Just a couple of weeks ago, I gathered with a group of high school sophomores and local business leaders. One of the topics of conversation was “what is the biggest news story of your life?” Most of the business leaders referenced things like 9/11 or the Murrah Building Bombing. Most of the high schoolers mentioned Kobe Bryant’s death or the teacher walkout. Honestly, it was fascinating for me to think that the bombing and 9/11 were events that took place before these high schoolers were born (I’m older than I think). I also marveled at the notion that the biggest news stories of these young leaders’ lives were these events. Today, though, as I think back on that interaction (which took place on February 29 — just 12 days ago) it is shocking that COVID-19 was not on the list. If we were to meet this weekend, no doubt, the developing situation of the corona virus would be on the lists of both young and old . . . things have changed that fast.
Now, I know as I write this, some of you are already getting worked up. This issue (like most in America today) is dividing people into polarized camps. Some believe this is an overly exaggerated issue being intentionally used to create chaos. Others believe that this is a potentially catastrophic event, on par with the Spanish Flu of 1918 . . . or worse. I am not going to wade into that side of this conversation. Though I have my doctorate, I am not THAT KIND of doctor. Truth is, most of you aren’t either. Even our medical professionals are still trying to understand what this pandemic really means. If the educated and informed lack total clarity on this issue, then I am guessing your facebook feed is also a bit confused, even if it sounds confident.
The fact of the matter is that there really is a new viral outbreak in the world that we all are having to deal with in some ways. It is impacting our world financially, personally, professionally, and socially. In 2020, everyone feels like they need to respond in some way . . . the onslaught of information almost demands it. Every business I am on an email list for is sending me their “response” to this crisis. So, I wanted to reach out today, and as a Pastor share some perspective on this situation. If you want to consider this my “response” . . . so be it. This note comes from me personally, not from any particular organization or church.
If how we personally deal with COVID-19 were a tree, then different fruits are being manifest in different people’s lives:
For some, their response to COVID-19 is the fruit of BRAVADO. This fruit takes different shapes and forms, but when it is peeled the fruit of pride lies within. BRAVADO leads to people daring others to shake their hands to demonstrate their courage and self-confidence, and leads others to show their disdain for newly enforced hygiene regulations by publicly violating them in jest. Sadly, BRAVADO also shows up in churches where some Christians are mocking others for taking extra precautions as this pandemic spreads — the subtle thought being, “if you were spiritual or smart LIKE ME, you would not be concerned.”
For others, their response to COVID-19 is the fruit of FEAR. Not the healthy kind of respect . . . but the unhealthy kind of crippling anxiety. Most of us don’t have to decide if the public school system will cancel classes or if the University will move to online instruction or if we should keep that business meeting scheduled in London for next week or when the NBA will resume games . . . but when fear is driving your bus, you are obsessed with decisions you don’t even have to make!
If you were to follow the fruits of “BRAVADO” and “FEAR” to their roots, we would find a common core: CONTROL. Though bravado and fear look different on the outside, on the inside they both root in a desire to be in control. Bravado thinks, “If I can control the situation with my confidence, then everything will be OK.” Fear thinks, “If I can just think about this long enough or hard enough, I can stay in control and protect myself.” The common root of both of these is a desire for your self to be in control.
The truth of the matter is, part of the great frustration of a situation like COVID-19 is that it reminds ALL OF US that we are not in control. An invisible enemy is transmitting more than a fever and cough . . . it is taunting us with the notion that we are not in control.
Now the World Health Organization, CDC, and government officials are all attempting to slow the spread of the disease by putting in protective measures. These are prudent and wise. However, remember, their attempts are to slow down the spread of the virus to allow the medical systems of our country to not be over-run. Slowing down is not control.
So, who is in control? Well, as a Christian, I am reminded at moments like this that God is in control. God is sovereign over the economy, school and work schedules, disrupted vacations . . . even the NBA! He is the “King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7).” “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36).” The Lord “has this.” He is the One who is in control. This does not mean that everything that happens is fun or enjoyable: after all, in this life “all creation groans (Romans 8:22)” waiting for “the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).” Knowing Jesus is in control reminds us that “God works all things together for good for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”
In this moment in history, instead of trying to personally gain control, let’s remember that God is in control. When we remember that, and rest in His sovereign control, what fruits might we see produced in our lives? Well, Galatians 5:22-23 lets us know: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Against such things there is no quarantine . . . uh, I mean law! This reminds us that if we are resting in the knowledge that God is in control, we will not mock the person who is prone to fear, but will love them, offer peace to them in Christ, exhibit joy regardless of our circumstances, have patience with the changes in our world . . . and with others, be gentle and kind in what we say and our actions – on social media and in real life, do good deeds – like caring for those who are affected, exhibit faith in God through the storm, and be self-controlled in our behaviors and responses. These are the fruits we should “test positive” for if we are resting in God and His Spirit.
Tapping into the root of God’s sovereignty does not lead us to hoard cleaning supplies OR be snarky about how serious we think this situation really is. Resting in God’s sovereignty allows us to LOVE THOSE AROUND US in the midst of difficult times, and be a source of HOPE and LIFE in a world that is challenged.
While every organization, Wildwood included, is wrestling through what programming looks like in the days of COVID-19, every Christian individual can rest in Him and see His fruit of the Spirit win the day.
One of the high school sophomores 12 days ago made an interesting observation. She said, “I wish that the biggest news stories were not always something negative.” I love her thought. What if the news story of this era was the way Christians loved and lit the world around them during a time of global fear and bravado. What a contrast that would be. What a story that would be! In Christ, this is possible . . . so let’s lean on Him and follow Him together to the glory of God.