Tuesday, May 19, 2020

We Find No Answers in Fear or Anger

We just want answers. We just want to know what is right, what is helpful, what we should do.

Does it help to wear masks?
Should we continue to stay at home?
Should we have a soft opening?
Or maybe we should throw caution to the wind and return to long lost routines with no precautions?

This politician says one thing. This scientist says another. I read an article on social media, but I am not sure about the accuracy because it was snarky and insulting, and mean. 

Some people are living in fear, and we show that fear in different ways. Some fear leaving home; some fear government intrusion; some fear deep seated conspiracy.

We just want to know what to do. Is that asking too much? Apparently, it is.

Almost 25 years ago, our three-year-old son started having seizures, and I wanted answers.

I read over a dozen books, including a medical text I could barely understand. I developed a new vocabulary but found few answers.

I asked every doctor along the way, every question possible. I felt sure God would show us the answers through medicine and science.

I wanted this fixed. I wanted my bright, bouncy son back. I wanted to tuck worry away in a drawer and no longer wear over my shoulders like a heavy winter coat.

Instead, we got a problem that lasted several years. There were many tests, wrong medicines, right medicines with breakthrough seizures, doctor changes, side effects, and hours of worry. 

In the end, a doctor’s confusing words began to make sense: “I guess they call it idiopathic because we doctors are idiots when it comes to figuring it out.”

Doctors are not idiots, neither are scientists, neither are politicians. This wasn’t a hoax; it wasn’t a plot; there were no evil people forcing their will on my child. 

It was epilepsy, the result of sinners living in a broken, sinful world. We found few answers. Rather, we found ourselves in a situation of merely doing our best and praying for God’s intervention. 

I didn’t find answers to my questions, but I did get an answer to my prayer.

Our current situation leaves us searching for answers from science, from medicine, from politics, or social media. When our sources do not agree, we become angry, or suspicious, or fearful. We want simple, clear answers, but instead we get confusion and accusation.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle are doing their best. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t making mistakes, but it is not helpful to assign evil intent.

Science and medicine seek answers but do not always have them. There is never one medical research study that gives the definitive answer – science doesn’t work that way. Science and medicine consult research, pose theories, devise practice, and dive in. The constant collection of data, during the process of an event, continues to inform the process. That is how the directive on masks changes over time. It is just an improvement in understanding. It is not a sign of everything from that source being incorrect. Nor is it a sign of evil intent.

In the end there is no perfect solution. Masks don’t work all the time. Social distancing doesn’t work all the time. What works for some people might not work for all. But, together, these practices make us safer than if we were to ignore them.

When we react in fear or anger, when we begin to believe and spread conspiracy, we are following a useless path.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians 4:11b

These are powerful words from a man who understood oppression and deprivation. Through all of his suffering, Paul found not anger or fear, but contentment. There is much that Philippians chapter four can teach us about how to find contentment in the age of COVID19.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving  let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:4-6

Now is our chance to live these verses and not just recite or sing them!

Be reasonable: Avoid words of anger, blame, sarcasm, and insult. These words come from fear, and chronic fear rarely points us to the right answer. If you read or hear any of these emotional words – move on.

Do not be anxious: This is not the time to doubt God's providence in our world. Listen to and obey people in authority while you put your trust in God.

Let your request be made known to God: Study His word and pray. We must accept that even though God has blessed us with medical and scientific knowledge, the world is not a perfect source of answers. We will not find a COVID19 Bible verse, but we will find peace.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 8-9

Whatever is true: Sing hymns, memorize scripture, attend online services – do these things instead of reading questionable material on social media or listening to political pundits who get attention from shocking people with words that are shy of the truth.

Whatever is honorable: Stop fighting the people who seek to care for you. God does not promise to give us sinless politicians or infallible scientists. Instead, He cares for us through the life and work of people whose brokenness resembles ours. 

Whatever is lovely: Turn your attention toward the needs of others. Donate food to a food bank. Call or write an elderly couple from your church. Pray for caregivers and check on neighbors. God has given us many ways we can care for each other. When we are busy caring – our hearts do not have enough room for fear or anger to take up long-term residence.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

This peace is Paul’s secret to finding contentment in every situation. God’s peace seeks to guard our hearts against anger, from fear, from distrust. God does not expect us to achieve this on our own. 

Our lives are hard in many ways, but our God is bigger than the hard things and tough situations. 
He is the God of answered prayers. He is the God of peace. He is the God of strength. 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13