With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading across the world and with cases now in the U.S., according to the CDC we are on the verge of a pandemic. This has forced me to consider: how should I respond to a potential disaster? How should my family handle this “impending doom?” As Christians, how should we approach trials and hardships?
I’m not pretending to know all of the answers here. I’m simply sharing what I’m trying to implement in my own life as I walk with God in this potential season of a pandemic.
1. Prepare in advance – spiritually.
I believe that trials and tribulations don’t necessarily make you stronger – I think they expose what is already there. When the “bones are good” the house will stand firm, even in disaster.
NOW is the time to figure out how to view God in light of disasters. If God is all powerful and all loving, why does He allow these things? I’m not saying there will be a perfect answer – but I AM saying that you should think about it.
Look to stories in the scriptures about how spiritual men and women handled disaster. Job is of course a favorite, but what about Habbakuk? God told Habbakuk that a disaster was coming: the Babylonians were going to destroy the Israelites and enslave them. Habbakuk’s response is nuanced: He does struggle (Habbakuk 1:2-4) and ask questions (Habbakuk 1:13). Ultimately, Habbakuk obeys God’s command to write the prophecy (which is why we have the book of Habbakuk!) and decides to “quietly wait for the day of trouble” (Habbakuk 3:16) . Finally, he even praises God in a beautiful verse:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.Habbakuk 3:17-19
If you want to dive deeper into this subject of how Christians should prepare for disaster, here are a few of my favorite spiritual books about suffering:
- Walking with God through Pain & Suffering by Timothy Keller
- Trusting God Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges
- The Victory of Surrender by Gordon Ferguson
- Where is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey
- The Gift of Pain by Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey
My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty. I do not aspire to great things or matters too lofty for me. Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.Psalm 131:1-2
Ultimately, we may not ever understand why God does what he does. And this has to be okay. To think that we could ever attain to the loftiness of God is absurd.
I love this quote from Timothy Keller. The truth is that God and His plans are beyond our comprehension.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord,
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9
However, please don’t use this as an excuse to not struggle with God over difficult matters. God honors those who struggle respectfully with Him (Genesis 32:22-32).
2. Expect hardships.
Hardships and trials WILL come. Jesus says in John 16:33 that we WILL have trouble. It’s not a question of “if” trials will come, it’s only a question of “when” they will come…and what our response will be when they arrive.
Remember: Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
The trials we go through test our hearts and give us an opportunity to show God that we will be faithful to Him and trust Him no matter what. Let’s stand firm in our faith so we can receive the crown of life!
Here is a pretty comprehensive list of scriptures on suffering, which could be a good tool for studying out this subject further: https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-suffering/
Another great Bible study is how God responds to our trials. The wonderful thing about God is that He comforts us in our suffering. These verses are powerful examples of how God wants to wrap His arms around us when we go through trials. When we question, “Where is God in all this?” the answer is that He is right beside us, walking through the fire with us.
3. Prepare practically without panicking.
A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.Proverbs 22:3 & 27:12
If there is a good chance that a disaster or trial is coming your way, prepare without panicking. I live in Florida, where we regularly have to prepare ourselves for hurricane season. It’s possible that a hurricane will hit and nothing bad will happen, but it’s also possible that it could be a disaster. We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That means following your local government’s instructions and making sure that you are aware of what’s going on (without being too obsessive and worried!).
It’s not ungodly to practically prepare for hardships and disasters. I recommend following advice from experts – and not just some random mom blog! 😉 Get advice where applicable and necessary. There are A TON of scriptures about heeding wisdom and advice, but here are two of my favorites:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.Proverbs 12:15
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.Proverbs 19:20
Here is a basic disaster supplies kit checklist from Ready.gov along with a printable checklist from FEMA: https://www.ready.gov/kit
4. Be intentional about what to tell your child.
Decide with your spouse what to tell – or not tell – your child about the upcoming event/epidemic. Remember that your child will pick up on your emotions about the situation – even if they don’t understand what’s happening. Be sensitive to this and try not to discuss too much in front of them. Calmly inform them about whatever they NEED to know and fight to make sure you’re trusting God so that they can have peace as well.
5. Look for opportunities to serve.
When disaster strikes, this is when we as Christians can shine brightest. Instead of only looking out for our needs, we can reach out to neighbors and families around us to help meet their needs. We can rally around the needy and hurting. We can bring meals, send supplies, pray continually. People often look to God in the midst of trials, and we can do our part by reflecting God and directing people toward Him! This is such a great example to our children as well.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-4
Use moderation and wisdom when considering how to serve others during unstable times. For example, I wouldn’t advise endangering your family in order to help another person. However, I also wouldn’t advocate simply boarding yourself and your family inside your house without a care for how anyone else is doing outside of those walls.
Here are some practical ways to serve:
- Whatever you are doing to prepare for disaster, do for others. For example, if you’re going to the grocery store to pick up food and supplies, offer to buy some for another family.
- Prepare in advance to give and be generous. Keep a stash of supplies/food handy in case someone else needs them.
- If someone you know does get sick, you don’t have to necessarily be around them in order to serve them. You can make them a meal and drop it at their front door, send them supplies via Instacart or Amazon, pray for them, text them Scriptures to encourage them, and so on.
- Donate money or supplies to a non-profit disaster relief organization.
- Talk with your neighbors and/or members of your church community about how they’re preparing and if they need any help.
- Reach out to your church’s staff to see if there are any acute needs within the community that you could assist with. If relevant, join or form a response team to aid in disaster relief.
6. Pray, pray and…pray.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.”James 5:16-17
We can never underestimate the power of prayer. Pray for those affected by the Coronavirus, for our governing bodies, for the scientists working on vaccines, for the healthcare workers who put themselves in harm’s way in order to help the sick. We should pray that people will seek God through this potential pandemic.
If you’re feeling too anxious or burdened to pray, I would recommend listening to worship music. Oftentimes this speaks to my heart in a way that nothing else can.
7. Keep an eternal perspective.
As my husband and I have discussed the possible outcomes of this virus, I asked: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” At first, the answer was death. And, while death is scary because there’s so much unknown, as a believer, I would argue that it’s actually the BEST thing that could happen (Philippians 1:21). We were not made for this life alone – the fulfillment of Jesus’s death and resurrection is still waiting for us. Yes, we have responsibilities in this life that God has appointed us to, but let’s not forget that Heaven is at the end of any disaster.
Through His death and resurrection, Jesus CONQUERED death and if we’ve joined in His death and resurrection through faith and baptism, we have conquered death as well. I love Hillsong United’s lyric: “If you left the grave behind you, so will I.”
Mamas, no matter what happens in this life, as long as we have continued faith in Jesus, we have nothing to truly be afraid of. Nothing can separate us from the love of God and one day seeing His face – not pandemic, not Coronavirus, not death, not hardship, not sickness, not poverty, not pain. NOTHING.
In view of that, let’s endeavor to put our whole trust and hope in God – the God who loved us so much that He didn’t even withhold from us that which was most precious to Him: His Son. If that’s how He treated us while we were still sinners, how much more will He provide for us as His daughters?