Wow, this spring break has certainly turned out to be very different than any that I have ever experienced. The anticipated time to relax was quickly overcome with cancelling or cutting short mission trips, ensuring that student missionaries returned home safely, and bringing faculty back early to prepare to transition their teaching to online delivery. Executive orders and proclamations were issued from every level of government. Business as usual ceased! We shifted our priorities to focus on the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff as the COVID-19 news continued to change.
In these uncharted, unprecedented, and chaotic times, I pause to think about our faith. It is in our University mission statement, “to inspire knowledge, faith, and service through Christ-centered education.” We talk a lot about knowledge and a lot about service, and when the academic year and world around us is running smoothly, faith seems to just come naturally.
But when chaos is rampant around us, what role does faith play? Dr. Berkner, our new Vice President for Academic Administration, implored the faculty in a meeting last week to be praying daily for discernment and be open to the Holy Spirit like never before. She shared a worship thought she recently read about an alternate meaning for COVID-19, Christ Over Viruses and Infectious Diseases. With the 19 referring to Joshua 1:9.
This is one of my favorite verses of encouragement in the Bible. The context is that Moses had recently died and Joshua was called to leadership. God knows Joshua’s responsibilities are overwhelming and fear may be lurking. God tells Joshua three times in the first chapter to “be strong and courageous,” and assures him “I will not leave you or forsake you.” Furthermore, God says that He will be with him “wherever he goes.” Faith is believing that through the chaos, God is with us and He cares for us.
I enjoy Isaiah 41:10 which reads, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Knowing that God is there to strengthen us and support us provides an assurance to help us through the storms of life.
I desire to be like the person described in Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” When the world around us seems to be focused on fear and worry about tomorrow, faith provides a confident calm about the future; it provides a reliance on God who is in control.
This week, I was studying Daniel 3 and how the three Hebrew young men stood in defiance of the king’s order to bow down to his idol. They stood in front of the king and told him that they were not afraid of him nor were they afraid of the consequences of being killed in the fiery furnace. They were confidently calm and steadfast in their trust of God.
Our Vice President for Spiritual Development, Russ Laughlin, recently shared an email with our faculty and staff about his study of Psalm 91. He wrote, “Psalm 91 speaks of God’s power to protect His people from plagues and pestilence.” The chapter begins with “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty… He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust… You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” What great promises for today. Faith allows us to live without fear and to be sheltered in His care though COVID-19 is all around us.
I appreciate these Bible promises that keep us centered on what is most important and to encourage us to be calm and not afraid amid life’s problems. I have had the privilege over the past couple of weeks to talk with several of our elected officials, and it gives me comfort to see how their faith is sustaining them as they make difficult decisions for our state, county, and city.
Faith can be our strength when we feel weak, faith can be our hope when no solution seems possible, and faith can be our calm when chaos surrounds us.