It’s the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine… REM
Out in the zone
Fear and distrust were written on the faces we passed as Linda and I rolled through the ravaged shelves of the store grabbing the essential items we could find. No-one spoke or smiled for fear of inhaling the virus from the ticking time bomb pushing the other cart.
I spent the morning digging out of the blizzard we’d had the day before. We got slammed being at elevation and farther east where the wind winds up hard. We wanted to get down there to beat the crowd, but we became part of the crowd. A tired employee was pushing a string of shopping carts into the empty cart area just as we walked up. The hand sanitizers were all gone, and you felt like you wanted to hold your breath as you entered.
Everyone was on good behavior not too pushy or rude, and you could feel a sense of resigned determination. The checkout lines were longer than I’d ever seen them, backing way back in between the aisles, and all carts packed full. It felt like people behave when they’re leaving a concert or event. Everyone knows they’ll get out, so let’s just be nice and flow out together, even though it’s slow.
I felt sorry for the checkout lady who was tirelessly unloading cart after cart of groceries checking them through. When it was our turn I asked her how she was holding up. She said she was exhausted and her back hurt.
Do you have one of those cushions to stand on? she said no. I bagged the groceries, resisting the co-dependant pressure I felt from the long line waiting on us. I thanked her for being there and for all her hard work serving us.
Things are happening fast. The restaurants are all closed, drive-through or carry out only. Forget about the pub or the movies. Schools out forever, with all those implications. No concerts, or any entertainment involving gatherings of people. Church is virtual only now. Everything’s grinding to a halt. California just went on lockdown, will we be next?
I’ve come up with an acrostic for the Covid 19 virus that describes the character and assignment of this particular enemy. Along with each letter I’m including some practical tips to conquer the assignment each letter brings.
The C stands for Crash Chaos, Crisis, and Catastrophe.
It’s all of the above. The fear-driven stock market has crashed again, sweeping away a lot of our money that is easy to put confidence in. Many people are suddenly out of work with valid concerns about paying for life without an income stream. There is a chaotic cascade effect that hasn’t been felt yet along with the uncertainty of the entire world economy.
Questions are raised about the survival of many institutions as we know them. If they do survive, they may exist in a different form in the future. No-one knows for sure as there is incredible uncertainty about the future. All this is painful. I offer these scriptures for comfort and courage.
He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. Psalm 119:7,8
For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper. Psalm 72:12
The O stands for overreacting.
Remember the enemy’s operating system is fear. He loves panic and confusion, it’s getting everyone where he wants them. A society in fear is not able to love and care.
It’s fear accompanied by selfishness that caused all the toilet paper and sanitizer to disappear from the grocery shelves. Along with all the bread and meat so everyone can freeze it for themselves. My first outing shocked me as all the fresh bread was gone! My favorite was sold out, but I found a comparable one left. I felt spoiled. Linda read online about an all-time spike in freezer sales. C’mon man!
Overreacting will have everyone out in fear, storing up tribulation food. I might grow some tomatoes this year. It is springtime and growing seasons ahead. Jesus said to live one day at a time, and our Father who feeds the sparrows and numbers the hair on our heads will take care of us. Yes it’s scary, but an opportunity to believe these verses that many of us know.
Overreacting in crisis will push you into hasty decisions that aren’t wise. Pulling all your investments out of the market out of fear is not the right choice. Other storms have come and gone and life continues. The world and the stockmarket are uncertain and always will be. It’s where we put our trust that is key. Fear is not a wise motivator or chooser. Peace is.
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. 1 Timothy 6:17,18
Although this current virus is unique and different, there are biblical examples of extreme things happening in the world to God’s people and how God was there for them.
Sovereignty & provision
In the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, we find Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery where he’s carried off a prisoner to Egypt. The purpose of his imprisonment is revealed in God’s plan to provide provision for future Israel , Jacob and his family.
In this incredible story, a seven-year impending famine is revealed through Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams. Following is a strategy revealed to Joseph to get them through the famine without perishing.
Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of the government that will get this done, rescuing Jacob and the rest of his family to eat and dwell in peace in the land of Goshen. Joseph wins out in the end, second in charge of all Egypt. He is restored to his family marrying a princess, and fathering two children, Ephraim and Manassah, who would be two of the tribes of Israel.
Faith says; God will provide our Goshen for us, no matter what happens or how bad it gets. There will be provision for us.
They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. Psalm 37:19
A wilderness of sorts
We are pushed into an unsolicited wilderness. We didn’t ask for it, it’s completely out of our control, we don’t know the way or when it’s going to end. We’re not sure where provision is going to come from. How could God possibly want us there? What’s that going to accomplish? This is the stuff of spiritual growth where faith is germinated and grows.
God rarely reveals the end at the start
Israel’s Exodus wilderness journey is our example of how to behave when we find ourselves in one.
Hoarding is as ancient as Israel in the wilderness. God sent down the manna from heaven and told them to go out and gather it each day, enough for their families. Whatever each family gathered was enough, they didn’t lack.
They were not to gather more than they needed. There were some who hoarded and gathered extra, in case God didn’t come through, and it bred worms and stank.
The day before the sabbath, God told them to gather enough for the sabbath day as well as the weekday, so they could rest on that day, and devote it to Him. There was extra that didn’t get used to last through the sabbath and it didn’t get worms or spoil. There were some who went out on the sabbath to gather the manna and there was none.
The lesson in all this is that we can’t control provision, apparently especially now. We can only trust God, surrender our control, or we’re going to be tormented with fear and anxiety.
The V stands for Victim
The victim message tells us that, we are in for it! Nothing but doom and gloom awaits us in our future.
The truth is that we are a people of faith who serve a mighty God who is in covenant with us to take care of us. We are empowered people.
Remember; Victims blame and are critical, unable to take responsibility. The government can’t save us, only God can. We aren’t victims, we are children of God, with a loving heavenly Father who knows what we have need of even before we ask.
The I stands for interruption and isolation.
To say our lives have been interrupted is an understatement. We are all going through withdrawal, having been yanked immediately out of our normal routines. We are a culture addicted to busy, and have been sidelined from the occupation of doing what we’re so accustomed to.
This can’t be downplayed. Withdrawal is painful and stressful as you have been habituated by what you are used to doing. Real adjustments have to be made as we find our balance with the new norm that keeps changing.
Communication & strategy
There are no more external diversions available that we are used to. They are all shut down. You can’t get away from each other as easily, especially in a blizzard, then there’s all that snow to shovel. And stay out of my kitchen!
Even the golf channel is affected as all the tournaments are canceled. As much as I like Tiger, you can only do so many reruns of the glory days. The glow of the Super Bowl has faded and now it’s Too much time on my hands…
And what about the anxiety? It’s like an underground form of grieving you can’t put your finger on. It’s like, oh yeah, that part of my life is dead now because I can’t do that anymore. And the next day something else disappears. And what about the money? $$$
Talk together about what’s going on and how you feel about it. Engage. Talk about it. Validate each other’s struggle, care. Stick together. Strategize together, support each other emotionally.
Don’t isolate as a family. Social media alone can’t fill the void for connection, though you’ll believe it’s all you have left. We know too well it can be a powerful addiction in itself. Don’t give in to depression.
Talk about how you can create space for each other and meet each other’s needs. You are not victims who complain and criticize. Grow together. Who knows if God isn’t re-calibrating the family? It seems a good time for it with everyone home with all your needs, nowhere to go, stuck with each other.
The D stands for death.
We had to get to the D. The elephant in the room fueling all this. The pandemic, which is a worldwide plague there is no cure for. Death to the old people who can’t fight it off, or who’s chances are slimmer to be able to survive it. The reason for the isolation that is being enforced more and more.
I’ve spoken at a few funerals and memorial services. Weddings are more fun and the receptions tend to be better. But dying is a part of living.
I always go right to the resurrection which is our hope. Most of us aren’t going to get Covid 19, less of us are going to die from it. But even if some of us did, I love the words of Paul who knew he would die soon a martyr’s death,
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:14,15
No, we are not to be afraid of dying, knowing we will be with the One we love. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8 paraphrase.
However, there’s no reason to rush things, especially if we haven’t completed our mission in life we’ve been assigned. My wife Linda survived breast cancer twice and is cancer-free today, not because of our great faith, but because God sustained her life because He is good and that’s what He wanted to do.
Following are some promises we can rest our faith in, that we won’t be taken out early by COVID or any other future mutation there may be.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. Psalm 91:16
Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. (Covid 19) Psalm 91:3
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand shall fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand but it (Covid 19), shall not come near you.
Remember the Passover in Israel where they had to put blood on the lintel and the doorpost of the house so the destroyer would pass over? There was a lamb for a house, sacrificed, that typified the Lamb who would come later, Jesus.
We know Jesus gave His life and blood to redeem us, save, and heal us. We have reason to put our faith in Him to protect us from this.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes, we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
We will prevail as we live one day at a time and do the next right thing. As we abide in the vine we will bear much fruit and be beacons of hope.
Lord, steady us in these perilous times. Draw close to us as we confess our dependence upon you. Don’t let us be conformed to the world and give in to fear and selfishness. Draw us together as families and give us new grace to connect with one another. Keep us informed but not carried away with the hysteria of the media or focusing too much on the problem. Our times are in your hands and length of days is in the hands of wisdom. Keep us finding refuge in the shadow of Your wings. Amen