“This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him.”
In January 2020, China announced that they were experiencing an outbreak of a new respiratory illness called Covid-19 caused by Corona virus leading to, in certain cases, pneumonia and even death. As the rest of the world watched the toll it took on their healthcare system and the strict measures put in place as well as the fear and panic that was spreading among their citizens, all we could do was hope and pray that it wouldn’t reach us. Now, of course, it has become the biggest global crisis and pandemic that people of my generation have ever seen. As the things we once put our security in such as our jobs and financial status, our country’s economy, our health and healthcare system, access to education, food and other necessities (stop hoarding the toilet paper people!), daily routines, social status and ability to visit friends and family crumble around us, it is easy to feel lost and scared. For many, this atmosphere of panic, fear, and helplessness caused by the virus has lead to a lack of trust in our government leaders and caused them to ask one very important question: where do we place our trust?
In a twist of irony, American money contains the statement: in God we trust. The reminder that we should place our trust and find security in something bigger than our earthly possessions is right there on the very thing that so many people have tried to turn to instead. Jesus knew that as humans we struggle with this which is why he says in Matthew,
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Jesus is reminding his disciples and us of just how valuable we are to God as part of his glorious creation and that we can trust God to look out for all our daily needs. This reminds me of the story of the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert and God gave them manna. It says,
“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”
God gives each of the Israelites enough bread no matter how much or little they gather. It is important to note that He gives them exactly enough for the day. Not more, not less, but enough. In the beginning of this Chapter, God tells Moses that He is using this as a trust exercise for the Israelites. Just as in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus wants His disciples to grow in faith and know that God will make sure they have what they need, in this passage God wants to help His people learn to trust and depend on Him daily to provide for their needs and see everything as a gift from Him. By saving some manna for tomorrow, not only are they being selfish and hoarding, but they are also displaying disbelief in Gods ability to provide again. Therefore it goes bad. This current crisis has made me realise all the things I take for granted such as my job and ability to go to the grocery store and get the food I need. We are now in a time where, like the Israelites, these are no longer sure things for everybody and just like them, we have the choice to either respond in faith and grow in dependency on God as we look to Him to provide, or respond in fear and act in self-preservation, looking out for our own needs rather than those of our collective community. I pray that we would all choose the former.
As Jesus continues His teaching in Matthew, He also cautions His disciples and us against wasting all our energy worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet that we miss what God is doing in the present. Even as a longtime Christian, I find that this is a reminder I need and something I must practice daily. Trusting God and staying present is not always easy and definitely not my initial response to crisis, but I find that the more I do it, the more ingrained and natural it becomes. Having an autoimmune disease and being on two medications to suppress my immune system, one at a fairly high dose due to being in a flare, I am in the moderate to high risk category when it comes to the virus. Naturally this, along with the fact that in person medical appointments are extremely hard to access right now, has caused me a lot of fear and anxiety, but it has also given me a unique opportunity to practice trusting God more.
Martin Luther is noted to have said,
“You cannot keep the birds [of worry/fear] from flying over your head
but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”
One of the ways I’ve been doing this is through immersing by myself in scripture and taking a deeper look at the character of God. Jesus says in John,
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Satan is always going to try and take our focus off of our Creator and one of the biggest ways he does this is through fear. By saturating ourselves with God’s word, we are better able to fight and break free from the chain of fear with which the devil tries to bind us as we replace his lies with truth. Later on in John as Jesus is talking to his disciples about the persecution that they will experience from others as a result of their belief in him, he reassures them with this promise and it is a truth that I have been clinging to as we go through a time of a different kind of suffering with the social distancing measures, closure of all non-essential services, schools, parks and churches, and are unable to visit loved ones in care facilities and hospitals,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Though we live in a broken world right now and experience pain and suffering, Jesus promises that through Him, we will experience fullness of life and peace. Some of this may not fully be realized until Heaven, but in the meantime we can have hope in this promise and praise Him for the glimpses of it that we see breaking through here on earth. One of these glimpses that I’ve been encouraged by during this pandemic is the positive impact that social distancing, isolation and quarantine has had on the environment. In an article by Global News, journalist Redmond Shannon reports,
“If Covid-19 serves as a reminder from Mother Nature of how poorly we are treating her, then paradoxically, it is also giving us a glimpse into how healthy she used to be. The pandemic has revealed a remarkable change in pollution levels in the places worst-affected by the virus. Fish can be more-easily seen swimming in the now-clear canals of Venice, and air pollutants have dropped noticeably in China, Italy and New York.”
-Redmond Shannon, Global News
To read the full article, copy and paste the link below:
We’ve been aware of the climate crisis and how creation has been groaning for a long time but as a world, have been hesitant to make the changes we’ve needed to. Now that this pandemic has put limits on the number of cars on the road, planes in the sky, and people on the streets, we are seeing the positive benefits of these changes and being given the chance to do better moving forward. When I see glimpses of God’s restorative power at work like this, it makes it a little easier for me to trust Him and live by faith. My awe at His ability to bring good out of a situation that seems completely dark and hopeless makes praising Him an almost automatic response. Scripture takes on new meaning as I begin to experience the truth of them and the fulfillment of His promises both in the world and in my own life. It also inspires me to share my experience and God stories with others.
As a church, I would invite you to join me in this. I truly believe that there is no better time to spread our message of hope, peace and love as more and more people begin searching for something to cling to outside of this world and a different way of reacting than fear and panic. This could be the time to phone up that elderly neighbour you’ve been ‘too busy’ to call and ask if they need groceries or your grandparent who is isolated in their care home. Maybe you are being prompted to check in on your friend whom you know struggles with anxiety and depression and let them know you are praying for them. Perhaps its standing outside a local care home or hospital with a sign thanking our healthcare workers for all that they are doing and bringing them some encouragement. Instead of complaining about the decisions being made by our health officials and government leaders, pray for them. Whatever it is, being the church doesn’t have to stop just because we aren’t able to meet together in our buildings. I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in the fact that God has never been and never will be confined to four walls. He is bigger than this pandemic and as we look to Him and His strength, we will be given the power to overcome.