Pandemic living: War and Peace
I invited our church family to gather via video conferencing March 31 for a special time of prayer and hopefully encouragement. It seemed like a good time for such a session for a couple of reasons: (1) We had missed three Sundays of gathering in person for corporate worship amid the coronavirus pandemic, and we were in the third full week of social distancing and largely staying at home. (2) The day before, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had issued a stay-at-home order effective until June 10.
Hence, some encouraging words for God's people appeared to be the order of the day. What follows in this post is based on what I shared:
1. We should consider this a war.
As Christians, we are familiar with the reality of spiritual warfare. For instance, Ephesians 6:12 makes clear we are in conflict with “the spiritual forces of evil.”
This war, however, is one in which we are on the same side of all made in the image of God, regardless of their relationship to Christ. And in our country, we are allies with all Americans in a struggle against an unseen enemy.
In World War II. Americans came together against enemies who were easily seen, and life changed dramatically as a result. While the country’s military forces fought in Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, many women left their homes to build ships and airplanes in defense factories. Children helped collect scrap metal for the war effort and plant victory gardens. Meat, milk, butter, sugar, coffee, shoes, bicycles, cars and gasoline were rationed.
Americans lived with restrictions during that great war because they recognized sacrifices were needed to win it.
We should recognize we are living with unprecedented restrictions because this is a war all of us are in. It is a war we must be committed to winning. We don’t go out to fight. We stay home to fight. It is a war that already has had many casualties and will have many more. It may not look or feel like a war, but it is. We should consider what we are doing as part of a war effort and help those who are restricted with us in our homes to think that way as well.
2. We should realize what we are doing is working.
There are many more infections and deaths to come, but there are indications the strict policies instituted are helping protect and save lives. News outlets have reported this week that data from Kinsa Health, a company that produces Internet-connected thermometers, indicates fevers in the United States are declining in response to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, which seemingly means such policies are helping curb coronavirus infections. Also, the growth rate of cases and deaths seems to be declining in some areas
It is helpful to remind ourselves and tell our children the limitations we are living under can be helping to turn the tide in this war.
3. We should look to God for comfort and share that comfort with one another.
II Corinthians 1:3-5 says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
II Corinthians is an intensely personal letter from the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. What he says in this opening chapter certainly relates to himself, as well as others with him, but it appears to apply to us as well.
The “affliction” Paul refers to here can be either an outward circumstance or an inward state of mind, the ESV Study Bible says. Certainly, that is true during this pandemic. We are threatened from outside by a highly contagious virus, but we are also endangered from without and within by enemies that seek to stir within us fear, anxiety, bitterness, impatience, ingratitude and doubt in God’s grace, goodness and greatness.
In this affliction, we have a compassionate Father (“Father of mercies”) who is the “God of all comfort.” That term – “all comfort” – can also be translated “every comfort.” Our merciful Father is the God of not just “all comfort” but “every comfort.” His comfort is for each of our specific needs.
Our Father comforts us so we are able to comfort others who are afflicted. This seems particularly important right now. May we all look to our Father for comfort, but may we also reach out to one another and others to comfort them. Comfort can be a community project. During this challenging time, being confined to our homes without the freedom to interact with one another offers different trials among our households. The test for a single person likely differs from the test for parents of young children. May we not only pray for one another, but may we stay in contact with one another to provide comfort and encouragement.
4. We should recognize deeper affliction may be ahead.
We are still in the early days of this war, public health experts tell us. The long, deadly reach of this virus may not have touched us yet in a devastating way. But it has many others, and it may us as well before this is over – whenever that might be.
Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis is a large, gospel-focused congregation in Memphis. On the night of March 30, one of its pastors, Tim Russell, died from complications of the virus. That fellowship of believers is now grieving the death of a pastor who had ministered to them and whom they loved.
We live in uncertain days, but we still have a comforting, trustworthy Father who holds our lives in His hands. May we constantly entrust ourselves to Him, and may we lovingly promote such faith in each other as we fight this war.