Written by Kevin P. Gilmore
The term “March Madness” took on an entirely new meaning as COVID-19 began to sweep over our nation this spring. It is amazing how much changed in a few weeks. Schools were shuttered until fall as instruction moved from the classroom to the Internet. Professional, collegiate, and community sports activities ceased.
As I write this in mid-April, the concept of physically gathering for corporate worship, concerts, theater, and political events has ended. Even significant life events, such as weddings and funerals, have been rescheduled until who knows when, as have vacations plans. Many restaurants have closed, with others focused only on drive-thru and carryout.
People live in fear of using public transportation or making trips to the grocery store, where they have found empty shelves and long lines. Families struggle with the thought of avoiding contact with loved ones who are more vulnerable to the virus. Tests are difficult to come by and protective and therapeutic equipment, like masks and gowns, and ventilators are in short supply.
Many businesses are completely shut down because of “stay at home” orders by state or local officials, while others, such as our Global Ministry Center, including Pensions and Benefits USA, work remotely from home.
Unemployment is at record levels and rising. Some companies have decreased on-site staffing levels through reduced hours or layoffs, and many hourly wage earners, though technically still employed, have lost their source of income. Private companies, which make up the vast majority of businesses, are not only concerned for the well-being of employees, but wonder if their operations will survive. Like small businesses, it affects churches because of the restriction on corporate worship and the negative financial impact on individual givers.
All of this has created a volatile economic situation with a stock market that just realized its worst quarter since 1987, at one point declining 22% in a day.
Through the CARES Act, the federal government is trying to provide relief for businesses and individuals. However, the financial benefit of this program is unknowable, except for the fact that it will enhance the federal debt.
Worst of all, there is the fear of the uncertain, and the sickness and death that have spread around the world (see the article by Dr. Steven Burns).
Certainly, there is doom and gloom aplenty, but we Christians have hope, and I believe we can take advantage of this unusual time to improve our own lives and the lives of others. Here are some thoughts:
1. We can evaluate the need for margin in our lives and use our “down time” to enhance our own emotional, physical, and financial well-being. “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
2. The God who gave us life—the greatest gift of all—is with us. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Mt. 10:29). God knows our situation, and we can trust Him to be with us.
3. We are the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities. We can be purposeful and creative, while respecting social distancing needs, as we reach out to others who need assistance. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:16).
4. We should not worry! It is a pointless way to expend energy and dampens the spirit. Worry will never improve a situation, but it can make it worse. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… 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?” (Mt. 6:25-26).
I recently heard a new song by the Collingsworth Family. It was written by Kim Collingsworth after the group had to cease touring because of COVID-19. In part, the lyrics say:
“Joy is not cancelled, peace still remains.
God’s goodness, kindness, His grace isn’t running low;
And He has not changed.”1
It’s good to remember that, in the midst of the chaos and fear where so many of life’s rhythms have been upset, God is the same, He is with us, and He is the source of joy. Our prayer is that God will watch over you and give you peace and health during these days as we hope and pray for an effective and quick transition back to normal.
Kevin P. Gilmore is director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.
1Joy is Not Cancelled © 2020 The Collingsworth Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
(All scriptures NIV)