Adjunct Faculty, New Life College, Bangalore
I read in the Bible and heard stories about plagues and it always seemed far away. Never did I imagine, I will be living through one of the most dreadful plagues in modern history. No one saw this coming and just in a few months the whole world is wreak havoc. The busy earth is lockdown, economy is crushed, health is catastrophic, health system is overwhelmed, hearts are crippled with fear and anxiety, relationships are torn apart, human freedom is assaulted, and so much more, as the world battles an unseen virus that is barbarously tormenting and slaughtering precious lives.
At such an unprecedented time, what good can come out of a Christian? Here are 8 helpful things Christians can do during COVID-19 crisis.
1. Learn to Lament
If there is ever a time for the church to lament in the modern world, it is now. Lament is where we say, “My God, My God, Why? How long? Help!”. When in crisis, Christians like to say, “it is gonna be okay” but it is not very helpful when the reality of it is not always true and biblical even. One of the biblical ways to go through suffering is ‘to lament. Christians often neglect this powerful expression today.
To lament is to honestly cry out to God about our pain, sorrow, and problems. To lament is to say, I have a problem and I am not okay. I need help. Help me Lord! Lament is popular in the Bible. Jesus lamented on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34). We have around 70 Psalms of lament. Normally, a lament will first address God, “How long, Lord” (Ps 13:1). Second, an expression of pain or a troubling situation, “How long will my enemy triumph over me” (Ps 13:2). Third, a request for help from the Lord, “Look on me and answer, Lord my God” (Ps 13:3). Fourth, it normally ends with an expression of confidence and hope, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Ps 13:5).
Lament is not the same as crying. It is a unique form of Christian prayer and worship. It is a godly way of processing and dealing with our miseries. In lament, we seek God first; We cry out to God; We hope in God to help in our hopeless situation; and we believe that God will come to our rescue. Let us learn to lament in this crisis.
2. Stir up Faith
“I hear many whispering, ‘terror on every side!’” (Ps 31:13). The Psalmist is right, the world is terrified and paralyzed with fear. Fear has created a pit in many stomachs and anxiety is crippling many hearts. But when the world is panic-stricken Christians should sow and show faith. If we are shaking like a leaf, what good is our faith? Our faith should save us from fear. If a tiny unseen virus can create so much fear how much more should faith like a mustard seed create? A lot more. The Spirit of God in us is not the spirit of fear but of power, love, and discipline (1 Tim 1:7). Exercise your faith and let your faith be visible to people around you. Trust me it will help them as well.
Three reasons why I have faith. First, God does not change (Heb 13:8). Second, God’s word does not change (1 Pet 1:24–25). God’s plan and purposes for our lives will not change (Ephe 1:11). This virus cannot change any of these. The world is taken by surprise but God knew from eternity past about this virus and He already made plans for us. And no virus can thwart the purpose of God in our lives (Job 42:2). Listen to Jesus, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt 10:29–31). We have all the reasons for our faith to triumph over fear. But avoid presumptive faith that negates precautions and confuses wisdom with fear.
3. Pray a little more
Jesus isolated himself from the crowd to pray (Luke 5:16; 6:12). Social distance for Jesus was to pray. It is a good time to walk in the Lord’s footsteps. In lockdown and forced isolation, we cannot say we are too busy to pray. We can take this time of isolation to isolate with God. Be in God’s presence and encounter Him like never before. Allowing Him to have His way in our lives. Speaking for myself, I am closer to God in this lockdown.
Prayer is not just about us at times like this. The world is in need of healing and that can come through prayer. In prayer, we partner with God to do his work and kingdom. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16). We have to pray that God protects us and brings the pandemic to an end, heal those that are infected, comfort those that have lost their loved ones, help and protect people risking their lives in taking care of the sick (medical workers and military), give wisdom to the scientific community to come up with a cure and vaccine, provide for the poor, protect the more vulnerable, etc. It is time for us to pray, pray, and pray.
4. Enjoy Peace and Exhibit Joy
It is normal to see some fun on April Fool’s day. I was surprised to not see or hear any and that is very telling. This virus is a friend of fear and anxiety and has robbed the world of her peace and joy. People have turned on their serious mode. But Paul exhorts us to "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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” (Phil 4:4–7).
Paul was not disoriented when he wrote this. He was in prison. He also knew the church in Philippi was persecuted, divided, poor, and false teachers were disturbing the church. Nonetheless, he vouched for joy and peace. Jesus, at the darkest hour of his life, said, “my joy may be in you” (John 15:11). True joy and peace are not dependent on life situations. It comes from God. It comes from praying because in His presence there is fulness of joy (Ps 16:11). Paul added, “peace that passeth all understanding” meaning it is beyond the understanding of the world. In other words, the world will not get it when we start rejoicing and talk about peace in this time of panic and crisis. But that is what we are called for. Bless your neighbor by enjoying the peace and exhibiting the joy that comes from the Lord.
5. Share the Truth
If you know the truth, the truth will set you free (John 8:32). Jesus is the truth and we are followers and people of the truth. We are called to stand on the truth, speak the truth, and spread the truth. However, it is disheartening to see Christians driven by conspiracy theories and the sharing of unconfirmed (fake) news. Fear and uncertainty regarding COVID-19 have become a fertile ground for breeding conspiracy and false information about its origin, cure, vaccines, etc. There are so many rumors, exaggerations, speculations, etc that falsehood has become commonplace especially on social media. We are living in a generation with unlimited information with no supervision. There is grave danger in that. Fake news is putting lives at risk.
Christians should be discerning and thoughtful at this crucial hour. Social media should not be our main source let alone our only source. Before sharing or spreading any news, we should confirm with credible trusted sources. We have “to speak the truth in love” (Ephe 4:15) and “be wise, not unwise” (Ephe 5:16). Proverbs 14:15 warns us not to be a gullible person believing everything but be sensible. We have to allow the Spirit of truth in us to bear fruit. The truth should be our priority and nothing else. Christians spreading and sharing unproven speculations dishonors the Lord and it harms our Christian call to witness the truth.
6. Love More
The whole Law is summed up in “loving God” and “loving our neighbor”. God demands our out-and-out love and devotion for Him which is supplemented by loving our neighbors as ourselves. We love God because He first loved us. We have to be assured of the love of God in a crisis like this. Love God. Love Him more. "Loving our neighbor” can be many things practically in different situations. In a pandemic like ours, the best way to love our neighbors is to stay away from them. The golden rule, “do unto others what you want them to do to you” applies here in reverse: You don’t want people to infect you nor do they. This applies to us at this stage of the pandemic.
This crisis gave birth to a lot of outrage, hatred, and racism all around the world. The world was not prepared for it and it cannot control the virus nor the hatred. But for Christians, this crisis should bring out the best of us. It should bring out love; our love for God and our neighbors. We may have to go the extra mile to do that. But that is biblical love. We have to support those in need, protect those who are more vulnerable, care for those infected, comfort those that have lost their loved ones, etc. We have to spread love and spread more love.
7. Work with the Government
It is a proven fact that ‘Social Distancing’ is key to fighting the virus. Now, all governments around the world are trying their best to keep their citizens in their homes. It is disconcerting to see some Christians and churches taking the efforts of the State as some sort of persecution. How ignorant can we be? It is protection, not persecution. A public gathering of any sort can become a bomb of the virus. It is not worth it. Christians should not confuse wisdom with unbelief and fear with precautions. Maintaining social distance is not a matter of “faith vs fear” but is an act of prevention. This is not the time to prove who has more faith. Faith does not cancel precautions. I trust God can protect me but I still lock the doors before going to sleep. I bet you do too.
Instead, the church should partner with the government in relief works. It can be done directly or indirectly. For many, the voice of the church is more powerful than the government. Church leaders should educate their members with facts and the need to cooperate. Churches should step up to donate and help her members and also others that are in need. There is so much the church and Christians individually can do and we should.
8. Wait with Hope
In the end, I would like to say, this is not the end of the world. This is not the first plague and most probably will not be the last. But just in case it is the end, for Christians, it is good news. We will be with the Lord very soon. I fail to understand those Christians that talk about the end times with fear and terror. Where is the hope? I am also peeved by the end-time predictors, date-setters, and calculators. Most of them are at best naive and worst baseless and misleading. I see them as fake news and nothing else.
I believe this is a season. A bitter season it is. A new season is coming soon. Wait upon the Lord with hope for He will deliver us. He will renew our strength; we will fly, run, and walk freely again (Isa 40:31). Yes, we have hope eternal but also hope for our present lives. With God, we will overcome. Let me conclude with the words of Prince Charles who recently recovered from COVID-19, “None of us can say when this will end. But end, it will. Until it does, let us try and live with hope and with faith in ourselves and each other looking forward to better times to come.”