I’m a journalist, so I have an excuse. Right?
It’s been less than a week and the constant stream of news — the daily White House briefings, the endless thread of state and local updates, the brand new podcasts dedicated solely to the coronavirus pandemic — and it’s already taking a toll on me. I shouldn’t be surprised: I spend eight hours a day consuming it all, and then I wonder why my outlook is so gloomy.
The mountain of challenges and the valley of pain we could be facing is terrific. It’s absolutely imperative that we all stay informed, but over the course of the last several days, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: balance matters.
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Get the facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and follow the guidelines from your state and local leaders, but don’t overwhelm yourself with information.
Here are four things I’m reminding myself. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
It’s OK to be scared.
The fear we all have of this novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a rational concern. It makes sense to be scared of it, and according to one pastor, Paul David Tripp, it’s right for us to be scared of this disease.
Look at it this way: you and I don’t touch our stoves when they’re hot. Why? Because we’re afraid of the consequences — we are afraid of the pain it will cause, the burns it will induce, and the care and recovery touching a really hot surface will certainly require. That’s a healthy fear that results in our making wise decisions. We’re experiencing the same phenomenon with this coronavirus.
But we can’t live in fear. We can’t be consumed by our concerns, because then they become idols. We forget God. We forget He’s in control and that nothing — not even a pandemic like this — vexes Him.
You are not alone. So many others are facing the very same anxieties and worries you’re feeling at this very moment. And the good news is this: the one true God is there to meet each and every one of us in this moment, if only we just ask (Matthew 7:7).
God is not surprised by this.
Nothing in this life happens outside God’s purview. Our sin in this broken world has consequences. I’m not saying this coronavirus is a direct response to any kind of sin, but it is the result of the brokenness of this world.
There’s beauty to be found among the ashes, though. There is redemption in the middle of the rubble. We know that for those who trust in Jesus for salvation, God works all things for good (Romans 8:28). That doesn’t mean all things are good, but it does mean that nothing is wasted. There is not one event — no matter its benefit or consequence — that is not salvageable for God’s glory and our eternal good.
This pandemic is an opportunity for the church to really be what Scripture calls us to be, which is the hands and feet of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27). What does that mean? It means to care for those less fortunate, the afflicted and those in need, the hurting and the hungry, the downtrodden and the depressed, because in God’s eyes, it’s as if we have done it unto Him (Matthew 25:40).
If you can, help your church transition to online services during this time. Donate money or resources to groups helping to feed children who rely on school lunches during the week or for people whose jobs have been lost to this virus. Have conversations with your friends and family about the importance of taking the warnings from our leaders seriously.
Every news update is a reminder to pray.
If you’re like me, you carry your smartphone with you like it’s part of your body, and each time it buzzes (and even when it doesn’t), your reflex is to pick it up and tap away. And in this cultural moment, the news notifications are unending.
So don’t waste them — and I’m preaching to myself, too.
Growing up, my parents taught me and my siblings to say a quiet prayer each time we heard an ambulance scream by our house, to petition God on behalf of the first responders, the medical personnel, and the person(s) they were rushing to help. We should see the news notifications on our phones the same way, as reminders for prayer and praise in this trying time.
Even in this valley, God is present and eager to hear from us and to comfort us (Psalm 23:4). We are seeking after a God whom even the winds and seas obey (Matthew 8:27). Trust His power.
God has already provided for us.
It’s already clear, even in the midst of suffering, that God has not left us alone. He has not pulled Himself away from us, leaving His creation to suffer and flounder on our own.
Look again at that device in your hand — the one you’re probably using to read this article — and thank God He has provided it to you. In past pandemics or cultural crises, people didn’t have such profound technologies to connect with their friends and families when they had to socially distance themselves from one another, as we’re doing now in an effort to slow the spread of the illness, which could result in severe symptoms.
Our technologies have enabled us to order food and supplies without having to venture out into crowded markets and grocery stores, where we could expose ourselves or others to this novel coronavirus. We are able to support local restaurants and brands we care about by purchasing gift cards in hopes of using them again soon, trying to keep them afloat through this season of uncertainty.
The world has grown smaller in recent weeks as our technology and resources have allowed us — and, more importantly, the medical experts much smarter than us — to track how this virus is spreading, changing, and impacting people’s lives around the world, helping us to respond swiftly and appropriately to the threat it poses.
This is not easy, but without these advances, our prospects would be bleaker.
I can’t stop reading the news. It’s my job. But I can strike a better balance. We could all probably find a better balance. We will get through this, and I hope those four remembrances make the weight of the journey a little easier to bear.