Our world is in the midst of a crisis.
Coronavirus is dominating all parts of our lives. In many ways, rightfully so—it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and the threat to elderly and compromised populations is real. Even beyond the fear of sickness and death, the ramifications of an economic downturn from cancelled events, schools, and places of employment is immense. We aren’t sure what the future holds except for fear and anxiety. And to think just a few weeks ago, we expected the election to be our biggest source of turmoil. Not any more.
I’ve seen two approaches to this crisis, and neither are helpful. The first is panic. Buy all the toilet paper, bleach-bomb everything, bolt the door, and let the Netflix queue run the next 60 days. It’s Chicken Little and every piece of the sky is falling.
The other is to dismiss the coronavirus outright which is where I was not too long ago. Share a meme on social media, make a joke after you sneeze, poke some fun at the panic and go about business as usual. That approach is too cavalier. It ignores the real threat this sickness poses to our world. Actual lives are being lost every day, and brave healthcare providers are putting it all on the line.
But there is a third way.
There’s an approach more meaningful, more helpful, and more hopeful than both of those.
We are only days past Purim, the holiday celebrating the rescue of the ancient Jewish people from utter annihilation. The story, told in the Biblical book of Esther, begins with the Jewish people living in exile. One of those Jews, Esther, was chosen by the Persian king to become his new queen. Unaware that his new wife was Jewish, the king was led by an evil advisor to give a royal proclamation, setting a date and time for a genocide of all Jewish people within his empire.
The only person capable of stopping the slaughter was Esther. But she was initially afraid to take action. If she approached the king without his permission, she could be killed. If she shared her Jewish heritage, she could get slaughtered with the rest of her exiled people.
While she vacillated between action and in-action, her uncle (who raised her) sent her an urgent message. His words ring in my ears as we stare down the coronavirus:
“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Everyone who has ever faced a crisis—plague or war or famine—asks the same question. Why? Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening now?
Whatever you believe about God, I know that you are alive right now, at a time of international stress and tension, to do something about it. You are in your house, in your neighborhood, at your job, with your friends, for such a time as this. Nothing about this virus is catching God by surprise. He has his agents of love and light spread across the globe. It’s time for us to shine.
What we do right now, and in the following weeks, matters.
You may not address the world’s stage, but you can check in on your family. You can give your toilet paper to the elderly couple across the street. You can share a meal with a friend who is stressed. You can make a phone call to someone who is lonely. You can dare to hug someone who is hurting. Say thank you to service industry professionals who are still bravely picking up your trash, patrolling the streets, and fighting fires. Leave a larger tip for the waitress. Pray for teachers. Shop at a local business. Meet a real and tangible need.
Do not dare to think that you will escape if you remain siloed. To bolt the door and leave the hurting on the street to pick up their own pieces is abhorrent. If you identify as a follower of Jesus, calm in the midst of crisis is in your bloodline.
We follow Jesus, who himself broke cultural norms of cleanliness when he touched lepers, men and women afflicted with an incredibly infectious skin disease.
We walk in the footsteps of early Christians who, when Rome was decimated by plague in the 200s AD, stayed behind to care for the poor, the sick, and the left behind.
We are inspired by the storied history of believers who traveled the world over to build hospitals for the sick and orphanages for the abandoned.
We are driven by the same spirit that compelled reformer Martin Luther to open his home during the plague, preacher Charles Spurgeon to remain in London during a Victorian-era cholera outbreak, and Mother Teresa to minister to the infected and dying of Kolkata.
It is in times of crisis and darkness that the light of Christ inside his followers shines the brightest. We can be a source of hope. We can be a picture of compassion. We can be real and tangible kindness.
You are alive during the coronavirus outbreak of 2020 because you can do something about it. The question is, will you?
2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” When our lives intersect with God, His Spirit dwells within us. That Spirit brings power to rise above panic; it brings self-control over the thoughts in our minds; and most of all, it brings a love that compels us to move toward our friends and neighbors who need a dose of hope.
We live in scary times, but the fear doesn’t have to win. Choose the path of resilience and courage. You were born for this.
By the grace of God, we will get through this crisis. Together.
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