Will Christians, freed from the fear of death, be the first to answer if overburdened hospitals and government security networks cannot care for everyone?
In his writings, David Wilkerson explored a couple of misconceptions that many modern-day believers share with their ancient counterparts. “The Jews believed that if God was pleased with you, you would always be blessed and never suffer.
“Because of this, Paul did not want converts to be confused by the troubles that swarmed around him…so he wrote, ‘No one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation’ (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).
“It is not suffering in itself that teaches us; rather, it is understanding and accepting that it is from his hand, for his purposes, for our good. Remember, God’s Word says, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all’ (Psalm 34:19).
“Do not be surprised when you suffer! But be assured that God proves himself faithful and he always produces life out of death. Jesus said, ‘In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).”
We’re often told that suffering pushes us closer to God, but how should it affect our relationships with other people?
Courage to Step Forward Despite Fear
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘suffering’ as “1. to endure death, pain, or distress; 2. to sustain loss or damage; 3. to be subject to disability or handicap.”
The Bible equates suffering to having to grapple with sin and its many side effects. Unfortunately, since we are sinful beings living in a fallen world, we will all suffer while on this side of heaven. We will hurt ourselves with our own choices, and others will hurt us with their brokenness.
“There is a ‘Holy Ghost school of sympathy’ that consists of tested saints who have suffered greatly, enduring temptation, trials and mistreatment,” David Wilkerson wrote.
“The Bible speaks of ‘the fellowship of His sufferings’ (Philippians 3:10), a fellowship of shared suffering. Jesus founded this school and he proved that it is possible to endure every sort of hardship and graduate as an overcomer. You may love Jesus now more than ever before, but you also may be going through hurts and trials. You can be very sure that God has a divine purpose behind every one.”
If we embrace the truth that God is neither alarmed nor helpless in the face of the coronavirus pandemic or the many other world events outside of our control, we are freed from both clutching fear and social paralysis.
“While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) races to contain COVID-19, your Father in heaven is attending to every hair on your head. He rules over a worldwide pandemic, and still cares for your every need. If you or I die, in Christ, it will not be because he has forgotten or forsaken us,” Marshall Segal, managing editor of Desiring God, writes.
He points out that the current outbreak is certainly not the first time that the United States has been hit by a severe outbreak. “David Brooks reminds us that during ‘the Spanish flu pandemic that battered America in 1918 . . . as conditions worsened, health workers in city after city pleaded for volunteers to care for the sick. Few stepped forward. In Philadelphia, the head of emergency aid pleaded for help in taking care of sick children. Nobody answered.’
“If such times are ahead, Christians, freed from the fear of death, could be the first to step forward. Will we answer if that call comes, if clinics and hospitals, filled and overflowing, cannot care for everyone?”
If others cry out for help, will we have the courage to step forward?
Mercy for Those Knocked to Their Knees
The church has a long history of being a sanctuary in times of danger, a house of peace in times of turmoil and a place of generosity for those with nowhere else to turn for aid.
Part of this is because of our security in God’s power over world events and the moments of our lives; the other part is the Bible’s direct commands to protect those who are vulnerable and offer a helping hand to those in need.
Justin Lonas, content specialist for Covenant College’s Chalmers Center, wrote, “As global cases of COVID-19 continue to climb, many Christians have rightly pointed out that…following public-health guidelines and reducing exposure for the sake of the elderly and immunocompromised members of our churches and communities is a vital part of loving our neighbors in this season.
“However, all those activities that we’re rightly refraining from to stay physically healthy—such as attending school, dining out, taking vacations, or attending conferences, concerts, or sporting events—have immediate and downstream effects on our economic health.”
He points out that while those who have to work from home or are self-employed will certainly face some hardships, these groups are unlikely to be as deeply affected as those who do not have the option to telecommute.
Hourly workers at restaurants, airports or hotels are going to be the first to be badly hit in these difficult times. Already many have lost shifts, are dangerously low on funds or may have even been let go from their jobs. Some may be their family’s only provider or be forced to contemplate leaving their children home alone with many schools and daycares closed.
“Mercy ministry from our churches in this situation becomes not a luxury, but a necessity—which it was always meant to be,” Lonas pointed out. “Your church is a family; if you’ve never considered the fullness of this metaphor before, it’s high time we started acting like it’s true. We dare not insulate ourselves from the suffering of others.”
It’s well worthwhile contemplating how we can help others who may be caught in dire straits thanks to quarantines and the economic downturn.
What Can We Do Now?
The simplest thing you can do is talk to and pray with people. Remind others of biblical promises and redirect them to a God who cares deeply about us all.
If you know someone who has lost their job because of the quarantine or the economic downturn, consider reaching out to them and seeing if you can help. Even something as simple as paying one electrical bill could be an enormous blessing, especially if you live in an area where it’s still dropping below freezing at night.
Also, consider that many churches keep “crisis funds” set aside for their members who temporarily fall into times of need.
Usually, the church elders or staff vet members who may need aid based on their history and reliability within the church in addition to the Holy Spirit’s leading. They also typically establish a date with the individual or family when relief will no longer be needed; budgeting like this allows them to help the maximum number of people possible and also adds an element of accountability.
Contributing to a church’s crisis fund is an incredible way to live out God’s generosity and care for other believers who may be struggling right now, especially as schools and jobs close.
Most importantly, though, contact your church for prayer. You can also reach World Challenge’s prayer team by posting on our prayer page or calling our prayer line at 1-833-WC-PRAYS (1-833-927-7297). The prayer line is open 7am-5pm MT and will remain available throughout Colorado’s state-wide quarantine.
There is no better time than now to remember that we are the family of God and support and care for one another like Christ cares for us.