The coronavirus is an occasion for both fear and faith. Some people are rushing to stores to purchase non-perishables and buy facemasks that don’t help. Others are indifferent to the virus altogether. How should we respond?
Responding to Bad News
The current facts are that COVID #19 has resulted in the loss of over three thousand lives. We should mourn that, and pray for those who are most affected. As a family, we pray for China in particular and for the world in general each morning.
However, the fatality rate is just over 3%. In other words, an overwhelming majority survive. 51,000 of the 94,000 infected have already recovered. Despite the increase in cases, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says, “We can push this virus back.”
But what if we can’t stop the virus? What if it becomes widespread in the US, which some epidemiologists predict? Psalm 112 is a good guide to our response: “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid” (6–8).
Bad news is coming for all of us. If it’s not the virus, it will be something else. We live in a fallen world where suffering and death are inevitable. To live as if this is not true is foolish. The wise and righteous person, however, need not fear bad news.
It is one thing to pay attention to bad news, to mourn tragic events, and it is another to live in anxious fear of what could happen. This psalm shows us it is possible to look bad news in the face and say, “You will not rule my heart.” Our emotions may sway, but the righteous person is not blown off course. How?
A Firm Heart
Their trust is not in good news, pleasant circumstances, or the avoidance of suffering and death. Their trust is in the Lord. Suffering or the prospect of suffering has a way of revealing where we actually place our trust: good health, financial security, happy marriage, and so on. But when those things are threatened, the cracks begin to appear in our unreliable foundation.
However, the more we look into the character of God, the more deeply convinced we can be that he is good and works good through bad. That is unshakable (Rom 8:28). In fact, God works “all things” together for good for those who love him. This means every imaginable pain or sorrow will be bent and shaped by the hands of Providence to accomplish a good that could never be achieved otherwise. Who can offer such a rock solid promise? Only the Lord our God. And because of that, our hearts can be steady.
Serving in the Face of Fear
What might a steady heart, unafraid of bad news, look like amidst the coronavirus? Consider our Chinese brothers and sisters. Apparently, faith-based giving has exploded in China over past ten years, with Protestants giving $10 million dollars to alleviate suffering. In fact, Christians are giving so generously to help the infected that the government has turned away their funds, lest churches make the government look incompetent. It’s reported that Christians aren’t holing up in their homes but tending to the sick and distributing care. Now, that’s outdoing one another in love.
So while we have to navigate the feelings of fear, we need not place our trust in circumstances or prognostications. Our trust is rightly placed in the Lord because God is good—“all the time”—as my poor, famine-facing Ugandan friends taught me, “All the time.”