March is Women’s History Month, and my plan was to spend the month highlighting women from church history; then COVID19 finally came to the United States, and circumstances have changed quickly in a short period of time. From limiting gatherings to 250 people, then 10, then some cities choosing to shelter in place in my state of California, our everyday life has drastically changed. In truth, we do not know what could happen next; this unknown can bred confusion, fear, selfishness, and misdirected anger. It doesn’t have to be this way. As followers of Jesus, our response to COVID 19 ought to look different because we walk not alone but with the One who created us, loved us, and saved us. As I practice social distancing and common sense hygiene, I also look specifically to Philippians 4:4-7 as a guide to how I can respond to COVID19 with gentleness and live in promised peace.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
Worshipping God is not determined on our circumstance; worshipping God is determined by who God is.
Because God is good (Psalm 34:8),
because God is love (1 John 4:8),
because God is generous (Ephesians 1:7-9; 3:20),
because God is creator (Genesis 1),
because God is savior (John 3:16),
because God is provider (Matthew 7:11),
because God is healer (James 5:14-15),
I will worship.
Our perspective changes when we worship because we are reminding ourselves of who God is, instead of focusing on our circumstances. Worship will make a way through our circumstances and give us what we need to respond to our circumstances, including uncertain ones such as COVID19.
Out of worship, we will have the clarity to respond to our world with gentleness. This can be our greatest witness to the hope we have in God. When the world is on edge, we can be gentle in our responses to our family members at home, with the checkout clerk at the pharmacy, while shopping with people who have the very same needs that we do. This gentleness sets us apart, and we can bring it with us on shopping trips or in conversations with loved ones.
More people are probably praying more than ever before. We know that God is with us—we do not have to beg God to listen; we do not have to bribe or convince. God is simply near. Because of that, we do not have to pray with worry. Instead, we can pray with gratitude, remembering who God is and all of God’s promises to walk with us.
Peace is a promised gift from prayer. A peace that is supernatural because it won’t make sense to us. A peace that is active and ongoing because it safeguards our thought life and emotions, which can be in flux. When our thoughts wonder, when our heart is in chaos, we can remember this promised peace. If we sense peace being squished out by worry, we can return to worship, respond with gentleness, pray with confidence, and then bask in that peace again.
Movement Step: Memorize Philippians 4:4-7. Begin to implement action steps from this verse. Pray for your loved ones, your community, our country, our world. Say a special prayer for our leaders and for those in the medical community who put themselves at risk to keep us healthy and safe.