Enter the buzzword of the year: coronavirus.
We all know the symptoms of the virus: fever, coughing, shortness of breath. We all know the ramifications are brutal for people with weakened immune systems. We all know that we should stay home– yet a lot of us really aren’t. The Federal Government wants to pump money into the system to keep it from collapsing. Small businesses are taking hits. There is a litany of other things that are happening. It’s looking pretty bleak. Colleges are moving their courses online and postponing graduation. Concerts are canceled. Sports is obsolete. It’s as if the whole world has stopped.
Let me do us all a favor and turn our attention toward some other things that are potentially even far more negative. COVID-19 has other effects.
Loss of Relationships
My girlfriend (and future wife… if her dad lets me marry her) worked at a nursing home last summer. I had a grandmother spend the last months of her life in a nursing home. These are sweet and precious people– parents, grandparents, friends, etc. They are living some of the last months and years of their life in these places of constant care. I appreciate those men and women who work in those living places. They are doing great work. But due to this virus, the element of visitation has been completely stopped nationwide in these nursing homes and assisted living locations. This is some tough stuff.
Older people, especially those with memory-care ailments (i.e. dementia) are now detached from some of the most dear things they cherished. I remember the final months of my grandmother’s life in the nursing home. She valued and looked forward to the visits, the conversations, the occasional holiday outings. I can only imagine the deterioration she would have faced without that love and care. Scores of our sweet parents and grandparents are becoming isolated from the visitors and the interaction because of the virus.
I implore you to utilize the avenues of technology that many assisted-living places are using to reach out to your loved ones. I advise that we try to help our local nursing homes in any way possible– finances, cleaning supplies, food, etc. Don’t be foolish by dragging your germs to those more at risk, but don’t be selfish by forgetting them in their places. We mustn’t forget those whom we can’t reach physically for the time being. And we must also support those working in such hard environments. It’s a tough job.
Loss of Stability
My mom and dad have been in education for decades. My dad is now an assistant principal. My mom is a middle school teacher. We are NC Public Education regulars in this house of mine. The one common effect I see stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak that bothers me greatly is this: suffering kids. Schools do more than teach our kids. With the school closings– albeit the best decision– many kids nationwide are losing a lot of things. For some kids, school is their only meal. For some kids, school is the only place they can escape the harsh realities of a broken or abusive home. For some kids, school is the place where they are loved and cared for the most. Sure, there are a fair share of teachers in the public education system that are there for the paycheck. There are many, many more that invest in kids as future people and as children in need of guidance.
I’m absolutely unfairly blessed to be a part of a wholesome, healthy, and loving family. I’ve not missed one meal since this all broke loose. We’ve not worried over finances. My mom hasn’t been overwhelmed taking care of small kids. My dad hasn’t had an issue providing groceries. The virus outbreak gave us the golden opportunity to spend time together as a family making up for the times we can’t. Please don’t assume we are the rule– we are most definitely the exception. There are a lot of children and families who are under the gun of this virus for one reason or another.
Reach out to your local schools. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for thousands of kids as laying solely in the hands of teachers volunteering to deliver and prepare food. Affection is being missed out on in some broken homes. Some parents are currently struggling to make ends meet in a time like this. Give of your time. Give of your resources. And ultimately, give of your compassion. Remember the child who comes from an impoverished home. Remember the father who suddenly has all of his kids at home for 3 meals instead of one. Remember the mother who suddenly has to find time for her children and her job– or jobs. The grocery-supply chain in the United States is pretty remarkable. If you have two loaves of bread and your neighbor has none… then you know what to do about that.
Loss of Purpose
I was blessed to have played three seasons of college football. I’ll be graduating after three years of my undergraduate in May 2020… hopefully. I loved every minute of it. I got to finish my career the right way. A lot of other athletes didn’t. In light of all these cancellations many spring and winter athletes did not get to realize their dreams of sports. For winter athletes, a lot of them didn’t finish. For spring athletes, a lot of them just started. For the music industry, a lot of artists had to cancel tours and shows. For many workers, they’ve been furloughed or had to resort to other means to make money. Many people have found themselves in March doing something totally different than the dreams they had in February. That’s tough stuff.
The reaction to all of this has been sadness and frustration– understandably so. Many people have lost their purpose. Without sports, a lot of athletes have lost their greatest value. Without work, many people have lost the means to provide. Without opportunities, many creators have lost their audiences and performances. This is deeply troubling. It seems as if our backs are against the wall. We’re not sure where to go.
I’m not here to offer satisfactory solutions to these issues. I am here to offer one piece of advice. One of the most well-known stories of the life of Jesus is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 people. A large crowd came to listen to Jesus preach. The apostles decide that the people must be fed. In the book of Mark, Jesus is recorded as saying, “You feed them,” talking to the disciples. They make excuses about how they have five loaves and two fish. We know the story: Jesus multiples this food until everyone is full. Christians, that’s us.
We need to feed the people. Jesus says feed them. He’s not calling us to full understanding or mystical provision. He told the apostle to feed thousands of people when they clearly had no food. The real issue lie in the fact that they had no faith, though. Jesus said feed. They immediately made excuses about provision. Jesus isn’t calling us to tally. He’s calling us to obedience. Share your groceries. Stop hoarding toilet paper. FaceTime your family. Answer the phone call. Work from home. Deliver lunches. Love your kids. Stop worrying about how Jesus will do it all. Have faith that He will do it all. Christ has the most phenomenal resume ever. I don’t have faith really because I know He will. I have faith because I’ve seen Him do it time and time… and time… again.
The people show up for Jesus, but they really need to eat, too. This is a basic necessity. Non-believers, that’s you. You’ve come searching for food, physically maybe. You’ve come searching for purpose. You’ve come searching for answers. A lot of people are worried. There are so many uncertainties in these days. Not a lot of us know what’s going to happen. You’ve shown up kind of blindly hoping for something. Jesus is here to provide. He can provide the bread that will never sour. He can provide the water source that’s never-ending. He can provide the atoning sacrifice for sins. Apart from salvation for your sins, viruses or good health mean the same thing: eternal hell.
This is not a catch-all. We are not out of the woods yet. So many people are in a tight spot right now. I’m not here to use my Jesus rhetoric as a condescending blanket. But the reason the loss of the world hurts is because we put our hope and faith in the world to begin with. Do the right things. Call your grandparents. Deliver lunches. Buy pencils. Stay at home. Wash your hands. Drop the politics. Pray for the workers. Share your groceries. Enjoy your family. Pray for our nation. Pray for our world. Thank Christ for His Mercy. Enjoy His Grace. Remember our athletes. Support our doctors and nurses.
But remember the real purpose. Remember that through it all, Jesus Christ is sovereign and holy… even over COVID-19.
Every decision God makes, by necessity, is the best decision to make for us. If this current reality we live in is His decision to experience alongside us, we should be looking for the redemption in all this. The long story of the Bible points to the recurring theme of God using tragedy for redemption: slavery to exile, invasion to salvation, and crucifixion to atonement. COVID-19 will show God’s glory no matter what.
The best part of the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is that the story never really covers the people. We never hear about the one guy who’s wife left him. We don’t hear about the one girl who had a broken ankle. We don’t hear from the people. We only see the Christ. He commands the apostles serve and trust His command. He provides just enough so that the people listen to His words because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus meets the physical in order to get to the spiritual. For some people, that’s miraculous healing. For some people, that’s another meal. For some people, that’s a tragic accident. For some people, that’s extreme loss. For some of us, that’s COVID-19. If God ends the virus tomorrow or half of us die in the process, He is still God, He is still Holy, He is still Sovereign, and He is still Loving. This may seem like a huge loss. Apart from Christ, all is loss. To Live is Christ. To Die is gain.
I don’t know what will happen with COVID-19. I do know what will happen to our communities if we don’t take this serious. I do also know what will happen to you if you are not a Christian. I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is working for our good and His Glory.
Stop worrying. Stop buying all the bread. Stop being selfish. Stop neglecting the phone calls. Stop waiting. Start doing. And most importantly, start trusting.
And trust in Christ.