With COVID-19, A Chance to Embrace the World’s BrokennessWe are called to bear witness. God needs His people to bring Him and His world together.
“They show that the essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts and are operating there, with which their sense of right and wrong also bear witness; and their moral decisions, their condemning or approving thoughts, will accuse or perhaps defend and excuse them.”Romans 2:15
We are called to bear witness. God needs His people to bring Him and His world together. This unique time affords opportunities for such intercession.
To bear witness means to carry something deep within us that is based on truth. It means to manifest something that does not originate in us but is something that we’ve received from the absolute, righteous God we look to honor. How are we doing this? Two examples come to mind right away. We are called to bear witness to the plight of trafficking victims who cannot testify. We are called to not be silent as we bear witness to racial injustice.
It’s powerful to think about the depths of what it means “to bear” someone. It’s very intimate; a kind of belonging in relationship to another. All people are part of a web of relationships because God created us for belonging. The Father, Son and Spirit live in eternal, mutual relationship with One Another, in which they converse, they share, they contribute. God invites us to be a part of this communication! This is prayer.
One of the clearest ways to understand holiness is to equate it with belonging. God loves us and desires intimacy with us. He wants us as part of His Life. That is what salvation is. A holy life exudes from belonging to the Holy One. We can hear His Voice, and when we do, He transforms our character. We are invited to partner with Him in His mission to the world. God is burdened for His world, so in our friendship with Him, He shares our burden with us.
Will we bear witness with Jesus as He seeks to ameliorate human agony? It can be crushing to do so, but will we detach from our distractions and come so near to His heart that we, like Him, sense people’s pain and helplessness and intercede so the hurting can find hope and belonging?
We in the United States are experiencing something completely unfamiliar with the outbreak of COVID-19. We are not in control. We are not as expansively mobile as usual. We cannot consume entertainment in the usual ways or travel and pursue enjoyable activities at will. Things that defined common pleasure are beyond our immediate grasp—restaurants, sporting events, concerts, movies, graduations, proms, parties. Nowhere to be had. We can’t even wander around Marshalls or the mall. We can’t hang out in groups at bars or at churches, both of which serve some of the same basic needs for belonging and relationship.
Many of us are long beyond worrying about those ephemeral things because we’ve lost our jobs. Where’s the money to not only build my new business but also to pay for my housing and food? Our children’s best hours of the days were when they got to go to school where there was order, mental stimulation, friendship, activity and lunch. Now, they’re crammed day after day in small homes where stress and irritability surface regularly. And no lunch.
The threat of the COVID-19 virus gnaws at our psyches. It’s no longer people we hear about in the news who are sick and dying. It’s our friends and family members.
I was living in Madison, Mississippi in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina passed over us. Even though we were far inland, the experience was terrifying. The wind snapped trees like twigs. It sounded like bombs were going off for hours. What was more terrifying were the days that followed, with violence at gas stations, no clean water to drink, no cell coverage, no electricity, 95-degree heat and my children sick and listless with a nameless illness I couldn’t fix.
I was scared to my bones, helplessly depending on someone else to notice that we were in real trouble. I got in touch with a friend who lived three states away and was stunned that she and everyone else up there were clueless and not the least bit concerned about what our lives were like right then. When I ended the call, I asked Jesus to please never let me forget this moment. “Please, Lord, seal upon my psyche forever what it feels like to be terrified, in mortal danger, while most people don’t even care. Thank You for imprinting upon me this terror so that I may enter into the sufferings of terrified people all over the world for the rest of my life. Grant me the privilege of sharing in Your suffering as I experience even just the slightest bit of the suffering and fear of people who live this way all their days!”
My few short days of fear were a gift from Jesus, inviting me in an incarnational sort of way to intercede on His behalf for people He loves, with a real understanding of their plight.
During this shelter-in-place season, I’ve often heard, “What’s something you’ve experienced that you hope won’t stop once this is over?” One of the things I’m praying for is that the church in America, and me personally, will consider this experience as an opportunity to see the world through Jesus’ eyes of compassion. Perhaps we can step back from focusing on our losses and be transformed by the Spirit to notice that the majority of the human race has never had the vaguest hope of graduating from any kind of school, never attended any kind of party–much less in their honor, never heard of a prom or imagined wearing a beautiful gown. Most people have routinely seen empty store shelves, let alone a sleek, well-stocked supermarket!
Please, Jesus, help us to have hearts broken by our susceptibility to potential death by disease, our disappointments, losses and fears to the extent that we can identify with the want and the despair that much of the world’s population carries daily. Help us to be ready and willing to intercede and let it be known that God wants to reach out and love His children!
May we as bearers of Jesus’ Life be led not toward self-pity but toward the Higher Vision of the Creator for every single person of this broken world. I pray we will never forget what this experience feels like so that we will forever be intercessors for the world, bearing witness through our fellowship with the human family.
We have the opportunity to ask Jesus to recreate us through this time of suffering, so we can bear witness to the love and truth He offers. Through prayer, we can lift the burdens of the world to God and say, “Because of COVID-19, I now know something of what it’s like to be you. I see you. I feel you. I care. I hold you up to God so that you can be a part of His Life. You are not alone. I will not leave you. You belong.” Please, Jesus, make this real in Your church. In me.
Rev. Diane Ury joins with her husband Dr. William Ury as the Army’s national ambassadors for holiness.