In crisis, cling to hope
Crisis is just a term until it impacts you.
Coronavirus, for many, is inconvenient shortages of toilet paper or spending long days and weeks staying home, but that’s not too serious, unless you actually start to feel sick, or lose your job, or work in direct contact with those who are sick. For them or their friends or their relatives, coronavirus becomes a life-threatening, full-blown crisis.
David Platt, a pastor in Northern Virginia, wrote, “I see a family of four gathered in their living room to watch online. Dad has just lost his job, Mom is wondering how they’re going to make ends meet, and the kids have no idea what calamity is unfolding around them. They’re just glad they get to go to church in their pajamas.
“I see an elderly man whose wife passed away a couple of years ago. He is extremely vulnerable to this virus, and he’s living in lonely isolation because of it. I see a young woman with mental illness. She was already prone to anxiety and depression, and now she’s experiencing fear as she’s never felt before.
“I see a couple quarantined with their baby girl. After a family gathering a few days ago, the father’s sister tested positive for the virus, so now they sit and wait to see if they have it, too. I see a single mom who was already struggling to care for her four children, two of whom have special needs. She was laid off this week, and she doesn’t know what to do next.
“I see a middle-aged man who was hopeful that his cough and fever were normal, but who went to the emergency room just in case. Now he’s watching me from a hospital bed, hoping these symptoms subside without further severity.”
Today, when you read about the health and financial crisis due to the coronavirus, remember real individuals are living with the consequences. Whether through illness or job loss or receiving a drastic reduction in your retirement benefits. Health and financial crisis means tough times for most and tragedy for others.
The central question for us as people of faith should be, “Now what?” How can God guide us out of the crisis and help those impacted? What hope can God offer to strengthen us?
The Bible contains many dramatic examples of people going through crisis. David standing before Goliath. Moses facing the Red Sea. Paul confronting an angry crowd and Jesus moving toward the cross.
Psalm 46 provides a vivid description of God right in the midst of such tragedy, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge.” (Vs. 1-3)
No matter the crisis, God will see you through. Earthquakes symbolize tragedies of such a magnitude, everything is violently disrupted. Your self-esteem, your will to fight, even your faith seems ineffective in the path of such destruction. Yet in the midst of the earthquake our Psalmist boldly proclaims, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help. So we will not fear.”
Lesson One – Do not fear. God will be our strength. Facing the novel coronavirus is scary, but God provides help. We should not fear, for God is our refuge.
After predicting the devastation of Israel, God instructs Jeremiah to purchase a plot of land where the destruction will occur. This is like predicting a Category 5 hurricane then purchasing choice beachfront property in the affected area. Why? Jeremiah writes, “Someday people will again own property here in this land and will buy and sell houses and vineyards and fields.” (Jer 32:15)
Lesson Two – Listen to God and cling to hope. Jeremiah took action in the face of tragedy. Buying land in the path of destruction symbolized hope for the future. Our churches should spend time in prayer and Bible study listening for God’s word and then be prepared to take action.
Platt continues his article in the Washington Post, writing, “I see thousands of men and women who believe that sensibly separating from others in the name of public containment doesn’t prohibit selflessly serving others with personal compassion.
“I see men and women reaching out to the family of four, that elderly man, that anxious woman, that quarantined couple with their baby, that single mom with her kids and that middle-aged man in the hospital.
“I see exhausted nurses, doctors, medical researchers, government officials and grocery store employees who are working long days and sleepless nights for the good of people they don’t even know. I see people who realize that social distancing from each other doesn’t mean we stop caring for each other in wise ways.
“I still see the church. I see people who are hurting, and I see people who are helping. I see people who are struggling, and I see people who are serving. I see thousands of men and women scattered across our city who believe that now more than ever is the time to look to God for hope and to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
When crisis strikes, God’s church is called to respond. 1 – Do not fear. 2 – Listen to God and Cling to Hope. Crisis, even as serious as the coronavirus, comes and goes. But our Godly response can be life changing and have eternal consequences. Right now, we have the opportunity to be God’s church in bold and creative ways for each other, for our community, for the world.
REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org