The coronavirus outbreak still has my head spinning. As health officials keenly followed COVID-19, March began with news of the first U.S. death, a man in Washington state. Also, the CDC reported the first possible outbreak at a long-term care facility in Washington.
After a rough February closing, March 1 news reported a stock market surge of 5.1%. The rebound didn’t last as economic distress surged as well.
Adjusting to the time change as we began the week of March 9, we wondered what a week with a full moon and a Friday the 13th would bring. We soon saw the coronavirus apprehension snowball.
The sports world turned upside down as various leagues cancelled, postponed or rescheduled their seasons. School systems shut down. Even some May graduations are already cancelled.
As new developments unfolded daily, observing people’s reactions became a study in human behavior. First came denial and disbelief. We lived our lives as if we weren’t affected, thinking “China is a long way from America.” Then COVID-19 hit Washington state and steadily spread.
Denial turned to skepticism: “The news media is creating hysteria and people are overreacting,” or “This is a conspiracy with a political agenda,” or “This whole virus-thing is overblown.”
Then skepticism turned to fear as people bombarded stores. Toilet paper turned to gold. Hand-wipes disappeared. As my March 15 birthday approached, I requested fried salmon patties for my special meal. Suddenly, I couldn’t find Double Q Pink Salmon as I daily visited several groceries and discovered the canned meat aisles cleared. I struck out.
Fear turned to hysteria as shoppers acted like a blizzard was coming, packing parking lots, standing in lines waiting for stores to open, clearing out key items. It was each man for himself until stores set limits. One customer asked, “Did I miss the memo that the world was going to end?”
Now folks seem to be coping with this disruption, hoping for this crisis to pass soon and for life to return to normal.
This craziness gives new meaning to March madness and reminds us how uncertain life is. Fear, scarcity and an unknown future trigger a reaction like stockpiling.
Stockpiling is a means of exerting control in a situation that is out of control, said Jon Mueller, professor of psychology at North Central College in Napierville, Illinois. We want to do things to gain control, he said, and hoarding supplies offsets our sense of helplessness.
Chris Elkins, chief of staff at Denison Forum, shared he’s having a hard time.
“There’s no certainty about how this virus will spread or whom it will impact … I have zero control of the stock market, the hoarding or people’s compliance to guidelines. I find this troubling and deeply disturbing.
“Nothing in this world is certain, no matter the balance in my checking account or the investments in my retirement plan. Control is an illusion …” (https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/healthcare-providers-are-experiencing-pre-traumatic-stress-disorder-fear-not-for-i-am-with-you/).
The reality is, under normal circumstances, we are NOT in control, even though we want to be. The sooner we accept that reality, the sooner we can lessen our anxiety. How can we live confidently in a world that’s going nuts?
First, replace fear with faith. Faith and fear cannot coexist. Either we’re fearing or we’re demonstrating faith. Satan uses fear to erode our faith.
In times like these, where do you turn? Asaph found himself in a crisis and wrote, “I cried out to God with my voice … and He gave me ear. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord …” (Psalm 77:1, 2a). Look first to God.
Second, remember God’s presence. Deuteronomy 31:8 reads, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” God is with us in this crisis.
Third, look out for others. We’re in this together. Don’t fight over toilet paper. Share the wealth. Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly. Remember it’s not just about you.
Fourth, shine brightly. Believers must let the world see us living unafraid, using good sense, exercising wisdom, but living as people of faith who trust in a God who is bigger than coronavirus.
I finally found my favorite brand, Double Q Salmon, by the way, and got to enjoy my belated birthday treat. And it was delicious!
[David L. Chancey is pastor, Fayetteville’s McDonough Road Baptist Church. Currently, the church family is meeting online. Join them on their Facebook page at McDonough Road Baptist Church/MRBC for Bible study at 9:45 Sundays and worship on Facebook Live at 10:55 a.m. Visit them at www.mcdonoughroad.org or call 770-460-5423 for more information.]