This is my initial response to the COVID-19 crisis. At the time, hoarding was a particular issue as well as the misleading assurances that the crisis was under control either by our president or our God.  It is an unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation.

I don’t know where this whole COVID-19 thing going to take us … but if we let it, fear will lead us to some pretty bad places.

So how do we overcome fear and live with faith when dealing with virus threats, hoarding, and a rocky stock market?

I’ve been viewing some Facebook postings about faith during this crisis some of which pretty much say “Don’t worry.  Jesus has got this.”

Yes, but. Yes, God is with us through a large crisis like this just as powerfully as He is with smaller problems.

We opened last Sunday’s service with the 23rd Psalm.

I was again struck by the promise that God will walk with us through the darkest valleys. It doesn’t promise there will be no valleys, but it says they are valleys, not dead ends, and God will walk us through them.

God is with us in all circumstances and conditions … even COVID-19, but faith is not being blind to the crisis. When the plagues swept through Egypt, God didn’t tell the people to go blindly on their way. He had them do the ancient version of sheltering in place the night before leading them away from captivity.

Faith is not feeling immune from the threat, it knowing that God is with us. And since God is with us, faith is about remembering how to live as people of God rather than victims of fear in the midst of a threat.

After his years in German concentration camps, Viktor Frankl wrote, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

The first thing angels said to worried and scared people was “fear not”, sometimes translated as “be not afraid”. So even as accept that we are vulnerable, we are called to not surrender to fear but to rise to faith.

Here’s the thing: Fear operates out of our reptilian brain … faith calls us to live from our higher self. Faith calls us to pull together, not to retreat to “I’m just taking care of me and my own.”

We’ve all experienced the needless lines outside of grocery stores. Police have actually been called to quell skirmishes outside of some Walmart stores. You’ve heard me say over and over that sin is separation from God and community. If we let it, fear will trigger our worst impulses to put myself or my family above all else.

It makes me think of the Hebrew people wandering the wilderness trying to horde manna. God had promised to provide a daily source of food called manna.

But their fear drove them to try hoarding all the manna they could – more than enough for themselves and their family – and the only result was that the manna spoiled.

I wonder today how many gallons of hoarded milk are going to sour, pounds of extra hamburger are going to spoil, and heads of lettuce are going to wilt.

And I’m concerned that people who didn’t join the panic are going to be left without enough to eat.

Wilda was telling me about her older sister going to the store for her necessary shopping for herself and her sick husband and finding the shelves pretty much empty.

 And we’ve heard of the lines outside of gun shops. I can only hope that people are buying the AK-47s and stocking up on ammunition so they can hunt backyard squirrels in case their food supply runs low. The alternative thoughts are pretty ugly.

Faith calls us to pull together while fear tries to rip us apart.

Part of our fear is we feel out of control. Laura and I were talking about how CSUNs offices are closing.

She was packing up her computer so she could work from home, but she said everything they announced as a plan seems gets changed by the hour. What they had planned in the morning was different by 3 PM. Every hour a mayor or governor or president makes a different announcement. Not only is this an unprecedented situation, but as soon as we start to get our head around it, it changes again. But really, we are not in total control … even in good times, it is God who ultimately in control.

The one thing we do control is how we respond to the issues at hand. As we choose faith, we cooperate with God and together make something meaningful out of whatever we face.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Something else that faith does is to invite us to step back and ask throughout this crisis, what we are modeling to our children and to others who know us as Christians?

What lessons will our kids take into their futures and will our neighbors see about Christians from the way we live through this crisis? Will they see that we took professionals’ advice about social distancing without giving in to anger, scapegoating or depression? Will they see that as anxiety built a web of blaming and conspiracy theories, or that we turned to prayer to center ourselves with calm?

And faith calls us to sacrifice … to look to the welfare of all God’s people even as we care for ourselves.

So, will they see that we busied ourselves checking-in with people who are vulnerable?  Taking food to the homebound?

Lyda was telling me about a neighborhood where everybody is going to their front yard at a specified time, opens up a card table, spreads out a table cloth and eat dinner. The whole block eating together.

The attitudes, the choices, the decision of whether to live in fear or in faith will determine how we come through this thing … not just physically, but spiritually and as a community.