This week we have been focusing our prayers on the Coronavirus crisis, and
today we are going to explore Christ’s invitation to take courage in this time of
containment.

Today I am reflecting on God’s commandment to be strong and courageous when I am tempted to hide away and ride out the storm:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ Joshua 1:8-9

Coronavirus began, of course, in China where the word for crisis is made up of two characters: the first means ‘danger’ and the second means’ opportunity’. The danger of this crisis is very real. Everyone is affected in some way. Hundreds of thousands are likely to die. Millions are losing their jobs. The world is heading for recession.

But this crisis is also an opportunity for the people of God to ‘be strong and
courageous’, to show his love to a world that is being shaken to its core.

In the year 251AD a plague decimated the great city of Carthage. Its citizens were ‘shuddering, fleeing, shunning the contagion’. Carcases piled up in the streets. In a famous sermon on Matthew 5:43-48, the great Church Father Cyprian urged the church to stay in the city to care not just for other Christians but for their non-Christian neighbours too (who had recently been persecuting them).

Rodney Stark, in a fascinating book ‘Epidemics, Networks and the Rise of Christianity’ observes that: ‘The minority Christian community, which did not flee but stayed to provide nursing, had a higher survival rate than their pagan neighbours; and the pagans who had been nursed through the crisis by Christians were likely to be open to a faith that, unlike their own, had worked.’

This is an unusual time of constraint and containment when the natural human impulse is towards self-preservation – mere survival. But this season of confinement may also be a great blessing.

Eugene Peterson writing about Jonah’s confinement in the whale says this: ‘Without confinement, without the intensification resulting from compression, there is no energy worth speaking of… Confined to the reality of the human condition, the person is surprised to be living not a diminished life but a deepened life, not a crippled life but a zestful life.’

Lord, I ask that I would be deepened and not diminished, emboldened and not terrified, by the pressures of this crisis for the sake of those who don’t yet know your love.

At this time of so much disruption and dismay I take hold of God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10 drawing consolation for the day to come from this beautiful assurance :

Hear the Word of the Lord: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’

Closing Prayer

Father, help me to live this day to the full,
being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others,
being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost,
proclaiming Christ in all I do and say. Amen

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