Newton’s Third Law of Motion states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is true in physics; I believe this to be true in the human psyche as well. For every action or circumstance in life, there is an “under-the-hood” reaction in our being which in turn leads to a physical reaction—really an outward manifestation of what’s going on in our heart.
In the specific circumstances surrounding COVID-19, emotions and reactions are all over the spectrum—emotions such as fear, worry, compassion, and indifference; reactions such as criticizing, hoarding, aiding, and ignoring. Like a tea bag placed in hot water reveals what is inside the bag, so also the circumstances of life reveal the condition of the human heart. Everyone is reacting—whether that reaction be in the form of mobilizing to help others, spending time in concentrated prayer, criticizing others on social media, binging on Netflix, or buying all of the toilet paper in sight.
However, as followers of Christ we are called to have a Gospel reaction to the circumstances in life. That’s how Paul and Silas were able to sing while being unjustly imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:22-30). That’s how Paul was able to write from a different prison cell to the believers in Philippi and rejoice that even though some were preaching the Gospel without sincerity in a malicious attempt to add to Paul’s sufferings, the Gospel message was still advancing (Phil. 1:12-20).
A heart rooted in Christ will have a Gospel reaction to circumstances. For every action or circumstance in the life of a follower of Christ, there should be a corresponding reaction informed by the Gospel. We don’t control our circumstances, but we do control how we react to those circumstances. Those who are outside of Christ can only react in the flesh (Romans 8:5). Those who are in Christ have the possibility of reacting in the Spirit, which is directly related to whether they are abiding in Christ or not (John 15:1-5).
Are you reacting to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 with a heart rooted and grounded in Christ?
Honduras moved early on locking everything down once the first positive COVID-19 case was detected. The first official government announcement was to declare that all schools would be canceled and all meeting of more than fifty would be prohibited.
The day the official announcement was made I was scheduled to do a wedding for a young couple in our church. We cautiously decided to proceed with the wedding plans since everything was in place and it really was too late to cancel. The next day, Sunday March 15, we did our first virtual church service during the pandemic, which also turned out to be the last church service we did in our church building. Since that time restrictions have continued to tighten to the point that everyone except persons performing essential services (medical, food supply, banks, fuel, civil servants) are on house confinement.
We have permission to leave our homes once every ten days, with a maximum of two people in the vehicle. Masks and gloves are required in public. There have now been two stretches where even that permission has been revoked and all travel has been suspended and all commerce has stopped. Despite these circumstances. . .
I am inspired by God’s goodness
Psalm 34:8 says “O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” God’s goodness can be experienced during this global pandemic for those who have palates to savor and eyes to observe.
When I see the sun continue to rise and set, I am in awe of the One who set it on its course (Ps 19:5-6).
When I wake up to the birds singing, I am comforted by the One who notices and feeds them (Matt 6:36).
When I meditate on man’s naked fragility, I am reminded of the One who has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:4) and that His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
When I am made aware of families that are struggling economically, I point them to the One who taught us to ask for our daily bread (Matt 6:11).
When I observe this world groaning and suffering, I am excited by the promise of “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (Rom 8:22; 2 Pet 3:13).
I am encouraged by the Gospel advance
Ministry is all about people. Just because proximity to other human beings is greatly discouraged and limited right now does not mean that ministry stops. In fact, in the case of our own local church, we have found new, creative ways to minister that will continue even after the current restrictions on life are lifted.
Although we are in conferment, we are still able to broadcast online church services twice a week—we’ve changed the way we do it at least a half dozen times, but we’re getting the hang of it!—We’ve been able to donate food and supplies to church families and the community. We’ve formed care groups to keep our finger on the pulse of member families during this time. We’ve done discipleship over video chat. We even encouraged members to participate in a talent show in our private members group on Facebook. Ministry continues!
In general, the internet has been absolutely flooded with constant Gospel content. More than at any other time in human history the Gospel has been accessible to more people because of the marriage of our current circumstances and the resources available to broadcast the message in a variety of formats over the worldwide web.
In my own experience, we are producing more Gospel content that is specifically tailored to an online audience, and we are seeing more extensive viewership than we would in normal circumstances. We have even had viewers in Europe and North America. I have watched church services in Asia. There is fresh, quality Gospel content available publicly every day of the week in multiple languages, and people are looking for it because of the current circumstances!
I am challenged to embrace this moment
This ministry year began for us at a frenetic pace, and that schedule was to continue throughout the year. In the first two months of 2020 we hosted an evangelistic basketball camp, an enrichment conference for missionaries, and a creation conference.
Then COVID-19 proceeded to hijack our calendar, along with everyone else’s. We were forced to cancel our church’s missions conference in late March. We had planned a family mission trip to visit missionary friends in Africa, where I was also scheduled to preach a missions conference. Visiting mission teams coming to minister with us in Honduras have had to cancel.
It remains to be seen how much more of the 2020 calendar will be affected by the current quarantine and the lingering results. Instead of bemoaning what might have been, I am embracing the opportunities of the moment. There are certain things that I like to do, but it seems I never have the concentrated time to do them because “I’m just so busy.” Now that we have had a forced stand down from the normal ministry pace, I’ve had time—time to be home, time to enjoy family, time to get the guitar out, time to read those books on my waiting list, time to connect with family and friends, time to work in the yard.
It would be a shame to aimlessly wander through this moment and not take advantage of the opportunities it has afforded during this forced furlough. I believe more than a few of us will look back on the quarantine of 2020 and wish that we had that kind of uninterrupted time with family at home again.
I don’t know anyone who would classify the raw circumstances surrounding COVID-19 as favorable from a human perspective. Yet amid the suffering, fear, and death, not to mention the economic fallout, we can echo the words of Paul when he said that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). I do not lament the circumstances that God has seen fit to allow in our world. I choose rather to react with a heart rooted in the Gospel because I trust that God is doing extraordinary things according to His will and for His glory.