It goes without saying that as the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads, teachers may be on the front lines. A few schools have already closed in several states (see map), including Washington, New York, and California.
At CEAI, we are not public health experts. We do suggest you follow the best advice from those who are about preventing the spread of viruses, and be especially careful if your immune system is compromised. Here is information from the Centers for Disease Control that may be helpful. You and your administrators may also appreciate these 6 Steps for Schools from EdWeek.
While not public health experts, we can provide spiritual counsel.
First, let’s pray fervently and faithfully for the Lord to stop the spread and heal the victims of coronavirus.
Second, let’s not give in to panic or fear, but let others see the peace of Jesus in us.
It is easy to be afraid of something like the coronavirus that we can’t see or feel. Yet Paul reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7), and we remember that “do not fear” is the most commonly repeated command in scripture.
I have found this column about fear in the face of coronavirus from Pastor Todd Wagner to be of great encouragement. Pastor Wagner reminds us that Corrie ten Boom, who during her life had much more to worry about than coronavirus, explained, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.”
I learned some valuable lessons about fear and worry when my wife and I lost our newborn son, and then two years later she was diagnosed with an aggressive, deadly cancer.
When we first learned of our son’s diagnosis of Trisomy 13, a condition considered by our doctor as “incompatible with life,” of course we went through a grieving process. As is common in these situations, we tried, like Job, to argue our case with God and object to his apparent lack of goodness toward us. However, like Job, we also eventually came to a place of surrender, humble acknowledgment of our own dependence, and renewed gratitude for His blessings.
During this time we identified deeply with Peter’s response to Jesus’ question of whether Peter was going to abandon Jesus like so many others. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Like Peter, my wife and I had experienced too much of His truth and grace to go anywhere else. God’s miraculous presence with us during and after our son’s 30 days of life was a powerful reminder of His love for us, and was a vibrant testimony to those who watched and loved us through the process.
Two years later as my wife fought aggressive cancer that, statistically speaking, should have taken her life, we both had to face the potential reality of her death, and how that might impact me and our three young daughters. Through that process, God lovingly reminded us that our life is not our own—we’ve been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Thankfully, she experienced God’s healing and we are celebrating our 28th anniversary this year!
These two trials taught us to hold onto our lives loosely—not in a casual or careless way—but in a way that recognizes the truth of Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In this verse, Jesus argues for the upside down nature of His kingdom. He exhorts us to not chase after our own personal security, safety, and convenience, but rather surrender those things for the sake of His kingdom, and let Him take care of our needs.
In a teaching that is included in every gospel account, Jesus brings this home by saying, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).
Remember, when you step into your school, you are not your own. Your life belongs to Him. As the founding pastor of my church used to say, “We are change in God’s pocket—He can spend us however He wants.”
I don’t believe that God desires any of us to be infected by the coronavirus. But we live in a fallen world and we have an enemy who hates us. We are not promised a life free from troubles, but He does promise to be with us in them.
I do believe that God desires us to be courageous in the face of fear, modeling courage for our students, and putting His kingdom before our personal security. In a culture that has made an idol of safety, we surrender our lives for His kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not unaware of the consequences, but we refuse to accept the verdict that fear of them must rule our decisions. As the world panics, may we know His peace.
Our lives are in His hands. He sees you, He loves you, and His strength is more than enough for coronavirus or any other challenge that may come your way. Let the world see our faith and courage in the face of fear.
Christian Educators Association International