According to a recent survey carried out this week, apparently 38% of people would not buy a bottle of Corona beer because of their concern about the Coronavirus. It was probably one of those surveys that asked questions in such a way as to get the kind of response wanted to make a headline. But then again, as I am writing this, there are a lot of people doing rather irrational things when there is no real need to. For example, like buying and stockpiling lots of loo rolls, hand gel and other essential household items. My father who is quite vulnerable, being over 80 and on dialysis, sadly can’t get what he really needs as it has all gone already.
I mention this not to trivialise the serious health and life issues that Coronavirus is bringing, but to suggest that we do need to think and reflect on the other economic and social effects which are becoming just as much of a concern as the virus itself.
Like many, I am hoping and am praying that perhaps by the time you read this, there will have been a turnaround as the weather improves for the better. But what if things have not improved? What are the ways in which we should be thinking and reflecting about all that is happening? I think a key concern to address is how might we can cope and hope when things are out of our control. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are two things that I feel God would want to say to each of us and to know:
First, do our best to keep others around us safe as much as ourselves. In helping others, even if we might be running a slightly greater risk for ourselves, this at the heart of what God is like to us and who he wants us to be with others. Just as God loves us, we are called to love him and others back. And this love is not just a ‘feeling’ kind of love, but an ‘action’ love that is self-sacrificial (Agape love) that when needed, puts our own interests to one side for the sake of others. If some good is to come out of what is happening, it would be a lovely thing if we might see on across our nation, as someone has said, ‘extraordinary outbreaks of altruism’, and when over, that we might not go back to our old ways, but be changed people and carry on being more loving. Perhaps this could be part of an answer to help bridge our divisions? Li Wenliang, the doctor who first raised the alarm about the Coronavirus, was prepared to speak out because was he used to speaking out about his Christian faith in a communist country, and the fact he did speak out has saved a lot of lives. Li Wenliang showed self-sacrificial love as a doctor and Christian, and we are called to be and do the same.
But how can we be like this? Second, we need to put our trust in God. What Coronavirus, and its knock-on effects is showing us, is just how fragile life can be and that we are not really, even in normal times, in control as much as we think we are. What Coronavirus has demonstrated is that it is not just a health and medical issue (we do need to stop new diseases and come up with cures) but it is just as much an issue for our minds and souls. For our minds, we need to put our trust in the evidence and facts and not to act irrationally to the detriment of others. For our souls, we need to put our trust in God in the face of our worries and fears. And how can we do that? Well it is to put our trust in the message of Easter, that God defeated death on the Cross of Good Friday, and now offers us a new life through The Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day.
So, in summary, how can we cope and hope and how should we respond in such a time as this? Clearly Wash our hands and do other essential actions (maybe pray which is better than singing Happy birthday), Care for the vulnerable (who do you know and what ca you do?) and Trust in God for our own health and life.
To help you take a step of trust this Easter, can I recommend that you might read and pray for yourself Psalm 91 and Psalm 21 which are wonderful prayers that we can say for ourselves:
Psalm 91 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
Psalm 121 “I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
If you would like to explore what it means to have trust in God, and especially in uncertain times, you would be very welcome to join with us or any local church this Easter and beyond. To journey together trusting in Jesus is what makes all the difference in life.
With my prayers for April and Easter
Revd James Hunt – Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham with Blessed Mary, Upham
9th March 2020