Thoughts of Control and COVID-19

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We are in the upheaval of what many are calling a global pandemic. COVID-19 is claiming lives. Anxiety, dread, and fear are present in the hearts of many. Financial markets are teetering. This global pandemic dominates the news headlines. It comes up in nearly every conversation when we meet neighbors and townsfolk. Schools and church buildings are empty. Many businesses are closed or struggling to survive. Unemployment claims have spiked to new records. Some would say COVID-19 is controlling our lives.
The feeling of being out of control doesn’t sit well with most people. We plan, strategize, invest, and borrow to gain a sense of control of our lives.
It is easy to live in an illusion that things are within our control. We assume that our good health will continue. We take for granted our job will supply us with a steady cash flow. We place confidence in our abilities to manage our lives.
But when infection statistics and line graphs rise like waves, the things that once seemed rock solid begin to feel anemic. Something powerful and untamed appears to be overtaking us. And we are reminded that, despite our tendency to believe otherwise, we are not in control.
If we dare to be honest, this pandemic is not stripping us of control. It is showing us how little control we have always had.
It also reveals the God-given cry of every human heart for something or someone bigger than ourselves to fix these things that are beyond our control. But rather than turning to God, many people flock to Walmart in a desperate attempt to stockpile food and necessities. While these things aren’t inherently wrong, often, the underlying motive is to gain a level of control that God never intended us to have.
How should the child of God respond? Psalm 46 is a practical scripture that teaches how to behave in times of chaos and tumult amid intimidating circumstances. Take the time to read it. The appropriate response to such seasons is stillness. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psa 46:10). The word “still,” in verse 10, is translated from the Hebrew word “raphah,” to relax, let your hands drop; leave something alone; become helpless or weak; let go; surrender; or cease. In short, Psalm 46:10 can be interpreted: Stop your attempts at being master controller. God is at work, and will undoubtedly triumph.
Being still before God is a spiritual exercise that can be difficult for us. Too often, we find ourselves infected with the “I can fix this myself” epidemic.
It is helpful for us to remember that Jesus already warned us that In this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33). This should reinforce in our minds the truth that pandemics and rising unemployment rates are not evidence that God has forgotten about us. Pain and suffering are hallmarks of this fallen world. It is not within our power to escape all the troubles that are here, and those that will come.
While hearing this may help us cope with difficulty, Jesus didn’t stop there. Thankfully He continued by saying, But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Christ having overcome the world by His cross and resurrection, means rising morality rates might reveal our lack of control, but they do not undermine His power.
Christ’s resurrection was not only a glorious display of power; it was also a confirmation that things had not spiraled out of control. God’s plan of redemption was unfolding just as He intended.
Most of all, Christ’s overcoming the world gives us access to the Father. Now our shattered illusions of control need no longer be fuel for an existential crisis; but an invitation to trust in His power. After all, we will hardly trust in the power of God until we understand the limits of our own.
In a world ravaged by the coronavirus, putting our trust in the Father is the only place we will find a joy big enough and sturdy enough to hold our fears, hopes, and longings. This is true now, just as it has always been.
One day this pandemic will end. Stores will reopen. We will go back to work. Church functions will happen as before. Things will seem much more in our control then. When that happens, don’t believe it. The only real power we will ever experience in this world is not ours. It comes from surrendering our sense of control as we lean on our Father. There is no better time to learn how to do that than right now.