As the present viral crisis deepens, we are all facing something I have never experienced in my lifetime. So much is being said and written, some of it helpful, some not so much. So I have decided to take the next few posts to speak into this. This first post will be on the crucial decision each of us faces. It’s pretty straightforward. The Coronavirus choice is fear or love. What do I mean? Let me explain by starting with a confession.
I first heard about the Coronavirus on the TV evening news about a month ago. Although mainly confined to China then, the ominous ripple effects were beginning. A wave of palpable fear rolled over me. I felt a sickening panic in my stomach. I intuited even then that life was about to change — drastically. My body responded as if someone had pulled a knife on me. Fight or flight mechanisms kicked in. Life no longer felt safe. I felt the vice grip of fear squeezing me. God was no longer in my thinking or state of being. I was alone, stranded on the desert island of fear. It’s a terrible place to land.
Yet from this desolate place, God began to rescue me from my marooned state. It has happened in two primary motions.
Confounding Fear with His Presence
The first motion is a simple remembrance: God is with us. Psalm 46 opens with this classic line: “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble”(v. 1). There it is — He is ever-present, an ever-present help. God’s presence is the massive reality that changes the atmosphere of every story in the Bible. Without His presence, there is darkness, corruption, sin, and enmity. Individuals and civilizations move toward increasing chaos and dissolution. But when we remember His presence in prayer, a sliver of holy light shatters the darkness. He is there — and has always been there to help us in trouble.
But the chaos takes on the worst case scenario in vs. 2-3 of this psalm. It pictures the created order going back into its primeval chaos. Even the mountains, which represented the epitome of stability, are now unhinged and crashing back into the ocean. Yet even here, because of God’s presence, a sturdy declaration is made: “Therefore, we will not fear.” The 1st person plural here is crucial. It is a much-needed communal confession because fear is contagious. But so is faith and courage.
I sat with a small group of men last week, practicing silence and prayer on this very psalm. As we spoke to each other afterwards about what God had taught us, I could feel the courage rising in me. I don’t have to cater to fear in this present calamity. It can be confounded. In fact, this crisis creates a sobering impetus to stay in His presence throughout the day. There we can feel safe.
Surrendering to Love in His Presence
Now in the safety of that presence, a second motion can happen. When we reject fear, we have the capacity to choose love. We choose it first by surrendering to God’s love for us as His cherished sons. We begin to hear His invitation to let Him to love us as we are, even when we still struggle with fear. He reminds us that nothing can separate us from His love — not even the Coronavirus. All of this helps us to rest in the deep places of our souls. The chaos of the exterior world recedes into the background. We breathe in the atmosphere of heaven — the atmosphere of self-giving love that delights in the existence of other created beings.
From this new vantage point, our vision expands beyond constricting self-protection and into the wide-open spaces of the Kingdom. We start to ask how God might be opening doors into hearts through this crisis. And we desire His love to spread more potently than the virus. What might that look like? Here are a few ideas:
- Think of the social distancing and safety guidelines, not just as self-protection, but as the main way you can help stop the virus from spreading to those most vulnerable to it.
- Call on friends and family to see how they are feeling and what they may fear.
- Write notes of encouragement to those you know who are most isolated.
- Ask God to give you other creative ideas to counter fear and spread love.
Every historical crisis presents itself with an opportunity. This present crisis is no different. We can choose fear or we can choose love. I want to be a man who chooses the latter. I hope you will join me in this.
Next post — The Coronavirus choice: Time Wasted or Invested