All of us face difficult times and we often deal with disruptive and unexpected events that threaten to harm us. Some of these times are emotional, some are spiritual, some are physical and some are financial. Among our present challenges is the outbreak of a new coronavirus, identified as COVID-19, that has infected and killed thousands of people worldwide following an outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Symptoms of this coronavirus include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties (WHO, 2020).
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Those of us with good memory will recall the following five global health emergencies: swine flu in 2009, polio in 2014, Ebola in 2014, Zika in 2016, and Ebola in 2019 (WHO).
The virus has been reported in 22 states, including New York. The majority of deaths occurred in Washington State. Two people died in Florida today. In severe cases, this virus can lead to pneumonia, multiple organ failure, and even death. Most troubling about this virus is infected persons may not show any symptoms, and that little is known about it, although human-to-human transmission has been confirmed. The challenge is finding the courage to face this time of fear and uncertainty. I recommend to you the following suggestions:
Don’t minimize the potential of this virus to make you sick. You know the old saying, “it’s not as bad as people are being led to believe.” The crises associated with this virus may not evaporate of their own accord over time. Consequently, each one of us is obligated to avoid being exposed to this virus:
1. Avoid touching your eyes and mouth with unwashed hands.
2. Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and use a greater than 60 percent alcohol-based
hand sanitizer whenever you return home from any activity that involves locations where other people have been.
3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
To the converse, don’t become afraid, panic, or paranoid. Seek out information from credible and reliable sources. Practice the necessary precautions! Remain calm! In Psalm 131:2 we read, “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul.” In Colossians 3:15, Paul tells us to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), which we have been studying for the past three weeks is instructive. This sermon covers a variety of spiritual principles that grows out of the Kingdom of God. During the closing verses of chapter 7, Jesus explains that as believers we should not worry. Of immense comfort for all of us are the reminders that if God, the Father feeds birds, how much more will he feed (take care of) his children (v. 26). Jesus speaks comfort to our hearts in verse 34 when he encourages us not to worry about tomorrow.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7.
Rev. Dr. Peter E. Grinion, Pastor