16th March 2020 – by Stephen Hackney

According to Bill Gates, ‘In the past week, COVID-19 has started to behave a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about. I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume that it will be until we know otherwise.’ For sure we’re all now acting like it is and our conversations are freaking us out.  The disruption it creates and the fear it instils is outside our normal experience in the West and is unprecedented in the lifetime of many of us. So what are we to do?

Here are few thoughts as we journey together through unchartered waters. They are not in any particular order – and neither are they exhaustive but they are the things that are running through my mind at the moment.

  • Guard your conversations well – your mind is as important as your body in dealing with challenges and so make sure you guard your conversations. Be real, talk openly about the situation but measure how long you are prepared to stay on the topic. Too much conversation will only fuel the fire of fear so be watchful.
  • Be careful how much news you consume – it’s wise to stay informed and follow the best advice from experts but be careful how much news you consume. Fear has its own appetite so be careful how much you feed it
  • Eat healthily and eat to strengthen your immune system – I’m no expert but go look up Dr Sally Bell on Facebook, you can find her @drsallybell – she speaks sense and not paranoia and is putting great advice out there about how to respond
  • Wash your hands a bloody lot – and moisturise them so you can sustain it over a long period. My hands are already feeling odd because of all the extra washing so moisturising is the way to go!
  • Exercise – if possible, increase the amount of exercise you normally do. Look at any rhythms that have helped you in the past to manage stress.
  • Sleep – more than normal. Get to bed an hour earlier – you’ll only be tempted to watch NewsNight if you stay up and that’s not going to help
  • Take a measure on your days – it looks like this pandemic will last well into early summer and beyond so look at how you can reserve strength and build stamina for the long haul
  • Take a check on all unnecessary expenditure – look where you can save a little to create financial margin. The government has introduced measures to help and it looks like banks will offer things to ease the burden on debt over the short term so keep alert to this and what your bank is offering if you need it

Some spiritual stuff…

Christ’s not just for Christmas – he’s also for crisis. (And other things too, of course but let’s stay on track). Jesus has come to us so we can draw close to him. If you’re a person of faith this matters. So how can you dig deeper into your faith at this time and how can it help you and others? A few thoughts ….

Take time to connect with God and pay attention to your own spirituality. Consider the following as pathways to help with this.

  • Let your walk with Christ be the foundation of all emotion and action. He is the cornerstone and bedrock of life. He is with us at all times – the true travelling companion. If you feel unsure about this or distant from him then create space to let your heart reconnect. The most important image to hold in your mind is a loving Heavenly Father – the most important parable to hold is the prodigal Son (Luke 15). It embodies what is God’s primary disposition towards creation which is paternal – let him love you.
  • Go in search of this love and allow it to be a source of comfort. How can you do that? By going back to some simple and basic rhythms. If you’ve got them in your life – then great just do them.

If you are unsure then here’s a few ideas…

  • What songs have helped you in the past – start singing and playing them again.
  • Go to the scriptures that have been a solace to you in the past and allow them to speak to you again – where you have found comfort before learn to revisit that place.
  • If possible go for walks in the fresh air and breath it in – let God connect with you in the wonder of creation.
  • Share spiritual comfort with others – let Christ be with you in the conversations. Consider these words from the Apostle Paul, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
  • Take your fears to God – literally find some space and name them before Jesus – tell him how it makes you feel and ask him to help you. Allow peace to come as a soothing ointment.
  • Take courage from the assurance that God is with you. God doesn’t just tell you not to fear the scriptures takes us to places and practices that help us not to be overwhelmed by worry. There’s an example here: ‘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)’ and here: ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7).
  • And pray – pray over your family and friends – pray over our nation and world. Why not start with this ancient Psalm and let the words become a prayer – ‘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. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. (Psalm 91:1-6)’

And finally for now, Jo came across these comments recently, ‘Listen to the medical experts and take appropriate measures (wash your hands etc). But we need to replace our fear with faith and pray for our nation, that God would protect us. Philippians 4 reminds us: ‘Don’t worry anything and pray about everything’ Our God is bigger than the coronavirus.

Blessings, Stephen
Pastor – Hope Church