Written By Daniel Ryan Day, USA
Daniel is married to his high school sweetheart, and dad to three. He’s the author of What’s Next: Your Dream Job, God’s Call and a Life That Sets You Free, and a podcaster at Our Daily Bread. He holds a Master’s Degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is an ordained minister.
I’ve played it cool for a few months now. I’ve even cracked a few jokes and starred in a short video making fun of the Coronavirus mass-hysteria. But then the NBA suspended its season. And the President of the United States made a special speech. And rumors began to circulate about my company closing down for a few weeks. And I received an email from an airline I haven’t used in years, letting me know they had canceled flights. And then major universities announced shifting to online classes. And now there’s a travel ban and I can’t fly to many of the countries in the world (not that I want to right now).
And last night, the panic rose to a new level as the governor ordered all K-12 schools in the state to close for three full weeks. This morning, I woke up to the first three confirmed cases right here in my own city.
All of these warnings and alarms are catching up to me. I‘m getting a headache, which for me is an early indicator of stress. And my brain is starting to cascade through “what-ifs.” Now, I can say with 100% confidence . . .
I’m afraid, and I don’t even know why!
Is it because my kids might get sick? Or I might? Or because my job might be put on hold? Or because I can’t watch the NBA (which I don’t really watch anyway)? Or is it simply because I’m beginning to feel the same worry, anxiety, and fear that people around the world have been experiencing since January? Or maybe all of it at one time?
I know I’m relatively young, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. Billions—if not trillions—of dollars lost. Governments banning gatherings over 100 people. Major industries hitting pause. An official “pandemic” from the World Health Organization. And the fact that everyone I know (including me) can’t stop talking about it! It’s in front of me, and you, and everyone else, 24/7.
So I’m guessing you might be afraid too. Or maybe you’re just “concerned.”
So what now?
Maybe it’s time to take a minute. Breathe deeply. Slow down, and recenter ourselves by paying a visit to a well-worn page of our Bibles:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
If I’m honest, I haven’t been praying—definitely not as often as I’ve watched or read the news. I’ve spent more time chasing headlines than I’ve spent talking to God about the coronavirus. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to friends, reading emails, and watching videos. But as the headache mounts, it’s time for me to pray more and watch and talk less.
Would you join me in an attempt to put wisdom into practice? Here are some steps we could take to get started . . .
Step 1: Pray and talk to God about the coronavirus.
We can tell Him we are afraid, and don’t know why. We can list all the bad things we think could happen, and ask Him to search our hearts to examine why we feel so unsettled. Instead of stockpiling supplies or sharing more articles on social media, we can pause in prayer, taking time to draw near to our Refuge.
Step 2: Offer thanksgiving.
Philippians doesn’t just say to talk to God about our worries, but to talk to God about our worries with thanksgiving. We can look back over our day, week, month, year, or lifetimes, and praise God with gratitude for all He’s done up until this point. Thanksgiving forces us to consider God’s timeline of faithfulness, which gives us confidence as we think about what the future holds.
Step 3: Read the Psalms.
All of them. Or at least a bunch of them. Psalm 27 would be a good place to start. And track how many times the poet is dealing with things that are out of his control. Spoiler alert: there are a lot! And pay attention to how many times the poet praises God for showing up and helping him.
Step 4: Look for ways to serve others.
Remember how Jesus touched a leper? Christ-followers throughout history have often shown this same type of love and care, and the coronavirus is another opportunity to do just that.
Maybe begin by checking in on a friend and encouraging them to trust in God. If you know someone at risk—or in a high-risk area—reach out and see how they are holding up. If you know someone who might be extra vulnerable, think of ways you might help protect them by buying groceries or making some freezer meals so they don’t have to leave the house (just make sure there’s no way you have the virus first). And most importantly, ask God what He would have you do, and then follow where He leads.
Step 5: Go for a run (or get outside if you can).
Alright. This is a personal addition to the list—you won’t find it written in the Bible, but it’s something that helps me. You may not like to run, but I do. When I get stressed, running is the best way to clear my head. Maybe you could go for a walk. Or do push-ups. Or stretch. Or walk around the house. Just do something to clear your mind for a moment, making space for it to focus on something else.
These five steps won’t fix the coronavirus, and they’re not the antidote to my worry or your worry. Anxiousness will come back, but when it does, we can go through the same steps again. And as Philippians promises, when we bring our anxiousness to Him, the peace of God, which passes understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
A few years ago, I was in between jobs and feeling totally overwhelmed. I happened to be at the beach, and was praying while watching the waves. I realized that waves are big enough to move me from one place to another, and suddenly the words to a made-up song began floating through my head. Today seems like a good day to sing this song again (if you want to join me, just make up your own tune since I can’t share mine):
May the waves of God’s peace roll over me,
Moving me from where I am to where I ought to be.
God’s peace is powerful enough to move us from a place of worry to a place of trust. It doesn’t mean we won’t still experience fear, but our fear will finally be put in its right context—as something that drives us closer to our God who loves us.