By Scott Ventrella, Crosswalk.com
We’re living in unprecedented times to say the least; an unpredictable, highly contagious virus that knows no borders wreaking havoc across the globe.
Here in the West, we’re still in the very early stages. As a result, people are fearful and anxious as to what’s to come. The other day, while on my usual 5-mile run, I wondered to myself, “If Jesus were physically here today, what would He do? What would He say and how would He guide us?"
Upon further reflection, and based on scripture, I came up with five spiritual principles that I believe Jesus would share with us:
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1. Have Faith in God
I think for most Christians it’s fairly easy to have and profess our faith—especially when life is running smoothly. The real test of faith is when the going gets rough. Take for instance the account of Jesus walking on the water:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ (Matthew 14:25-31)
I keep this image in mind every time my faith begins to falter.
Peter had faith enough in Jesus to step out on the choppy waters. As long as his gaze was fixed on Jesus, he was fine. But once he started to pay attention to the raging winds and water he panicked and began to sink.
What a great lesson Jesus teaches us here, even while facing a global pandemic.
Indeed, the waters are dangerously choppy and uncertainty abounds. But fear is useless. It only leads to panic, worry, and anxiety. Think of it this way, fear will not prevent us from contracting the virus.
If anything, it may make us more vulnerable as fear and worry lowers are immune system. Instead, when life’s challenges begin to close in on us, we need re-fix our gaze on Jesus—and trust him. Faith and trust go hand-in-hand.
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2. Love Your Neighbor
Faith requires that we go out into the world to share our gifts with others—also known as “faith in action.” As Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Tumultuous times can bring out the best in people. Unfortunately, it also brings out the worst. As the virus made its way to the U.S., panic ensued.
People flocked to grocery stores and pharmacies buying up (and hoarding) everything from surgical masks and hand sanitizer to tissue and toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper! As a result, this left many other people and organizations, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and first responders without necessary supplies.
Xenophobic behavior is sadly on the rise. Just recently, a hate-filled woman in Manhattan attacked an Asian woman blaming her for the coronavirus outbreak. Gun sales have apparently spiked as well. I guess people are afraid someone might steal their toilet paper?
This is absolutely contrary to Christian teaching.
Jesus would have us treat others as we would like to be treated. He would expect us to treat everyone with respect, kindness, and compassion. He would admonish us to think of others, by buying only what we reasonably need.
He would encourage us to share not only from our surplus but from our scarcity as well. He would tell us to reach out to others—especially the elderly, isolated, and lonely. Even though we’re required to self-isolate and practice “social distancing,” it shouldn’t prevent us from picking up the phone.
Take a moment to think of a friend or relative in need of comfort and consolation. When you do, avoid dwelling on all the bad news. Instead, be uplifting. Speak words of encouragement. Share scripture passages and pray with them.
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3. Connect with Self and Family
The current crisis now has millions of people working from home. As a result, it seems to have freed up some recreational time. In my own town and neighborhood, I’m noticing families out walking and playing together. I’m seeing people I’ve never seen before; and we’ve lived on the same street for 23 years!
More people than ever are riding bikes, running, hiking, rollerblading. It’s truly amazing. I just recently received this message from an Innkeeper friend who’s worried about how “quiet” her business has gotten:
“And yet, within the quiet, there are silver linings. I have spent many hours with my son, Owen, walking and talking - and at 14-years old, getting him to do that is a minor miracle. I have walked with Luna every day in our beautiful woods and am watching our early Spring arrive and the animals wake up with renewed delight. I have talked to more friends and family "just because" recently and am feeling closer to them all, since we are all in this together. When I manage to keep the anxiety at bay, the simplicity of life right now is beautiful.”
This is a great opportunity to reprioritize what’s important in life. The meaning of “success” is changing for the better. Due to unexpected circumstances out of our control, we’re in a sense “forced” to redefine what success looks like.
On the whole, the emphasis is shifting from quantity to quality. Put another way, in this day and age, success is becoming less about how much we have in life and more about how well we’re living our lives.
Growing numbers of people are realizing that they’ve been missing out on the important things in life. Fortunately, we are waking up from our slumber. This is a great time to reflect on all aspects of life—especially faith, family, friends, and career.
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4. Count Your Blessings
I have a morning ritual that involves stopping by my favorite coffee shop to grab a “cup of joe” to go. I enjoy chatting with the folks that work there and also seeing the “usual” customers. On Friday, due to the lockdown in my state, they abruptly closed.
I’m ashamed to say that my first thought was, “poor me, what will I do without my favorite coffee?” Thankfully the self-pity was very short-lived. I quickly thought of the many minimum-wage workers who likely live paycheck to paycheck. Who knows when they’ll be able to return.
Then I thought about the millions of people in similar straits not to mention the impact on small businesses. Of course, I thought of the number of people afflicted with the virus, their healthcare providers, and the many people serving on the front lines.
Finally, I thought of the thousands globally who have succumbed to the illness.
It made me realize that I should ignore the minor pinpricks of the day and focus on the many blessings in my life. There’s a great song that has helped me to develop an “attitude of gratitude.” It’s titled, “Blessed,” by Lucinda Williams. I’ll share just a sampling of the lyrics,
We were blessed by the mystic
Who turned water into wine
We were blessed by the watchmaker
Who gave up his time
We were blessed by the wounded man
Who felt no pain
By the wayfaring stranger
Who knew our names
We were blessed by the homeless man
Who showed us the way home
Blessed by the hungry man
Who filled us with love
By the little innocent baby
Who taught us the truth
We were blessed by the forlorn
Forsaken and abused
The song reminds me how we are blessed by people we don’t often give thought to. Let’s all be more mindful in giving thanks to God for all blessings, large and small.
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5. Strengthen Your Faith
Please take a break from the 24/7 “breaking news cycle.” This is an excellent time to draw closer to God and deepen our relationship with Him. I suggest reading scripture, inspirational literature, virtual Bible study and most importantly, prayer.
The following are insights and tips on prayer.
- There’s no one formula – discover what works best for you. Ask God for discernment.
- Sometimes the words simply don’t come so turn it over to the Holy Spirit, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)
- Make prayer a habit daily in your life, but don’t approach it as ‘routine.’ Formulaic or rote prayers can be helpful but sometimes lose there meaning. Change it up and pray what’s on your heart today.
- Match the intensity of prayer with the gravity of the situation. In Mark’s Gospel, there’s an account of the disciples unable to heal a young boy tortured by an unclean spirit. When Jesus heals the boy “his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive the spirit out?” He told them, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:28-29) This is a time where intense prayer is vital.
- Pray and worship in “spirit and truth.” Jesus reminds us in a sense not to be casual in our worship of God, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
These insights and tips are based on a combination of Biblical principles and through my own experience during my faith journey. I’ve drawn from many different sources over the years and suggest you do the same. The one thing I can say for certain is that effectiveness and quality of your prayer life is equal to the proportion of time and energy you invest in developing it.
Yes, this crisis will eventually pass.
In the meantime, let’s all use our time wisely and behave in a manner pleasing to God!
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Scott Ventrella is a high-profile executive coach, professor, and Christian leader based in New York. He has served as an executive at the Peale Center for Christian Living, coached clergymen, and has served for 30 years as a Catechist in his local parish. He has been a featured speaker at numerous congregations of all denominations as well as national conferences including Harvard Business School’s “Dean’s Conference on Leadership, Values, and Spirituality.” His most recent book, The 3rd Power: The Faith Formula to Soothe the Soul and Restore the Spirit (CrossLink Publishing) was released in November 2019.