A letter to the Leverington Church Community from the Pastor
As I write this letter, the Coronavirus status of our nation and our city are in great flux. My two children, Grace and John, are in the Los Angeles area for college, and Los Angeles County has just declared a state of emergency due to the virus. In fact, in the middle of writing this sentence, I just received a text that their university is now asking all students to leave campus by Sunday. These are times when many of us worry. Uncertainty has a way of doing that to us.
Where is the balance between irrational fear that causes over-reaction, and irrational irresponsibility that fails to take reasonable steps towards safety? The tricky part of answering that question is that it changes over time. One week it is more reasonable to consider a risk quite low, the next week it might be more reasonable to consider the risk quite high – depending on the actual data. (In terms of the Coronavirus in particular, please see https://www.cdc.gov/ For the current status of our church, please see https://levpres.org/coronavirus-update/)
This moment in history has ripped off the false veneer of “certainty” about the future. We tend to want to believe that life is “normal”, that we “Know” what is going to happen tomorrow, and that things will always stay pretty much the same. Yet, one of the most foundational realities of the human condition in a fallen, sinful world is uncertainty. Uncertainty is by definition un-resolvable, you can’t fix it, you can’t get your arms around it, and that creates anxiety. We humans need things to be resolved, we need some sense of normal in order to be able to think clearly in the present and to make rational decisions about the future. When we don’t have that, we tend handle that stress by choosing one of two extremes. We either panic and live controlled by our fear, or we resort to a sort of fatalistic indifference, refusing to take responsibility for the choices we could make which, while not guaranteed, could make a real difference.
If you are person of deep faith, and are not feeling any worry or fear at this time, that is a wonderful thing. But the bible talks so much about fear and worry exactly because even people of deep faith will experience these emotions from time to time. God wired the ability to have heightened alertness into us exactly as a gift that helps us in times of danger. The key is using that gift the right way.
Just prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, Ruth and I had been meditating on Psalm 112 which includes the following verses:
“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.
Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear…”
– Psalm 112:4-8
Those last two sentences have been very encouraging to me. First, the Psalm admits that in this broken world, bad news will come – it can’t be avoided. But a person who has placed their eternal destiny in God’s hands can face it with out fear, because he knows his times are in God’s hands, and current danger does not get the last word. His heart can be secure and steadfast. Why ? Because he is trusting in the Lord, not his plans. Bad news will come, but he will walk through it because his heart is anchored not to current uncertainty but to the certain goodness of God. Upon the solid rock of God he stands.
Going forward, we simply must take life one day at a time. Jesus said ”Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). And a great disciple of his, Corrie Ten Boom, said “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” I have a choice. I can either let worry sit on the throne of my heart, or Jesus. I choose Jesus.
It seems to me that during times of uncertainty there are two primary things we should do:
1. Focus on those things we can actually control
We can be so consumed with things that are out of our control that we fail to take the steps that are within our control. You can only do what you can do – so what CAN you do ? Don’t get paralyzed by the possibility you might make the wrong choice. Your responsibility is simply this: To make the best decision you can at the time based on the information you had at the time. No more, no less.
2. Turn worry into an alarm clock for prayer
When worry comes, I can use that as a reminder to pray, to walk with God through these days rather than piddling them away. The choice between worry and prayer is a real one.
By the time you read this letter (due out in April), I have no idea if the Cronavirus threat will be waning or if we will be in a much more terrible situation than we are in today. But there is something I do know for sure –
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 8:38
We are God’s – now and forever.
We are all in this together, and I am glad I get to this journey of life with you. We have an amazing church community and we will get through this current chapter together. And when worry comes knocking on our door, we need to remember that we already know how the story finally will end… and it ends very, very well! Therefore, “Even in the darkness, light dawns” for God’s people!
Your bother in Christ and under His Mercy,