Have you been hearing predictions about what life will be like after COVID-19? Some church analysts are voicing grave concerns about church workers and congregations. They forecast a “crash” in congregational sustainability and in the mental health of church workers.
Similar commentaries are forecasting a less prosperous, fulfilling and stable post-COVID-19 existence across the world. Many people are frightened, anxious and pessimistic.
Reason for concern is valid. Grief, fatigue, fear and anxiety are already being manifested in a variety of ways. We do need to pray about and respond to these very real needs.
But we also need to be cautious about the post-coronavirus prognostications—especially in three areas:
1. Faith versus fear. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh will always assert that there is no answer for trouble. The only possible outcomes to difficult times—it will be claimed—are negativity, anxiety, fear and defeat. Post-coronavirus predictions—even in the church—will very often spiral into that vortex of dread. But there IS an answer to the trouble. Psalm 46 declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way” (Psalm 46:1–2). Watch out for fear that tries to silence faith. Remember that faith is not a foolish pipedream; it is a God-given shield that guards your heart from the deception of fear. It is a certainty that our living Savior is at work.
2. Grace versus works. A number of post-COVID projections outline a list of things to do in order to meet the crisis head-on. Lists grab attention. I even used “3 Cautions” in this title to get your attention. But lists can also send you on a fruitless chase to solve problems yourself. Pushing the Gospel out of the picture, lists can imprison you in despair. Watch out for works that try to overshadow God’s grace. Only God’s grace will free you from the oppression of our sin-broken existence. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Works weigh you down; God’s grace carries you home.
3. Scripture versus conjecture. God’s Word is either absent from or secondary to some of the post-pandemic commentaries. Too often, the narratives are driven more by preconceived notions than by God’s wisdom. Watch out for conjecture that minimizes God’s Word. Our broken narrative of negativity and alarm is our default. It’s everywhere. But God’s Word brings something new. The Psalmist said, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (Psalm 119:25). Scripture supplies truth and clarity in the midst of a murky life.
Let us walk in faith, be led by God’s grace and be filled with His Word—to meet whatever this broken world brings.
Questions for reflection:
Grace alone, Faith alone and Scripture alone are the themes of this article. How do these Reformation truths help you envision a post-COVID-19 life?
How do the Scripture passages in this article help lead you into the future as a church and as a follower of Jesus?
Prayer starter: Ask God to be your refuge and strength during this turbulent time.
By Rev. Michael Newman
President, LCMS Texas District