Is viral uncertainty from the Coronavirus consuming you?
If you can’t keep your eyes off your social media feeds for more than ten minutes, you’re not alone. Millions of social media users have been discussing and researching COVID–19 more than any other topic. Journalists and other internet writers have coined this an “infodemic.”
We need a healthy-dose of caution and taking proper action. But if you couple the Coronavirus scare with the uncertainties of our stock market, most normal humans are feeling panic, dread, or fear.
To be honest, I felt this sense of fear when Hurricane Irma bore down on us in Florida: Where should I take my family? Is plywood enough? What’s the best thing to do?
Though everything worked out in the end, I felt scared in the moment.
So, what’s going to happen next with Coronavirus?
In spite of this viral uncertainty, here’s some big takeaways to help us stay grounded.
1. We are Not in Control
Hold up! I thought this was going to be encouraging!
It will be. Hold tight.
The spreading of COVID–19 and the plummeting stock markets remind us we cannot control the world. This is both a frightening reality and a humbling position.
It’s like becoming a parent or merging onto a busy highway for the first time. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, so we hold on tight.
Our school district shutdown the school where I teach in response to Coronavirus. A day later, the State of Florida declared all schools will be closed for two full weeks.
Earlier today, I got off the phone with a financial planner (I wanted to check in on my investment plan’s status). My assets have dropped 21% in that account. After making some adjustments with the planner, I should be okay. But there’s still uncertainty…will the market rebound soon or remain as a Bear Market?
Though these changes are stressful, they are reminding me I cannot control the world. I can scream at the wind, but it’s not going to change direction.
And this realization is comforting to me. It reminds me God is in control and the burden of power rests on Him, not me.
Like the disciples tossed by the waves as they scurried across Lake Galilee, we are feeling the waves of anxiety swell. In the end, Jesus commanded the waves and the storm, “Quiet! Be still!”
Then the disciples marveled, wondering who this Jesus was that could command nature (Mark 4:35–41).
2. We Don’t Control Beauty or Life
I was ruminating over this while walking at the park with my wife. I thought about how overwhelming the situation felt. Then I stopped and breathed-in the scenery for a moment…
Towering pine trees lined the shell path.
A team of ducks scuttled ahead.
A thousand other lives hustled around in the distance.
I haven’t had a hand in any of this coming to pass, I realized.
We feel hysteria when the bad happens, but rarely do we stop and reflect on the good we also do not control. Our breath, our lives, and all the good that comes to us are all from the hand of God. Yes, we get to be His image and impress His character on the world, but I’ll be the first to admit I did not create the universe, nor do I sustain it.
Praise the LORD of Lords, for His lovingkindess endures forever, who alone did great wonders, for His kindness endures forever, who made the heavens by wisdom…who spread the earth on the waters, for His lovingkindness endures forever.
3. There is a Sturdy Anchor
My retirement account is fickle, and a horrible foundation for identity and joy in the world.
My financial planner admitted on the phone he did not know how long it would take for the markets to stabilize. He mentioned offhand it’s a “good time to buy” since stocks are lower, but he’s no sage. He knows it could take a while. He too is living within the realm of viral uncertainty even with up-to-date trading tools at his fingertips.
In the moment, we have all the “data” in front of us: Charts showing the growth of COVID–19. Company announcements of closure. Social media panic. But like my financial planner’s data, it only reflects the moment and cannot predict the future.
Massive events like Coronavirus will shake away our weak foundations of trust and dependence on untrustworthy things.
Control is illusory. Even the most powerful monarchs, dignitaries, and influencers may exude control, but they don’t have it.
There is an anchor, however, that can hold during a fast-changing tide…
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
What is the hope they are talking about? The writer offers a story from the Tanakh (or Old Testament) about Abraham enduring trials to inherit what God had promised him. It came to fruition in the end.
The author of Hebrews then doubles-up on the certainty of this hope. Not only can we see the faithfulness of God in retrospect, we also have the future secure because of Jesus.
The writer calls this hope “firm and secure.” Picture a strong, multi-braided rope fastened to a dock’s cleat. The Greek word for “firm” means that rope will not fail. Though tides lift the boat or waves batter the hull, the rope is there to stay, no matter the viral uncertainty.
4. Wholeness and Safety are Out There
The writer also brings up Jesus being our “forerunner.” The one who has entered with this hope in the “inner-sanctuary behind the curtain.”
Before the final destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 70 C.E., it was the Jewish epicenter of worship. God’s presence resided in the Holy of Holies, or the inner-sanctuary, behind a giant woven curtain (Leviticus 26).
This curtain acted as the separator between God’s holy presence and everyone else in the world. Only once per year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) would the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies. Always, he’d approach God with blood from a sacrifice to atone for his sins and for the sins of the people (Hebrews 9:7).
So, when the writer of Hebrews says our anchor is secured “behind the curtain,” they are saying we have access to God’s presence through Jesus the Messiah, no matter what.
Viral uncertainty is washing over us. Our control is loosening. But we must hold firm to the only anchor that will withstand the storm.
P.S. I plan to follow-up with some practical posts on surviving social isolation and keeping education going even when schools are closed.