The coronavirus is named for the crown-like appearance it has from the protrusions around its edges, an image that provokes me to consider its rule over our hearts and minds during this time. In this moment, we are all forced to ask ourselves how will we respond to its spread across our world.
I will be honest, though I want to err on the side of caution, I have gone back and forth multiple times in my own opinion of its threat. Even in light of well-researched data and statements from Italy’s health care frontlines, there is also conflicting information about its impact in comparison to past outbreaks. Is its threat exacerbated by the swiftness of social media, and has jammed the system from helping those with real complications? Or has the spread of information assisted us in preventing repercussions that could develop if it were to go untamed? Without a clear perspective of far reaching implications–something we wish to prevent by taking these extreme measures–it is hard to know for certain. What I do know is that the CDC and the WHO have recommended preventative measures that the world has never seen. Many countries are refusing to bow to the virus’s oppression by resisting its spread. But it still feels like we’re under its thumb.
There are many things I do not know, but one thing I do know is that I will not be afraid, and there is only one under whom I will be ruled and only one whose crown I fear. His name is Jesus, the true and living king.
Perhaps the comparison seems trite and contrived, like a t-shirt slogan, but truly, we must decide who we will give ourselves to in this hour. I do think it’s important to heed the warnings of experts in their field who are looking at, not just the current scenario, but situations throughout history, and working to curb greater unforeseen threats. I don’t want to mock what I do not fully know. I’m going to wash my hands. I’m going to clean. I’m going to limit when I go out, not only for my own health, but for the sake of others. I’m going to be respectful of people around me to the degree that I can.
But I am not going to panic. If I need to go to the grocery store, I am not going to wonder who touched the packaging on my food, whose air I’m sharing, or how many people I am potentially harming. I will do what I can to avoid that as much as possible, but if I do have to go out into the public, I am going to trust that the Lord is in control of this situation, and that my prayers are more powerful than any virus. I’m going to put the weight of this scenario on his shoulders, and continue to intercede for our city, for our nation, for our world.
Practically speaking, our body responds to stress by dampening the immune system’s response. Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline enable us to act quickly in dangerous situations. However, when we experience stress, especially prolonged stress, our body’s preparations for fight-or-flight direct its resources towards the systems that help us survive vs. our preventative immune responses. The more we dwell on the “what ifs” and work ourselves into a frenzy, the worse our ability will be to physically fight the thing we are fighting. Despite the gift these vital survival mechanisms are to us, the transformation of stress responses into panicked responses diminishes our ability to reasonably address a scenario, and puts ourselves and others at risk by poor decision making.
Quenching the Fire
Part of me does not want to even post this. “For lack of wood, the fire goes out, and when there is no whisperer, contention quiets down” (Prov. 20:26). This is what we are trying to achieve through distance in order to stop the spread of the virus. However, our conversation about it has inflamed all the more. I wrestle with adding wood to the fire. It feels like gossip that keeps dissension alive. Gossip is not necessary the spread of untrue statements; gossip is statements that fuel fear and division.
Instead, I do want to quench fear with hope and confidence in the Lord. The more I put my mind on the situation, the more afraid I become. The more I see His sovereignty, the more I feel equipped to emotionally handle the situation, and allow myself to be led in His wisdom instead of my own.
Fear in the Atmosphere
The reality of the fragility of our infrastructure hit me hard yesterday; it was no longer the virus I was afraid of — it was the ramifications of shutting down world-wide operations for a prolonged period of time. The pervading feeling is that the world is besieged by a power-thirsty king, starving it of its resources.
As I went about my day yesterday, I was reminded of a moment in the movie the Return of the King when the great city of Minas Tirith is being besieged by the armies of Mordor. Just as they are about to begin their attack, Gothmog, an orc general, triumphantly grunts, “Fear, the city is rank with it.” He counts on the fear of Gondor’s people and armies to decide Mordor’s victory.
I was then reminded of another scene that takes place almost simultaneously in the timeline of events. Aragorn, the true king of Minas Tirith and the realm of Gondor, faces his first test as king to summon a dangerous army that has been held prison in an undead state. They answer to no one but the rightful king, and will destroy all others; but they will be a formidable foe against the enemies of the king. As Aragorn and his companions stand at the door into the army’s doom-ridden cavern, he declares, “I do not fear death” and runs in without hesitation. His decision to take up his status is a decisive moment in the victory of the peoples of middle earth.
Servants of the King
I want to respond to this moment as a person of the Kingdom. I am going to pray. I am going to give generously where I can. I am also going to be prudent and respectful, but I also carry within me the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.
We are agents of healing and hope. We are intercessors who stand as watchmen, and repent on behalf of the nation. We are ambassadors of the true King, whose crown and kingdom we truly fear.