We all respond differently to fear. Some people suppress their emotions. Others lash out. We’re living in unprecedented times and facing an especially unknown future. And everyone is going to have their own emotions and opinions and express them differently as we deal with the new novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This can be a great source of contention. “You’re overreacting,” says one person. “You’re not acting enough,” says the other. Fear can lead to conflict and division if we’re not careful.
So what should we do?
Help your community realize that everyone is dealing with this pandemic in their own way. We’re all doing the best we can. Encourage them to take a moment to put themselves in others’ shoes and consider a few of the common fears people are dealing with right now:
- I’m afraid others don’t care about me and I’ll be left to suffer. It’s an especially difficult time to be elderly and/or immunocompromised. Those who are used to taking extra precautions on a good day are facing a new level of susceptibility to disease. Their loved ones and caregivers worry, too, that they may unknowingly contract the virus and pass it on to them.
- I’m afraid I won’t have access to the resources I need. The hoarding of toilet paper and cleaning products belies a fundamental fear many people have right now. Whether it’s because of supply shortages, closed businesses, or job loss, a lot of people are having to find ways to make do without.
- I’m afraid of losing valuable moments with those I love. Nursing homes can’t have visitors, and patients in medical facilities can’t have their friends or families visit. Children are unable to see their newborn siblings in the hospital. These constraints are putting an extra strain on people’s mental and emotional resources.
- I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to do what is required of me. People are being asked to work in ways they’ve never done before. From home. With limited resources. Without customers coming in the door. Some are suddenly homeschooling their kids for the first time. And those who have lost their jobs are scrambling to find—and learn—a new one.
Meet Them Where They Are
There are many reasons to be anxious right now. But faith is the antidote to fear. And you have an amazing gift to give the world right now. Look for ways to share hope with people in the grip of fear. Whether it’s through your church app, via Facebook or YouTube, or with a simple phone call, share comforting messages of God’s love and care for people.
Cultivate in yourself and in your congregation compassionate hearts that see the hurting and work to alleviate their pain. Encourage your people to remember how the early church supported one another: “Now all who believed were together,” writes the Apostle Paul, “and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44-45).
Shepherd Our People
If you’re a church leader, your job is still the same. Lead people to the cross of Christ. Teach them to pray and worship the Lord. Walk with them through their fears and direct them towards the source of your hope. And guide them along their faith journey to the glory of God. This is your high calling in Christ Jesus.