I’m sitting at home tonight, as many of you are. I’m guessing my body contains trace amounts of stress hormone in it right now, more so than usual. The reason I think this is that I’ve noticed a trembling feeling in my legs and hands the last two evenings, just about the time that my body usually relaxes into restfulness. It’s the same feeling I get right before a public speaking engagement.
Probably my body believes it is involved in an emergency situation. Probably it is—but not the kind of emergency my body thinks it is.
My children are blissfully unaware, moving through the play of normal days. Today they heard church is canceled for a few weeks; that is as impactful a thing as they can imagine. They don’t understand that when I shopped for two weeks of groceries and no dinner guests, it took a different kind of planning than I’m used to. They don’t understand that for every adult they know, the internet has become a steady stream of temptations to worry. They don’t understand that as I read to them, bathe them, cook for them, and sing with them tonight, my legs are feeling trembly.
So I sat down here to remind myself of what this season should look like for me, a Christian woman who places her trust in Jesus Christ and has been commanded not to fear (Phil. 4:6-7, Luke 12:22-26) and who also has God-given responsibilities (1 Cor. 15:58, Ecc. 5:18). Here are some ways a Christian woman prepares for COVID-19:
1. She bolsters her spiritual immune system.
A moment like this one only reveals spiritual weakness that was there all along—or spiritual strength. It’s now that we American Christians find out how weak our immune system has been rendered by a weak spiritual diet of finger scrolls through Instagram, great big gulps of the world via morally bankrupt stories, and dainty nibbles at the Word of God. During an easy season, this diet seems to just get us by. But it does little to arm us for times that call for courage, self-control, and militant cheer. The only thing this pandemic can do is reveal to us what was true all along—we have always been in a wartime. We have always been in need of courage, self-control, and militant cheer. We have always needed a steady diet of the Word. We have always needed prayer (what Piper calls a wartime walky-talky) to be on and operational. And individually, we’ve all experienced seasons that showed us our weakness because of a diagnosis, a wayward child, a divorce, a job loss.
What’s unusual about this moment is that we all feel squeezed, a whole nation of us, for the first time in a generation or so. All together, we feel the squeezing that diagnoses spiritual weakness.
So a Christian woman cares for her spiritual well-being like someone who understands the “oxygen-mask-yourself-first” principle. She opens her eyes in the morning on the word of God and communes with her Father in prayer, asking for strength to meet what comes. She arms herself continually throughout the day, setting her mind on the truth of specific scriptures she is meditating on. It affects her decision to check the news one more time or sing hymns with the kids, to binge on Netflix during these days at home or to read something with nutritional value. She understands that her spiritual immune system is under attack in the days of fear and that she is a soldier on the ground.
Americans are not used to feelings of danger. We are an anxious country nonetheless. As we face a situation that reminds our fellow countrymen about their mortality and utter dependency on forces outside themselves, we find ourselves poised to join the majority of worldwide Christians. Christianity in the non-west is majority Christianity now, a growing (rather than shrinking) group of people whose spiritual lives are thriving in environments of danger and opposition. Let us pray that God uses this moment to stimulate growth in our own souls, and pray for courage to act in faith, taking advantage of this opportunity.
Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
2. She prepares herself to follow wise council not as an act of fear, but as an act of love.
She knows the role she’s playing in this story. She’s not the extra who panics and runs across the screen; she’s not the villain who snatches resources in self-preservation; she acts in careful love and service. She will bring the meal, make the phone call, give the [fill-in-the-blank] that her neighbor is out of. She will serve people, but be self-possessed enough to follow the guidelines recommended, where they’re a protection for the person she’s serving. If she is called on to risk herself alone, she is willing to do so. She is not the one stalking around Walmart, furtively glancing at everybody else and grabbing the last can of beans. She’s the one smiling at those she passes and practicing peacetime courtesy, because she knows the One who has taught her not to fear the day of trouble.
There are people to love, today, in her community, by staying home. She is probably staying home with other family members, and she keeps her home and serves there in a spirit of cheerfulness, redeeming the time and making herself personally in charge of morale. Whether she’s serving by playing games with her kids, dropping meals for someone who’s sick, or just keeping up with work in a cheerful spirit, she is thinking strategically. It will be no victory to pull through COVID-19 unscathed, only to look back and remember months of grumbling, fretting, fear, and idleness.
1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Proverbs 12:25: Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
3. She fills her leisure time wisely.
Depending on the situation, she may be off work, working a job from home, or just keeping up a normal routine of homemaking, with or without extra schoolchildren in the house. Whatever the case, wisdom teaches us that some kind of gainful employment and routine is good for our human minds and bodies.
So is rest. But not just any rest.
Because the Christian woman will have a vision for who she can minister to in this time, and how, she will also recognize that in her humanity, rest is necessary. She will recognize that as a human being, she has limits. She will need to trust God as a child, laying her head down to sleep at night and turning to him in prayer to quiet her thoughts, and placing everything at his feet for the night so she can take the step of faith called sleeping. She will also recognize her need to bathe, dress, and eat nourishing, normal food if possible, exercise if time allows, and serve those in her care with similar means of physical refreshment. She will recognize that laughter, good stories, good music, and the outdoors have always been among God’s gifts of refreshment to his marathoning people.
She’s not trying to save herself or others from COVID-19. But she’s expecting a spiritual tussle, now as ever. She’s not a warrior princess who is about to save the world; she’s a trustful daughter with a very powerful Daddy. She has no fear for the future, and this allows her to lay her head down at night (or during the afternoon), and get rest.
1 Peter 5:6-7: 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.