What to Do Now

Written by Margaret Schrock, Alum, Master of Arts in Religion, 2017
Saturday, April 25, 2020

Early March, rumblings announced the coming storm. Soon COVID-19 unleashed rapid changes as it assaulted central Illinois – warnings, closings, and finally stay at home orders. Suddenly I faced something I’d never faced before. Frankly, something I never thought I’d have to deal with: a world-wide pandemic. What was I to do now in unprecedented times?

As a Christ follower, I looked to God seeking direction from One wiser than me.

I found guidance in Romans 12:12, 13. A string of directives that fit this present situation amazingly well. Paul’s instructions are my compass for what to do now. True from the beginning, they continue to guide me as the pandemic progresses. Daily I return to these verses to direct my actions and my prayers.

joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.

Romans 12:12,13 (NIV)

Day by day, line by line, here’s what I’ve learned:

Joyful in hope

What? How can I be joyful when each day brings news of more suffering and death? Yet, Paul specifically states that we are to rejoice in hope!

With normal life disrupted and the future uncertain, I need hope in something solid, something more than platitudes like, “we’ll get through this.” I turn to God’s unchanging, sure promises as my hope and only lifeline to joy.

I find hope in promises that:
God is my solid rock, strong tower, mighty fortress.
God remains sovereign and was not surprised by this virus.
He is actively at work even when I don’t see it and He will bring good out of this evil.
Jesus will come again, and all things will be made new. And COVID-19 will never touch the new earth.

I rejoice when I remember that COVID-19 cannot:
Remove God’s presence
Block God’s love
Stop His care
Negate His promises
Thwart His plans

Yes, I can find joy now when I begin each day remembering God’s promises and the hope they bring. Thankfulness and worship turn my heart to the One who is certain.

Patient in affliction

Like most Americans I am used to affluence, comfort, and doing what I want to do when I want to do it. But COVID-19 stopped that. Schools closed March 13, dining out stopped March 15, and stay at home orders began March 21.
Life has been disrupted for over a month. I want this to be over! Yet, stay home orders have been extended. Staying home pinches, social distancing restricts, and shortages aggravate. Yet, we don’t know how long this will continue. And now it is becoming clear that consequences of this pandemic will impact us for months and possibly years after the initial threat is over.

But God asks me to be patient. I don’t think He’s asking me to just grin and bear it or even to make the best of it. No, I think He is asking me to continue to faithfully follow Him even when I don’t like the situation. To keep on keeping on. To stay on His path of obedience. Now is not the time for me to give up, instead it is time to go deep. Not the time to grow weary, but the time to recommit to faithfulness.

Storms in life, including the COVID -19 pandemic, are one of God’s ways to mature us and transform us. He doesn’t shield us from storms but uses them to purify and refine. Being patient calls me to believe God is using this pandemic to form my character. For now, I must wait for God to do His work while continuing to trust, obey, and listen. Now I must not give up before His work is completed.

Faithful in prayer

Prayer doesn’t always come easy. As the pandemic continues, I find it harder to faithfully pray. At the beginning of this crisis prayer was my lifeline, a cry for help to the only One who could help. But now I notice a growing weariness. I am learning that prayer requires effort, intention, and discipline.

Even when it is hard, perhaps because it is hard, I sense God’s call to intercede for the entire world. I’ve both expanded the breadth and extended the length of my prayers. This is a time to pray for spiritual renewal, revival, and awakening. A time to plead for God’s mercy for the most vulnerable. A time to ask for strength for those on the front lines of the COVID battle. A time to pray for healing and comfort for those ill and who have lost loved ones. A time to pray for each other by name.

Through prayer I can impact places my feet will never tread, touch lives of people I will never meet, and influence situations far beyond my control. Prayer is not hindered by COVID-19, stay at home orders, or social distancing. Now it is time to understand that intercession is true service, ministry, and yes, sometimes hard work.

Paul’s directive calls me to continue steadfastly in prayer. I am to persist as the widow in Jesus’ parable remembering that “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.” Now when I don’t know what else to pray, I begin to pray these verses, Romans 12:12, 13, for my Christian brothers and sisters around the world, for individuals I know and love, and even for myself.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need

If the Family Research Council’s online surveyi is an accurate representation, over half the families in our churches are impacted by the economic downturn from COVID-19. We already know by news reports that lost jobs, layoffs, furloughs, and decreased hours push people to stand in lines for food and wonder how they will pay their monthly bills.

How can I share with those in need locally? Blessed that my income has remained steady while my expenses have declined (now that I am home all the time), I sense God’s call to generosity. He has provided extra so I can share.

My responsibility now is to seek opportunities, listen for His guidance, and act. Out of concern for local businesses, I look for ways to purchase food from local producers and businesses, hire self-employed workers to do outdoor chores, and actively encourage my hairdresser. Recognizing growing need, I make a point to follow through with online giving to my local church and other organizations on the front lines of serving during this pandemic. I find it far to easy to have great intentions but procrastinate following through as I sit safely at home. Yet, God instructs me that now is the time to share.

Practice hospitality

At first this seemed impossible. How do I practice hospitality in a time of social distancing? I can’t invite anyone into my home. Yet, on a deeper level I realized that hospitality is not just opening the door to my house but opening the door to my life. Hospitality is inviting others into my life and making room for them. I’ve intentionally phoned or emailed people living alone and the elderly isolated from family. Now when I’m not able to invite people into my house, I have invited them into my garden to pick flowers, made room in my grocery cart to purchase items they need, and included them in online gatherings.

Hospitality may look at bit different, but creatively we can invite others to live pandemic life with us.

Final thoughts

There’s nothing new about these directives. They were applicable before the pandemic and they will be applicable afterwards. But for me they are a steady beacon to guide me through the challenges of COVID-19.

Now is not a time for me to hunker down in my house and close the doors and windows. No, now is the time for me to look up to God and out to my neighbor. Following the directives in Romans 12:12,13 helps me stay on track to practically and creatively be the hands and feet of Jesus.

i “Faith in the Middle of Crisis” online survey conducted by the Family Research Council reported “Over 64 percent [of respondents] have unfortunately had their or their family member’s job affected.” April 17, 2020 in an email update from Scott Hurley, Vice President of Development.