Someday soon, we will tire of hearing news about this pandemic. It has been everywhere - infiltrating our news feeds, our conversations with friends and strangers, and changing the way we work, pay our bills, spend our time, socialize, and shop for essential household items.
It has consumed not a small amount of our time as we research the regional numbers and updates on how it is spread and who is at risk.One day, COVID-19 will be a thing of the past, but we will all live with the painful memory of isolation and helplessness it has left us with.
I would like to suggest that there is a way forward today and every day after that is biblical and life-giving. I am not offering up a falsely optimistic "victory to victory" Christian narrative for these difficult days. I am talking instead about embracing our weakness, remembering that God's power is made perfect in it. This is how we can help our children be prepared for what comes next.
1. Recall the character of God. It is a profound comfort to remember who God is in times of anxiety or pain. One way to help direct your thoughts in this is to go through the alphabet, remembering one of God's characteristics for each letter. God is Almighty, He is close to the Brokenhearted, He is Compassionate, etc.
2. Celebrate what God has done. If you are feeling beat up and not ready to celebrate, start really small and simple. Take a walk outside with your child and look around. Celebrate God for His infinite creativity - the pattern of moss, the variety of birdsong, the many different fragrances of flowers. Ask your child to tell you what they see that God has done. Listening to our children's thoughts can be a profound gift. Or, you could start even smaller: my 86-year-old Papa said that if he could get up out of bed in the morning and have a cup of coffee, it was a good day.
3. Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 tells us something of how we are to live together - and reveals that the essential gift of being in community is in sharing in one another's joys and sorrows. God knew we couldn't do this alone: He gave us families, friends, and most importantly His Holy Spirit. Let's start here: If you are not mourning, mourn with someone you know is hurting. Call them up, ask them to tell you how they are doing. Listen carefully. Consider the pain some are enduring locally as well as globally. When you pray with your kids, make sure you include their concerns along with yours so that they can hear you mourning with those who are sorrowful.
4. Cast out fear. It is normal to feel fear in times as uncertain as these. As parents, we might be experiencing fear of the unknown and so might our children. Read verses like these out loud over breakfast, to declare God's almighty power and presence with us:
- "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
- "The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8)
- "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah41:10)
5. Do not worry. Our worries are related to real possibilities and real events. It is tempting to turn inward on ourselves and suffer despair. Jesus has some specific words about worry, and it's important we share them with each other and our children:
- “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:25-27)
Another practice I find comforting:
In the liturgy of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Eucharist ends with a blessing that involves the congregation using their bodies to responsively pray. Instead of making the sign of the cross, they sweep a hand towards the cross above the altar with each refrain and then, with the last refrain, lift their hands toward heaven. May this prayer be a help to you and me:
All our problems:
We send to the cross of Christ.
All our difficulties:
We send to the cross of Christ.
All the devil’s works:
We send to the cross of Christ.
All our hopes:
We set on the risen Christ.
6. Walk by faith. In His essay, "Present Concerns", in which he responds to a question about how people ought to live in an atomic age, C.S. Lewis responds:
7. Walk in love. Ephesians 5:2 reminds us, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
This is love: to give ourself up. How do we walk in love in these socially limited times? Starting at home: we can try to serve our children and our spouse with kindness and patience during these days. When we are all getting on each other's nerves; a smile and a kind word would be a balm. Other ways we can model walking in love for our children:
- Help your child write a note to their teacher to say "I miss you and I am praying for you".
- Think of the small business owners or restaurateurs you might know locally. Email them or call the business number and ask if there is anything you can do to help support them during this time.
- Locally in Greensboro, Out of the Garden Project and Backpack Beginnings are both excellent resources for providing for those in need in our community. Consider calling them and asking how you can help.
- Write notes of encouragement to hospital staff, and pray for them.
- Ask your pastor if there are needs in your congregation that you could help with.
Better days will come my friend. Until then - may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. With Easter upon us, let's remember that God has given us everything we need in Christ.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)