As we reflect on all that we’ve been through in the last couple of weeks, I still am taken by how quickly this COVID-19 pandemic hit all of us. It’s true that we had warnings coming from the experiences of the people in Wuhan, China and later from Italy and other places, but the school closings, business shutdowns and physical distancing recommendations became our reality in, what seemed like, the blink of an eye.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Job. That’s how it was for him as well. And while his story isn’t a perfect comparison, there are some similarities from which we can draw encouragement. The biggest difference between this story and the COVID-19 pandemic is that Job’s story is about him and his family, and then his interaction with “friends.” The COVID-19 pandemic is a world-wide crisis, that’s why it’s called a pandemic. In an effort to show how we can find encouragement in this time, let’s look at how it all went down for Job.
“One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the LORD asked Satan. Satan answered the LORD, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.” Then the LORD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” Job 1:6-8 (NLT)
The first detail that I notice is that Satan patrols the earth. While I don’t know what that looks like, exactly, it doesn’t seem to be the same thing as being omnipresent, or everywhere always, as God is. Because as the LORD is asking Satan if he has noticed his servant Job, we are not told that God just “stumbled upon” Job, but rather, we see his omnipresence as the reason he has noticed Job. So, the first encouragement is that God is always present and at work, even in our tragic reality.
Satan replied to the LORD, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the LORD said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence. Job 1:9-12 (NLT)
The other insight that we get from this story is how the enemy whines about his limited control, by complaining that God protects those he loves the most from harm. We know this isn’t true, like most everything that comes from the enemy’s lips. For example, remember how he twisted the truth in his questioning of Eve? The enemy just cannot stand to see any of us being blessed. God allows all of us to experience harm in some way and at some points in our lives. And as we continue through this first chapter of Job, we see that Job lost his livestock, his servants, and all of his children were killed. So how did he respond?
He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. Job 1:21-22 (NLT)
Unfortunately, disasters happen. We cannot avoid experiencing them. Loved ones die suddenly or from terrible things like cancer. Just 10 days ago a childhood friend of mine died from a massive heart attack at the age of 56. We cannot control whether or not bad things happen. We can, however, control our response when they do occur in our lives.
We can be angry that this is happening to us, and that’s an acceptable and understandable reaction. However, let’s not stay there, because it will eventually do more harm to us than good. There comes a point where we can look to God, and ask, “Okay God, here we are. How would you like me to respond?”
People are looking desperately for hope these days, and we can be the conduits of that hope. I just received an email this morning from a young lady who works at a grocery store in our area. Here’s how she told us we can be an encouragement to people like her.
I think what we want to hear from people who don’t work in retail is a simple smile or kind word, or a simple thank you. It’s scary to be in the front lines of it and bad attitudes make it hard to want to help protect these people. Encourage and lift up any employees you see anywhere. Tip the drive through worker at Starbucks, tell a store employee that you appreciate them. It’s simple spread Gods love!!
Here are some other ways to be an encouragement.
- If you’re a sewer, you can make masks for those in the medical field. Here is the link for a pattern. And if you live in the Jamestown, NY area, here’s some drop sites where you can take them,
- Also if you live in the Jamestown, NY area, here is a link where you can sign up to help pack food for those who are in need right now.
- Post encouraging thoughts on social media.
- Call and send notes to people to check in on them, especially those who cannot leave their homes.
- Pray for all those people who are on the front lines, serving people in some capacity through this time.
In all of this, let’s not stay mad and blame God. After all, he is present and at work in our reality. In fact, he cares about all of this more than we do!