Life has posed plenty of unexpected occurrences during my 71 years on this earth. But at this point, none seems to compare to the upheaval this world has seen with the novel coronavirus.
Growing up in Kentucky, snow was the welcome distraction during the winter. Like students in every generation, we looked forward to a snowfall that would interrupt school for a few days. An extended period of school cancellations was never the desire because it would require us to make up those days and shorten the summer break. Then there was my sixth grade year when the school system powers-that-be determined that we would make up days on Saturdays, which was the worst possible alternative because it interfered with playing baseball.
My senior year at the University of Kentucky presented another unexpected curve. Amid the unrest on college campuses over the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, someone burned the ROTC building on campus. The National Guard was called in to restore calm, and students were given the option to take the grade they had in classes and skip finals. Needless to say, students were eager to bypass finals and head home.
During my 41 years as a newspaper publisher, there were challenges over the years, but none compared to this one.
There was the normal winter snow which made producing and delivering a newspaper a challenge, but we always managed to print on schedule and make sure our readers had their papers delivered.
The biggest challenge of all those years came in 2009 when an ice storm put a grinding halt to activities in western Kentucky. Even though power was out for days and roads were hazardous, we managed to put out a newspaper — even though most people couldn’t get out of their homes to buy one at the grocery store and the U.S. Postal System couldn’t make mail delivery for days. For two weeks, much of our community was handcuffed by the storm, and now it is just a distant memory that is only rekindled by an occasional weather forecast that calls for icy conditions.
We recall the anxiety produced by the the snowstorms and that historic ice storm — not knowing when power would be restored, wondering when grocery stores could replenish their depleted shelves and uncertain when life would resume as normal. But with the coronavirus, it appears that there will be no short term solution.
So how do we cope?
First, we do understand that “this too shall pass.” It’s an interruption, it’s not the end of the world. Sure there will be activities and events missed, there will be hardships to deal with, there will be genuine concern over the economics of this situation, but above all there must be the concern for life.
As the people of God, we stand strong for protecting the lives of the unborn. In this situation, we show our concern for all of life — for those most vulnerable, the elderly who are more susceptible to having their life cut short by this virus.
In the midst of all the handwringing and nervousness we see in society, let’s be heartened because we have the opportunity to be a testimony of God’s love by being kind and considerate to our family members, our neighbors and the strangers we encounter on life’s path.
That is evidenced by the secular world. Last week on our neighborhood chat group, one person reached out by offering help to anyone elderly or compromised by the virus, saying she would get out and pick up any items that someone might need. That post was followed by 32 replies, many of those offering the same type of assistance.
Another post on that site gave a website address that would link people needing help to volunteers. The purpose of that site is to match healthy young adults, whose risk factors are low, with elderly or individuals considered to be high risk, so that needed essentials are provided. The site also encouraged regular check-ins with those elderly neighbors.
This is exactly what many churches are attempting to do. In these anxious days, may Kentucky Baptists be diligent in reminding others that we trust in an all-powerful God who knows our troubles, who cares for us and as a result, we want to care for others.
We care for others by faithfully checking in on widows, shut-ins and the elderly. We want to see that their physical needs are met — if they are sick, we see that their medical situations are addressed. We want to make sure they don’t run out of their medications, and that they have proper nutrition. In that process, we also provide spiritual encouragement to them — reminding them of God’s faithfulness, pointing them to the many assurances in scripture that God will never leave us or forsake us.
Oftentimes, someone just needs a reassuring word, so we not only try to accommodate their physical situation, but give emotional encouragement.
The statement “we’ll get through this” has been made often in recent days by political figures, and that is true. As we get through this, we pray these will be good days for gospel conversations — good days to help folks grasp the reality that all we strive for has no eternal value.
And we’ll get through this by being there for one another, for caring for “the least of these.” And in doing so, we’ll show that our hope is not in ourselves, not on the things of this world or on the luxuries of life that we take for granted — but our only true hope is in the living God and the salvation He promises through faith in Christ.