Getting out while not going out

So…my last post went in a different direction than I had intended, so I’m going to try this again…

A lot is changing around us right now. And we don’t like change. We all like knowing what to expect, and some of us really like knowing what to expect. It’s probably a control thing-I know it is with me. I like to have control, so I plan. Then I make backup plans, and backup plans for the backup plans. I’m always talking about the “what if”s. I want options and I want control. That’s why the toilet paper thing annoys me: I don’t need any toilet paper right now, but if I did need some I would have a difficult time getting it, and that’s a problem!

We don’t know for sure what the coming weeks will be like. That will be annoying to some, and it will be downright terrifying to others, but we are all reacting to it. I saw an interesting article recently that pointed out that this virus is causing all of us to go through the 5 stages of grief: we begin in denial – “this isn’t really a big deal.” We move on to anger – “I hate that this is so disruptive!” Next is bargaining – “if I follow these rules then I can get away with some other stuff.” Then the depression hits, which is filled with fear and is a place that I think a lot of people will stall out at. The final stage is acceptance, a stage of grief that can be difficult to get to.

I think a lot of us have probably dealt with grieving people that we know got stuck in one of these stages: they deny that the loss happened, or they are perpetually angry moving forward, or they are overwhelmed with sadness and depression. None of those are places we want to remain.

The same is true of life now. We can’t deny the existence of the Coronavirus. Being angry at a virus isn’t helpful, and while it may feel good and right to be angry at the government it probably won’t get us anywhere, and settling in to a place of depression and fear is a punishment that might be worse than the virus itself.

As followers of Christ, we are called to a certain way of life. This way of life doesn’t always look the same from person to person or time period to time period, but there are some universal characteristics to it. One of those characteristics is a bold engagement with the world. Paul tells Timothy:

…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

We are not to approach life with fear. If we live in fear, we are not living out our belief that God is in control and that He is taking care of us. We are lacking faith.

I want to jump in quick here and say that this doesn’t mean that we needlessly put ourselves or others at risk. This isn’t a justification for living in the “denial” stage. We don’t pretend that nothing is happening and spread the disease more, and we don’t just put ourselves and our families at risk for no reason.

It does, however, mean that we are sometimes called to take risks in order to advance the work of God. Think about the story of the Good Samaritan. This man walking on a dangerous road known for ambushes by bandits, comes upon a man that has been ambushed by bandits and was left near death. Who is to say that the bandits aren’t still there, waiting for someone to stop and help and then getting them too? But the Samaritan stopped anyway, and he slowed himself down (opening himself to more risk) in order to help someone in need.

Our situation today is an opportunity for the church. We have a calling on us to love God and love our neighbor, and we have, and will have, neighbors that need a great deal of love.

So what can we do? Here are some ideas:

  • Check in on those who are vulnerable: the sick, the elderly, and those that are on their own. The Bible is filled with calls to help the needy; that certainly hasn’t changed for us today.
  • Connect with your neighbors. Go outside, keep a little distance, and have a conversation. Talk across a fence or an alley. Ask how they are doing, if there’s anything they need, and pray for them.
  • Connect with your community. Find a way to talk with your neighborhood or town as a whole. I’ve already seen calls to write encouraging messages on the sidewalks and post hearts in windows to show solidarity. It’s also good to support your community by supporting local businesses. Right now in Minnesota all restaurants are to-go only and will be for several more weeks. Go order supper to go, not because you need it but because you want to support your community by supporting its businesses. And find other ways too. Be creative and keep connecting with your community.
  • Help where you can. Maybe someone is struggling financially; buy them some groceries or a meal. Make a grocery run for someone in quarantine. Do some yard work for someone who isn’t feeling well. There is always something we can do.
  • Pray. This is an opportunity to grow in our faith by strengthening our prayer life. Pray for our nation, our state, our area, our town, our neighbors, our churches, our families. Pray that individuals would have peace, leaders would have wisdom, health care workers would be protected and strengthened, and families would be safe. And, most of all, pray that God would be glorified and the Gospel proclaimed far and wide.

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