Loving others in the midst of a pandemic begins with purging fear from our spirits. First John 4:18 reminds us, “There is no fear in love.” If we fixate on personal risk, worrisome hypothetical scenarios, and unknown factors, we will be ill-equipped to reach out to anyone. Instead, these things will foster within us a spirit of anxiety and fear that will erode our desire to help others and will eventually paralyze our ministry efforts.
Fear is the most discussed topic in all of Scripture. God encourages His people not to fear over 300 times in the Bible. This is because, as our Creator, God understands how prone we are to fear and how crippling it can be to accomplishing our created purpose. Considering this, let’s keep Psalm 46:1–3 forefront on our minds, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
To protect our minds, some of us may need to turn off the news and talk radio programs; we may need to disconnect from social media, and we may need to ask a particular friend or family member to stop communicating certain “truths” and rumors. But keeping out negative and worrisome content is not sufficient to protect our minds. We should fill the void with the truth of God’s Word. Perhaps we can download an app that will allow us to listen to the Word of God during those times we would usually be listening to talk radio or the news. Perhaps we can strategically place God’s promises on our bathroom mirror, above the kitchen sink, beside our computer, and anywhere else we frequent on any given day. Perhaps we can increase or add to our routine time with the Lord in prayer. Or perhaps we can encourage ourselves by reading biographies of other faithful Christians.
Focusing upon the truths of God’s Word is also the first step in fostering a mindset that considers the needs and concerns of others above our own. Not only is there no fear in love, but 1 John 4:18 informs us that love is the antidote to fear, “Perfect love casts out fear.” This makes sense when we consider that biblical love is far more than a feeling. Biblical love is patient, kind, content, humble, polite, cheerful, forgiving, honest, enduring, and hopeful (1 Cor. 13:4–7). In other words, biblical love is outwardly focused—not inwardly focused, like fear. And biblical love is optimistic—not pessimistic, like fear.
When we abandon fear and embrace the love of Christ, ministry opportunities will become evident. In the meantime, our general rule of thumb is to think about how we would want to be treated if our roles were reversed. This is what Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:12, “‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.’” Here are four ideas to get us started:
Schools across the country have closed indefinitely. Many have already declared they will not reconvene until next school year. This means many people have nobody to supervise their children while they are at work. Even those parents who can stay home with their children face the prospect of stir crazy children who have no outlet for releasing their energy.
Those of us who are not at high risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 and who are self-quarantining might consider scheduling regular playdates with a particular family. Or we might offer to provide childcare for a family in need.
2. Supply Runs
Those of us who are not bringing other children into our homes but find ourselves young and healthy might consider making grocery and supply runs for elderly neighbors, family members, and friends who are at a high risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19. We can leave the supplies at their doorstep and never even come into direct contact with them.
The vast majority of people will survive the coronavirus, but everyone will struggle with some degree of fear, anxiety, depression, or feeling of isolation. Given time, the coronavirus could mutate into an epidemic of despair, with some people questioning whether anyone would even notice if they’re gone. Even before this pandemic, rates of depression and suicide were on the rise. Social distancing, self-quarantining, and lack of work are certainly not going to improve these numbers.
Something as simple as a phone call, a text message, an e-mail, or a card could have a profound impact upon those who are struggling with feelings of loneliness and anxiety. This is an especially ideal ministry for those who are at a high risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19. And it could be a fantastic outlet for those extroverts who are longing to connect with people.
Never underestimate the power and effectiveness of prayer. Pray for the health and safety of our loved ones, neighbors, and everyone affected by the coronavirus. Pray that God will use the threat of the coronavirus to provoke them to look beyond their daily routine and to consider eternal matters. Pray that our national spirit of pride and independence will be broken and replaced with a spirit of humility and repentance (2 Chron. 7:13–14). Pray that we will learn to depend upon God for our daily provisions and safety. Pray that those who do not yet have a relationship with God will come to Him in their hour and need.
Whether isolated in our homes or outside practicing social distancing, every one of us can be ministering in this time of national crisis. Our methods may have changed, but our calling has not. Jesus instructs us in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Pandemic or no pandemic, each of us have been called to love God and to love others.
1. Weber, Katherine. “Rick Warren: Why God Encourages Christians to ‘Fear Not’ 365 Times in the Bible.” Christian Post, March 23, 2020. https://www.christianpost.com/news/rick-warren-why-god-encourages-christians-to-fear-not-365-times-in-the-bible.html.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.