How do you handle fear and anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak?

Hi friends,

I am noticing unprecedented interest in the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), and the accompanying disease, COVID-19, and its potential effects on public health and the global economy. Of course, if you or someone you know has COVID-19, the uncertainty and concern becomes personal.

My questions:
In these volatile and uncertain times, how will Christians think, feel, and live differently?
How do we respond to fear and anxiety?
What does it mean to (wisely) love our neighbors during this crisis?

Let’s encourage one another as we navigate through this disruptive experience.

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I feel no different since all of the talk began. It appears that the most at risk are the elderly who are not strong and those with existing lung issues. If I get ill, I will see a Doctor. If I were to die…WOW! I wake up in Heaven! I see no scenario where I/We could not WIN, therefore I feel zero fear and anxiety.

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Carson this is a hard time for most people because of how much fear is being propagated by many. Truly a timely question for all.

For me to be absent I will be present with Him.

I fear for those I would leave behind and those who are not ready to meet Him.
Being prepared for any eventuality is the best way to deal with that fear.
Have you shared your faith with those you know, those you love. have you made arrangements so as not to place undo hardship, worry, on those you left behind.
Taken the needed precautions to protect all from the virus.
Mike

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In these volatile and uncertain times, how will Christians think, feel, and live differently?
How do we respond to fear and anxiety?
What does it mean to (wisely) love our neighbors during this crisis?

These types of questions are uncomfortable for me to answer because I always feel like I am pointing my finger at everyone else except me. Hard experience at the business end of judgmentalism has made me gun-shy. I also do not like to say what I will do because it feels too much like chest-thumping. Therefore, I will seek humbly to answer the above question as if it were addressed to me: “How should I think, feel, and live differently?”

First, I should remember that love trumps any wisdom or insight that I may have (1 Corinthians 13). I am nothing but a fool if I tease or dismiss people who may be afraid of the coronavirus. I am afraid of other things; what gives me the right to be afraid of other things, and poke fun at anyone who is afraid of the coronavirus? Nothing gives me that right. Therefore if my neighbor is afraid, then I need to lend a comforting hand. I also need to take basic hygiene steps like washing my hands, covering my cough or sneeze,using tissues instead of my hands, etc.

Second, I can lovingly provide perspective in order to help people to interpret the news. For example, deaths related to this coronavirus do not approach the twenty to fifty million who died from the flu pandemic in 1918.

Third, I can ask people what makes them afraid of the coronavirus, and use their answers as opportunities to talk about Jesus, the Anchor of my soul. I can be open about what He has done in my life and why I am not afraid of dying even if I were to contract the coronavirus. I can share my fears about other things, too. Jesus has walked with me through a lot of hard times. Why not talk about these things?

These are just some ideas that come to mind as I think about this. I always return to love, though; without it, my message is doomed.

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I’ve been thinking about this so I’m glad to see you ask this.

It can be easy to get caught up like the rest of the world, in fear. As Christians, we are called to be different because we have a hope that’s not based on this world.

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
John 17:16 (NIV)

Our hope is based on the risen Christ whom we will be with when we die.

God’s love compels us to take care of each other. So my hope is that during this time and when it is over, we will have built bridges, comforted the afflicted, and shown a love that can only be attributed to Christ. In everything we do, we must imitate the One who came into this world to save us:

…and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21 (NIV)

The eyes of the world are watching, just as they did when Jesus read this passage. Jesus then went out and healed the blind, the lame, the lepers. He not only healed physical diseases but He bound up those who were hurting psychologically. That’s how we should respond.

God may call some of us in radical ways to care for the sick sacrificially. God may call some to speak life into despairing and anxious thoughts. Speaking life doesn’t mean discounting someone’s fear. You can acknowledge it but pray for an opportunity to show why you’re not afraid.

It would be much better if someone can ask you why you don’t act afraid. I believe you won’t act afraid, if you don’t feel afraid. This is a great opportunity for me to honestly question if I’m afraid and if so, why - what or who have I put my trust in?

Thanks for the opportunity to do some soul searching on this topic. I’d love to know your thoughts on this as well.

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Hi everyone,

As I have continued to reflect on this question for myself and our community, here is what I would recommend we each prayerfully consider within the RZIM Connect community.

As of today, the World Health Organization has classified this as a pandemic. Therefore, I imagine that this will increasingly become a topic of conversation and affect many decisions in your community and personal life. Let’s be prepared to offer clear, responsible examples and leadership.

I look forward to learning from your replies and guidance as well.

Of course, as I state below, please be careful to vet each post for truthfulness and love.

Trust God

The first consideration we have as Christians is the spiritual perspective. When we experience fear, anxiety, or even panic, this is a time for us to rely on our heavenly Father.

Psalm 23 is a classic for a reason. As it reads in verse 4:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

As we steady our hearts with faith in Christ, we can respond to others in love, not fear.

Please do share your favorite Bible passages, hymns, or songs that remind you of God’s sovereignty and goodness in times of fear.

Nathan Betts, a speaker with RZIM, has written beautifully on this topic here:

Tell the truth

Another commitment we have during this crisis is to tell the truth. We each need to take responsibility to avoid sharing fake news, misinformation, or (certainly) outright scams.

Some responsible sources of information include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Vet and validate information from other contexts with the most reliable sources of information.

For instance, we need to know how the coronavirus spreads.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

In addition, when people are scared (or even when they are not!), sometimes we resort to blaming others for this problem, even on the basis of race or nationality.

Speak up for the dignity and value of all human beings. If or when you see jokes or comments that denigrate people on the basis of their race or nationality, take courage to challenge those remarks. Racism and xenophobia will not help us during this challenge.

Additional resources for becoming informed:

Take precautions

We should also take steps to protect ourselves from getting COVID-19. If we ourselves become sick, we will not be able to help others and may create an additional load for the healthcare system.

Some common sense steps include:

  • Washing our hands with soap and water thoroughly and often
  • Avoiding close contact with others
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Wear a face mask if you are sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

These recommendations come from the CDC:

Further, as the World Health Organization advises:

Every effort to contain the virus and slow the spread saves lives. These efforts give health systems and all of society much needed time to prepare, and researchers more time to identify effective treatments and develop vaccines.

Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well.

We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system.

Take action

As we ourselves find peace in God’s presence and promises, I believe we will also find the strength to consider the needs of our neighbors.

Here are some practical steps you can take:

  • As others retreat into fear or panic, speak about the peace of Christ
  • If you notice someone spreading misinformation, correct it and let others know where to find more accurate details
  • Reach out to your neighbors and see if they need help getting groceries or medicine
  • Consider cancelling or avoiding large public gatherings
  • Be prepared to take care of yourself and/or your roommates or family if asked to self-quarantine for a period of time

The primary recommendation I am seeing, from multiple public health authorities and epidemiologists, is the advice to practice social distancing. That is, if you can work from home (and not everyone can), then it is advisable to do so.

For instance, here’s a message I shared with my neighborhood’s Facebook group:

Hi friends, as the coronavirus continues to spread, I wanted to suggest that we each be prepared to stay in our homes for a period of up to two weeks. Also, if there are any needs in the neighborhood (for instance, delivering groceries), please speak up so we can work together to provide assistance during this time.

Let’s come together to get through this uncertain period in the best way.

A simple message like this can activate a prepared but neighborly response to this virus.

Let’s avoid panicking. Rather, this is a time to trust in the Lord, be responsible, and as we have the opportunity, to do good to others.

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Carson, the proactive stance is the best defence. Being well informed of the real truth and not the spin that certain people, groups use to insite fear. Sharing a few of His promises.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

I John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

Isaiah 54:14
In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you.

I Peter 5:7
casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Philippians 4:6‭-‬9
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

II Corinthians 1:4
who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Praying that all fear would be abated with perfect love. Wisdom and blessings to all who might be personally involved or affected.
Mike

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I just recieved an alert about the covid virus from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center here is the link.
[(https://www.wakehealth.edu/Stories/Coronavirus)]

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Thanks Carson! Being informed is so important in situations like this. My husband has been consulting the government website to know what their recommendations are, rather than consulting the media. We are being cautious as well knowing that although we ourselves aren’t at increased risk, well, except myself being pregnant, we do come into contact with children with a ministry we are involved in and other people that could be at higher risk, so we are staying home more for now. Being responsible as well as compassionate is the thing. Thanks for sharing all of that info!

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Here is an article on a strategy called “flattening the curve” which has some interesting points on why quarantines and cancellations do help.

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Dear Mr Carson and everyone!

It is good to be alert and be cautious knowing how to best manage and be prepared.

My foster mom is a registered nurse and works those three 12s every week. She is a Cardiac RN and this is her area. It is fortunate for her, I guess the known cases go to a better prepared hospital for such things.

But Lisa is the kind of person who, if someone is yelling for help, runs towards the trouble as is the nature of most health care workers , first responders, officers, and firemen and women.

So let us please pray that our Lord will strengthen our first responders and health care workers on the front lines. Our Lord is our first sheild, but did He not equip these special people to be the faithful caregivers without reasonable fear to be " OUR " front line? 2 Chronicles 15:7 ’ Be therefore strong, and let not your hands be weak; for your work shall be rewarded ’

Please let us pray, for all of our caregivers, that in Christ, they will be protected.

Blessings,
~Sanah~

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Mike, thank you for these encouraging Scriptures. They give all of us a positive, truthful foundation to meditate on during this time. I am encouraged to read through them and be reminded of God’s kindness and care for us.

Carrie, I think you are right! I think we are all realizing the precious value of TRUTH right now. We want an accurate, timely, evidence-based understanding of the coronavirus and the systemic effects it could have on our healthcare system and the economy.

Giving way to rumors and conspiracy theories will not help us. Nor will avoiding bad news and pretending that this isn’t a real concern be of any value.

Thanks for sharing this! The Vox guide to the coronavirus appears to be carefully sourced with abundant quotes from public health experts and our top government public health agencies.

Sanah, what a timely and important reminder and prayer request!

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Hi all,

I am from Singapore and as you know Singapore is one of the first few countries who got infected with the virus and also experienced localised community spread of the virus. There were some panics when we have to raise our DORSCON level to Orange so that measures can be taken to prevent further spread and allowing our medical facilities to be able to contain and manage the situations.

As Christians, we were reminded in the church that despite the situation and uncertainty, we must exercise personal responsibility in our hygiene and health, show grace to those who are unwell and be willing to share our resources e.g. face mask etc (i.e. and not hoarding them) should there be people who needed them. We are to do this even as we have the assurance of Psalm 91 as we are also encouraged to pray over and claim its promises for our family and ourselves.

The churches and Christians in Singapore are also encouraged to pause daily at 12 noon to pray for the situations both locally and globally; and also for the front-line medical workers who are daily handling patients contracted the virus or service personnel who are at risks in contracting the virus in the course of their work (e.g. immigration officers etc).

Personally, I exercise precautions and continue to maintain good personal hygiene, build up and maintain my immune systems, exercise social responsibility and commit each day to the Lord. This has allowed me a sense of calm, knowing that the Lord is sovereign and all things will work out good as we continue to love and trust Him.

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Hi friends,

Here are some resources from other Christian ministries:

I thought these concluding words to the article were quite insightful - a perspective from after the influenza had passed through:

On that first Sunday, the Reverend J. Francis Grimke preached a powerful sermon that was later published and distributed, “Some Reflections: Growing Out of the Recent Epidemic of Influenza that Afflicted Our City.” In the sermon, Grimke acknowledges that there was “considerable grumbling” on the part of some regarding the closing of churches. However, he offered a defense of the ban on gatherings:

The fact that the churches were places of religious gathering, and the others not, would not affect in the least the health question involved. If avoiding crowds lessens the danger of being infected, it was wise to take the precaution and not needlessly run in danger, and expect God to protect us.

I very much appreciate @dannyloke1976’s reflections above, as a first-hand encouragement from Singapore.

Here are some further words from pastor Andre Tan:

“The biggest lesson for me has been navigating the road between fear and wisdom,” said pastor Andre Tan of The City Church. “It is especially tough as fear often has a way to masquerade itself as wisdom. How many precautionary measures are actually sound judgment and how many are too much, such that they teeter over into irrational fear and anxiety?

“It is a tough road to navigate, as we had to both convey safety to our members—by way of implementing recommended health measures—and yet not succumb to the cultural climate of fear, anxiety, and self-preservation,” Tan told CT. “We do so in all our notices by ensuring that we are not just communicating measures but also casting a vision for how to be the people of God in this time.”

In addition, the church in Singapore has led by example:

Similarly, Christians across Singapore have kickstarted many acts of love and kindness, including:

A song of hope written by a 12-year-old.
Blessing neighborhood cleaners.
Giving migrant workers free masks and vitamins.
Making thousands of handmade notes to encourage healthcare workers.
Organizing a blood drive to help local blood banks that run low on supplies as people avoid hospitals.
Viruses spread quickly, acknowledged Lim. “But kindness is infectious too.”

Finally, if you are seeking out scientific guidance on coronavirus from a Christian, The Gospel Coalition has a Q&A with Dr. Miguel Núñez, who “is board-certified in internal medicine and in infectious diseases,”

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HI friends,

Andy Crouch has extensively researched the coronavirus and provides a Christian perspective on the issue here:

His two primary recommendations are:

We need to change norms of social interaction literally overnight to minimize the transmission of the virus.

We need to redirect social energy from anxiety and panic to love and preparation.

If you are in a position of leadership and want to lead from a place of wisdom and love, for the benefit of those around you, I think you will find this a helpful resource.

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@dannyloke1976 My wife and I meditated on Psalm 91 tonight before I saw your post! Verses 3, 6, and 10 stood out to us because they specifically state that God will protect us from pestilence and plague. It is important to remember that my body is not me, though. Many Christians have succumbed to plague through the ages. God protects our souls, or our essences. Plague cannot touch that!

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I am pondering the meaning of this crisis. Is this the hand of God? If so, there is nothing man can do a part from humbling ourselves and turn from our sins. 2 CH 7.14
Is this yet another sign the end is upon us? If so, rejoice

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Love this perspective…

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I really like this idea. Thank you for it.
Bill

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I think a large component of living as Christians is speaking truth. I’m wary of news articles with anonymous sources. Additionally, taking time to read (and reread!) thoroughly before sharing news stories is important. Some news stories describe a worst case scenario but at the end acknowledge conditions have not yet reached such poor levels. We don’t know how things will yet pan out - articles implying certain actions are wrong/right may not be as smug as we’d like to think.

And adding one last thought - situations like this highlight the need to support objective information sources. I’ve noticed newspapers removing their paywall this week, which to me highlights how much we need them as a society. Relying only on social media can fan the flames of a situation. I remember a few months aho when things were “normal” reading a headline “Most Outrageous Cupcake Recipes.” :slight_smile: Info tends to travel best on social media when it takes an extreme position, which isn’t idea for scenarios like coronavirus.

Ultimately, we can know the Bible to be Truth and God as the true source of knowledge. Our human lens will always be an imperfect filter, whether on coronavirus or an entirely different topic. But we can rejoice it causes us to look to the One who knows all things.

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