Fear

The point isn’t that we never feel afraid, but that we act in faith rather than react in fear. Fear is consumed by circumstances. It sets its gaze upon the horizon in a tireless search for trouble. “I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life” (Psalm 31:13). Fear always looks out, but never up.

That doesn’t mean that faith is ignorant. No, it knows the trouble that surrounds it, but nevertheless chooses to look up to God in faith. “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help” (Psalm 31:22).

So how should Christians respond to fear? The words of an old hymn come to mind:

When sins and fears prevailing rise,

And fainting hope almost expires

Jesus to Thee I lift my eyes

To Thee I breathe my soul's desires[1]

Fear fixates on crisis; faith fixes its eyes on Christ.

2. Hope, not Despair

The inevitable result of unchecked fear is despair. “I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away” (Psalm 31:9-10). Paralyzed by fear, despair is like a net that entangles us in pessimism. We grumble. We complain. Weighed down by dark thoughts, we expect only evil continually. And as fear festers, despair rots us from the inside out.

Are You not mine, my living Lord?

And can my hope, my comfort die,

Fixed on your everlasting word,

That word which built the earth and sky?[1]

If faith raises our gaze, then hope lifts our spirits out of the dungeon of despair. It changes our expectations from evil to good. “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you” (Psalm 31:19). As faith looks up to Christ, she finds in him her blessed hope (Titus 2:13). “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15a).

Hope also heralds Christ as our ever-present help in times of trouble. How we share that hope with those around us may vary, but that we do so has not changed. The Great Commission cannot be quarantined. Give others every reason to see that there is hope living within you, for the hope that rejoices in Christ will shine bright within this scared and frightened world.

If my immortal Savior lives,

Then my immortal life is sure;

His word a firm foundation gives,

Here, let me build, and rest secure.[1]

3. Love, not Hate (or Apathy)

“So now remain faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Loving our neighbor is no less important today than yesterday, although lately, that love has taken on abnormal dimensions. Staying home, away from others, could be one of the most loving things you can do at this time. And so we love our neighbors, paradoxically as it may sound, by waiting inside and trusting in Christ.

But let us not forget to also “Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 31:23-24).

Here, let my faith unshaken dwell,

Immovable the promise stands;

Not all the powers of earth or hell,

Can e'er dissolve the sacred bands.[1]

I have found it a curious thing, this feeling that I experience, as I watch everything around me changing, yet seeking to trust that nothing which truly matters has really changed at all. For beyond the monotonous observation that “there is nothing new under the sun,” Scripture offers us a far greater promise. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The coronavirus has disturbed all of our lives (and perhaps your faith), but it need not dominate them. Turn to Christ. Heed his call. Hear and hang onto his words of life. And hope against hope in Jesus’ promise that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”  (Mark 13:31). So when sin and fears prevailing rise, raise your eyes to Christ and lift up your voice in songs of praise.

Here, O my soul, your trust repose,

If Jesus is forever mine,

Not death itself, that last of foes,

Shall break a union so divine.[1]

Notes

  1. a, b, c, d, e Anne Steel, “When Sins and Fears Prevailing Rise,” in Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional, by Theodosia, vol. 1 (Bristol: Printed by W. Pine, 1780). Language updated by Jars of Clay, “Jesus, I Lift My Eyes,” track 9 on Redemption Songs, Essential Records, 2005.

Ryan Thomas

Ryan Thomas is the Assistant Radio Producer for Core Christianity and a former writer for Haven Today. He worked as a civil engineer for 10 years in Lake Tahoe prior to pursuing his Master of Divinity at Westminster Seminary California. When he doesn't have his nose in a book he enjoys climbing mountains to get his head in the clouds, but his heart belongs to his wife Elisa. The two met in Elisa's native country of El Salvador as Ryan hitchhiked through Latin America. Together they enjoy getting lost in the great outdoors, though you will often find them in a local coffee shop, sipping their favorite brew.

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