By Bill Francavilla
Whenever there is a catastrophic event, I am forced to cling to my roots as a history major. I want to know if this type of event has happened before, and if so, what the correct response would have been.
Today’s world is not so different from before, and we do not need to look far to find a plague. In fourth century Caesarea when a plague broke out, the Christian historian Eusebius gives us a stunning account of the events:
All day long some of them [Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them.
I am looking forward to one day meeting our fourth century brothers and sisters who braved the streets of Caesarea for God’s glory. It makes me wonder how history will judge our current generation. What will people be reading about us centuries from now? Will people believe we panicked at the first sign of stress? Will they see us as uncaring? Or will they see a brave people who rose to the occasion when a great task was before us?
When I first heard about the Coronavirus, I quickly dismissed it as a hoax. I thought to myself, “The media is at it again, trying to scare us into another narrative.” But in the coming weeks I saw more reports coming in from other countries warning that we should be prepared for what was to come. My denial was wavering.
Then one night my wife was sent a video, and for the first time I was scared. I watched footage of several people in a Wuhan hospital passing out and telling the camera that what is happening must be taken seriously. Immediately we sought help from the only Source I knew would bring comfort. We started to pray together.
In the coming months I found myself talking to many people with a wide range of responses. One couple told me they would not leave the house while another refused to wear a mask under any circumstances.
The moment the seriousness of the situation became real to me was when a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent to the hospital. The church rose to the occasion and sought the wisdom of the Lord through fasting and prayer, all the while supporting his wife and three children. By the grace of God, even though he was very ill for six long weeks, he survived.
These past few months have been a whirlwind for every one of us, and I can’t help but notice two popular reactions: fear and denial.
The crowd that has gravitated towards fear is always quick to don the mask and wear it, even when alone in the car. I have seen video footage of people yelling and berating others for not following suit. They are determined to listen to everything the government has to say and strictly follow orders.
The other response is denial. This group will tell themselves and everyone else that there is nothing to fear; this is just another conspiracy soon to be exposed. These people are relying on themselves to get through this even though there are still cases being reported and people are dying.
I can understand both of these groups. That doesn’t mean either is right. I do not believe Jesus wants us to act in fear or denial, and I do not think He would want us to rely solely on the government or ourselves.
As God’s people, we need to proceed with wisdom. Wisdom does not put its trust in government or in the individual. It is found in pursuing God. Obtaining wisdom may seem like a daunting task, but it is easier than we think. James 1:5 (NIV) tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Wisdom is a gift from God. A man by the name of Solomon was found to be in a situation where he was suddenly given control over God’s people. His brother had already tried to usurp the throne, and his family had many enemies. I’m sure he was stressed about what lay ahead. Thankfully Solomon was smart enough to ask God for wisdom, and it was freely given (1 Kings 3).
At the time of this writing, our country is already facing a new challenge with the wrongful death of an unarmed African American man. It is a travesty in every sense of the word, and these two reactions, fear and denial, are once again inserting themselves into the situation. Some people would like to bury their heads in the sand and tell us that there is no problem to deal with while others are afraid that the very fabric of society is coming apart. We need wisdom now more than ever.
We must ask ourselves and those who are hurting how we can apply wisdom to this situation. Are we going to allow fear and denial to rule the day or can we be more like a young king who humbly asks God how to do His work best?
History will judge us on how we respond to the crises of today. Now more than ever is God’s time to shine as we show the world who He is. I pray that this generation chooses wisdom over what the world tries to offer.
About the Author
Bill Francavilla, lead pastor of Relevant Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, has lived in Virginia nearly his entire life. He attended Lynchburg College where he studied history and theater. In 2017 Bill received his master’s degree in theological studies from Liberty University. He has been active in missions to Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba. Bill and his wife, Jessica, have four children: Alex, Liam, Rita Grace, and Gino.