It is hard to imagine “normal” as it was just a few short weeks ago. My daily routines were centered on work and family, and the weekly rhythms of my life moved in step with church and ministry. I was trying to orchestrate a smooth job transition. I was planning travel for the spring, summer, and upcoming year in a way that would balance family, my personal goals, and missions. I was caught up in creative projects, knitting groups, enjoying my new granddaughter, spending time with family and friends. Sure I had some cares and concerns, but for the most part my life seemed fairly organized and I felt a degree of control.
But then things unexpectedly took a strange turn. Now I can barely remember what the world was like “pre-coronavirus.” Everyone is talking about it—testing, fatality rates, confirmed cases, layoffs, social distancing, sheltering in place, flattening the curve. Planes are grounded, borders are closed, markets have become unstable, huge numbers of people are being laid off, schools are closed. Groups of more than ten are not allowed. Every time I encountered a group of two or so people today, they were whispering about the coronavirus. Several people confessed to me that they could not focus or stay motivated to work. Nearly everyone said that they were afraid or anxious. It feels like a collective nightmare. It feels out of control.
Scripture doesn’t address coronavirus. It doesn’t offer us any explanation or reason for the likely catastrophic and tragic consequences of this unprecedented pandemic. It does, however, have something to offer for anxiety. Psalm 94:19 (NIV) reads, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” The Psalmist testifies that at the moment when he was about to lose his footing, God’s unfailing love supported him. Just when he was most anxious, God consoled him. In numerous other Bible passages, we are encouraged in a similar way: regardless of the terrible circumstances raging around us, God is with us and this reality is sufficient to ease our fears. Joshua 1:9 says, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Philippians 4:6-7 “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 minds in Christ Jesus.”
Just as God walks with us and consoles us, we humans can turn toward others who may be experiencing anxiety and, with a word of kindness, offer encouragement and consolation. Proverbs 12:25 reads “Anxiety weighs the heart down, but a kind word cheers it up.” I may not have the answers to the coronavirus pandemic myself, but I can offer words of encouragement in response to the anxiety expressed by others. It is not necessary or even possible to solve their problems, but rather words that extend God’s love to anxious others can provide encouragement and consolation.
Pray: God, help me to be consoled and to experience your peace in the midst of my anxieties. God, hold me up and give me strength in the face of the coronavirus tragedy. God, show me a person in my life who needs encouragement and relief from anxiety, and give me words to share with and to encourage this person.