Power, Love and a Sound Mind in the COVID19 Moment
by Brett Clemmer
My mom is now under quarantine. She lives in a senior independent living apartment building with about 75 other people. They’ve banned visitors, eliminated most social activities, and started delivering meals to individual apartments instead of eating together in the dining room. All workers and visiting health professionals have to take their temperature before entering.
This is the “new normal” in the time of COVID-19. We’re being told to stay home, engage in social distancing, and wash our hands… a lot.
As we have watched the case numbers grow and the death toll mount—first in seemingly far-away places like China and Iran, but then in more familiar “dream destination” countries—there have been many reactions in the press and on social media. But the predominant reaction we’ve seen is fear.
At its foundation, fear is driven by an inherent belief that you are about to die or suffer great harm. Fear can be debilitating. But it can also be a false alarm—or at least an overstated one.
So how do we respond when we sense it’s starting to consume us? The Bible has the antidote: 2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” And herein lies, I believe, a guide for replacing fear.
But first, a caveat. I’ve heard some well-meaning people say, “Faith and fear cannot coexist.” That’s nonsense. Ever bungee jumped? Or asked for a raise? Or asked a girl out on a first date? You may have faith enough, but there’s also undeniable risk that you can’t help but acknowledge. So when faith and fear do coexist, what you may actually need is courage—to act in faith in spite of your fear. And that brings us back to Paul’s encouragement to Timothy.
The key to overcoming fear is not to ignore it or rationalize it away, but rather to face it head on and act, in the spirit God has given you—of power, love, and a sound mind.
Paul said that Christians have access to the power of the Holy Spirit, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead. Understanding the source of this “spirit of power’’ will lead you do courageous things. Courage is the ability to function in spite of fear, in the midst of fear—not recklessly, but trusting in the power of God.
God assured Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
God is with you wherever you go. Not above you, not in heaven, not just watching you. With you. Believe that, and you can face anything.
What do courage and power look like in the COVID19 moment? It may look like trusting God for provision when you’re worried about your job. It may be giving sacrificially to people who are in need during a time of financial uncertainty. For you extroverts, courage might be choosing to self-isolate with contentment!
How does love drive out fear? When you love something, you ignore your fear to do what’s best for that person. Of course, the ultimate example is Christ, who loved us so much He overcame His own fear.
You might wonder, Was Jesus afraid? Consider His last hours. He begged God to “take this cup” in the garden before He was arrested. He was in such anguish that He sweated blood, probably breaking capillaries from His own crying. And yet, He overcame His fear of death, “even death on a cross,” because He loves you and me.
What does this kind of sacrificial love look like in the COVID19 moment? It’s going grocery shopping for your elderly or disabled neighbor or immunocompromised friend. It’s sharing your resources with those who weren’t able to prepare as adequately. It’s calling to encourage folks who are expressing their anxiety on their social media accounts. It’s praying for healthcare workers and nursing home employees who may be exposed. It’s extending extraordinary grace to your family when you’re ready for a break from each other! It’s avoiding divisive arguments and blame to instead show Christ to a fearful, hurting world.
A Sound Mind
Honestly, this is the attribute that seems to be in shortest supply. There seems to be no shortage of conspiracy theories (I really don’t think it’s the 5G waves), fake cures (do NOT take intravenous vitamin C or drink bleach!), and false information spreading on a macro level.
But it’s perhaps most critical to think about the fight for sound-mindedness on a more micro, personal level: our own minds. With words like “pandemic”, “lockdown”, and “quarantine” in the news every hour, if we are going to overcome fear, we have to guard our minds, feeding it with His truth.
What does a sound mind look like in the COVID19 moment? It’s being reassuring to family members and neighbors, rather than forecasting doom. It’s doing the extra research to make sure what you’re posting or saying to others is accurate and safe. It’s feeding your mind with more scripture and prayer than headlines and tweets. And it’s recognizing and remembering that you are not alone, that the world is working to solve the crisis (really!), and that God has not forsaken you—He is “with you wherever you go.”
Yes, they quarantined my mom. And you know what? While being stretched out of her comfort zone, she is having the time of her life!
Since my dad died last summer, Mom has been sad, as you would expect. Sure, there have been times of smiling and even laughter as our family has mourned and grieved and tried to move on with life, but for Mom, the chasm left from the loss of a loving and stable marriage feels unfillable.
But on the phone this week, she sounded full of joy. “Well, my neighbor and I have started spending time in each other’s apartments. She has a TV that works (Mom won’t let me get her cable fixed), and we just talk and keep each other company.”
She went on, “You know, son, there’s nothing we can do, but that’s okay. The staff here is really working hard to take care of us, even if they are making us stay in our apartments. I know they are just doing it to keep us safe.”
My mom is an introvert. Reaching out to her neighbor was an act of courage. Her neighbor was very nervous, so my mom spends time with her to reassure her, showing love and compassion. And she’s not complaining about the restrictions, but rather, with a sound mind, she realizes that the limitations are for her own good.
At the end of the phone call, my mom left me with this: “God isn’t surprised and He’s still on the throne. So we’ll just hunker down and carry on. I’m doing okay!”
So brothers (and sisters), hunker down! Love your neighbor. Remember God is still in control. Don’t get sucked into endless debates about the virus, the restrictions, or the cure. Live with a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. And you’ll be okay, too. He is with you wherever you go.