In early March, Italy was already in lockdown. Their hospitals were overrun with the sick and dying. Exhausted doctors and nurses pleaded with the public to remain inside as bodies piled up in churches repurposed as makeshift morgues. We knew Covid-19 had already reached our shores, as cases had started popping up across the country. If Italy was the canary in the coal mine, we were staring down the barrel of an epidemic disaster unseen since the Spanish Flu of 1918. With no vaccine and no cure, our only hope was to buy our hospitals enough time to prepare for the onslaught by ‘flattening the curve.’ And so we screeched our massive economy to a halt and pushed it to the brink of collapse.
On March 15th, our family commenced our lockdown. Those of us that did not need to leave the house stayed home. We stopped going to in-person church services. No more small group meetings. No more play dates. The public schools in our area shut down. ‘Non essential workers’ stayed home. If they were lucky they could do their jobs from the comfort of their own living rooms, but for a vast majority of people that wasn’t an option.
As the reality of the situation began to sink in, an unrelenting gnawing feeling grew in the pit of my stomach. The news stories expounded on the horrific illness that oftentimes ended in a fierce battle with pneumonia that far too many people could not beat. The sinking in my heart was reinforced with the images of my father’s last days as he too battled pneumonia, the sounds of the machines that breathed for him, the hustle of the ICU, and the quiet silence of the room when he breathed his last. The anxiety, which had laid mostly dormant since walking out of the hospital in December, awakened with a fierceness I had not anticipated. And as the week wore on, each day bringing more grim news, my anxiety grew, like a thirst that could not be quenched. I could not bear to face it all again. I could not do it. I could not watch another loved one die.
And so I did what years of anxiety attacks and PTSD had taught me to do- swing haphazardly between controlling everything and shutting down. For nearly a week I panicked. I couldn’t think straight. I viewed every scenario through the dirty and foggy lens of my fear. Perhaps if I could control the situation, I could control the outcome. Like a sickness in itself, it reached a fever pitch that ended in a fight with my husband and tears shed over the people I had hurt. When I woke the next morning, the panic was gone. There still remained a wariness, but the all consuming obsession of it had worn off.
With the worst of the panic behind me, I turned to the place I should have started, the place that would have prevented the downward spiral in the first place- my relationship with God. I picked up a book that I had started shortly after my father had been diagnosed with cancer, Anxious For Nothing, by John MacArthur. In Chapter 2 of the book, MacArthur makes the claim that, “The real challenge of Christian living is not to eliminate every uncomfortable circumstance from our lives, but to trust our sovereign, wise, good, and powerful God in the midst of every situation.” In chapter 3 he goes on to say, “For the Christian, even the worst trial is only temporary. Remember that, for you will be tempted to conclude that because there is no end in sight, there is no end at all.”
It was a humbling reminder to me that while I was lashing out in fear, God was at work. While I was desperate for control, my Father in Heaven was managing things in His timing and with His precision. And when my grief and my fear had joined forces to run rampant against my reason, the Creator of the universe had not skipped a beat. The illusion of control I desperately grasped for as the world shut down was no different than thinking I could have saved my father from dying. Nothing I did or did not do could have prevented what was already in God’s plan.
Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
You and I, dear friend, are more valuable than many sparrows. Do you not know, that your Father in heaven loves you? Do you not realize that your days have already been numbered and that your worst trial is a mere inconvenience in light of eternity? Do you forget the promise that awaits you in His presence? Are you trusting Him, that in His wisdom and power he is working all things out for the good of those who love him?
Or like me, do you sometimes let the fear in your heart poison your thoughts and spill out from your tongue?
As Christians we need to be different, we are called to be different. So how then should we live?
Is the man in the store behind you without a mask on his face an enemy to be feared or a mission field to be won to Christ (Luke 10:29)? Does it bring glory to your King to argue with fellow believers about when and how the country should re-open (2 Timothy 2:23-24)? Does it further the kingdom of heaven to speak ill of the rulers God has appointed and defy the laws they have decreed (Romans 13:1-2)? Does it strengthen the body of believers to mock those that aren’t ready to leave their homes or malign those who are eager to return to work (Ephesians 3:1-3)?
Make no mistake, believers, the world is watching. Your unbelieving friends are watching. Let us show them that trusting our “sovereign, wise, good, and powerful God in the midst of every situation” defeats the fears that would otherwise paralyze us. Let us remember the cost of our redemption, and in doing so, cast out our fear, and love our neighbors.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8