Peace In A Pandemic - The Fellowship of Suffering

The world changed overnight. What were once viable business plans were suddenly on a shaky foundation. Retirement plans disappeared into thin air. Spring break plans were replaced with stocking food and gathering cleaning supplies. Single moms felt like someone was standing on their chest. People with existing health conditions felt targeted. Coffee shop employees saw tips dry up and wages cut. Churches cancelled services. Roads, where thousands of cars once ran each night, looked like Christmas morning at 7am. It wasn’t the rapture. It was the beginning of revival… in me.

As much as we have been practicing, or ignoring, social distancing there is one other thing we must not neglect… social sensitivity. This is a time for encouraging one another and loving one another, even more, as we see the day approaching. This is a time to put aside our political preferences and self-serving statements and simply be sensitive to the health and economic devastation around us. It is a time to use our voice on social media to soothe the hearts of people and to avoid the urge to attack others or promote our agendas. You don’t sing happy birthday at a funeral. I have found social media to be a place void of much comfort during the early days of the coronavirus. It is like some people are watching a football game while someone else reads a eulogy. There has been no call for cohesion, no true convalescing during one of the most dramatic historical events in our lifetime. Many have been picking sides or recruiting. Now is a time for great social sensitivity. Sometimes we need to just listen, remind people we love them, and if possible find a way to do something meaningful. And if you are like me, use our voice to perhaps feed revival with confession.

Like many of you, I have been not only regular in church, but even involved as a teacher in multiple facets of my church family. To those on the outside I was considered a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. When the impact of the coronavirus began to dramatically affect my business I was quite rattled, even distraught. A friend of mine mentioned that I would escape harm because I was shielded by my faith in God. I quickly reminded him that Daniel was taken into captivity along with the rest of Israel by the Babylonians. He suffered with everybody else. Truth was, I was no Daniel. I have honestly been struggling with apathy, anger, and a lack of genuine devotion. I was like a kid with a rich grandmother who only visited her when I needed money. I was keeping in touch with God just in case I needed help. My love had grown cold over the past several months. My intimacy with God had suffered because of simply selfish rebellion. But I must admit, while my plans and perspective have been impacted tremendously by the virus, my spirit was broken and is finally being renewed. I repent of my love for the things of this world and from trying to dig my own well, a well that didn’t hold water.

I actually hope we never go back to business as usual in this country. While I hope we recover quickly medically and economically, even more I hope we learn a valuable lesson from this experience. First, the only object worthy of putting our faith in is God himself. The earth and everything in it will pass away but the Word of our God will endure forever. And He is good and faithful and keeps His promises. His love and blessings endure to a thousand generations. His Word and His Love never fail. Second, because we bear his image, our words are also powerful. We have the power to destroy or build up with our words. One of our greatest mandates as followers of Christ is to be encouraging, to give thanks, to be faithful in word, and for our words to result in love defined by deeds and sacrifice. To thank God and think of others. We are to bear the image of God so perfectly in a difficult time such as this that we do something as crazy as forget about ourselves and do or say something completely beneficial to the world around us. We enter into what Paul described as the fellowship of His suffering. And we begin to pray that revival, not a virus, will overtake the apathetic, cold hearts of each and every faithful teacher and member of the church. We pray that our voice on social media will so powerfully portray the love of God that we woo the hurting hearts of millions across our nation home to our faithful Father. We practice social sensitivity. We turn our apathy into empathy and in God, and God alone, we trust.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”