‘Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7)
Richard Coekin (CEO of Co-Mission and Senior Pastor of Dundonald Church) has written the following pastoral letter as we face this Coronavirus pandemic:
We are all bound to feel anxious during this crisis, especially for our loved ones and church family as well ourselves. This pandemic is a sobering reminder of our human frailty and mortality and of the limitations of medical science and government. However, if we trust in Jesus, our living sovereign Lord and loving personal saviour, we can be absolutely sure that he loves us deeply and that nothing can befall us except what he knows can help us become more like him (Romans 8:28). So may I encourage you to ‘cast all your anxiety on him’ in prayer. You could do this in short prayers throughout the day or you could spend some time at the beginning or end of each day of this crisis, on your own or together with your family or flatmates, to give this crisis over to our Lord. You could read through Psalm 23 which reminds us that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, is with us as we walk ‘though the valley of the shadow of death’. Or perhaps work through the short readings available from Andy Mason’s comforting piece on our Co-Mission website (Facing Coronavirus in Christ).
Remember that nothing can ever ‘separate us from the love of God that is in Christ our Lord’ (Romans 8:39)! Let us recognise in this virus an opportunity to encourage one another, to witness to unbelievers, and to practise for the time when God will call us home one day. Let us find peace in the face of sickness and death, not because we have a ‘stiff upper lip’, but because we trust in our living Lord and loving Saviour, Jesus Christ.
At a time when many unbelievers will be afraid, God may be giving us special opportunities to love and serve them – which could lead to wonderful opportunities in due course to share the gospel. We have the glorious comfort of Jesus who loves us so much he died for us and who lives to offer us the certain hope of resurrection! Let’s pray for opportunities to speak. Perhaps we could check in on neighbours, colleagues and friends, especially those who are elderly and frail, to offer practical help like shopping or accessing online help and information. It may feel appropriate to offer to pray for them and with them, and to say something about our confidence in Jesus. May I encourage you to look for opportunities to ‘give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15).
We can be grateful to God for his provision of excellent health care and the wisdom of eminent doctors and scientists advising our government. May I encourage you to be sensible and to carefully abide by the latest government guidelines (Government Coronavirus advice). It is not godly to take unnecessary risks or place others in danger of becoming infected by ignoring the advice of secular authorities that are provided by God for our blessing. If you can't attend church, either because you are ill or gatherings are suspended, can I encourage you to access Bible-teaching (from your own church or other Co-Mission churches) online, and to help your church stay in contact with you to ensure you are cared for in practical ways.
Here is an amplification of the Lord’s prayer for you or your church:
Our father in heaven – thank you for Jesus in whom you have adopted us as your beloved children; help us remember that sickness and death will never separate us from your love, believe you will be with us through whatever lies ahead, and trust you are fully in control and perfectly good;
Hallowed be your name – we pray this crisis will result in much praise for you – that believers will be strengthened in their faith and unbelievers will recognise our human frailty and mortality and turn from sin to worship you;
Your kingdom come – until Jesus returns to rescue us from this world of pain, as far as this virus spreads, we pray your kingdom will grow further, in the hearts of people of all nations finding in Jesus the sure hope of resurrection into your new creation, free from sickness, suffering and death to enjoy you forever;
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – Father, we rejoice in your sovereign power; in your mercy, please end this crisis soon, deliver us and all your people through this crisis, and may your gracious plans to save the lost be advanced by this season of humbling;
Give us this day our daily bread – thank you for dedicated doctors, nurses and other NHS staff, for our government and its advisors - please grant them the wisdom and endurance they need; sustain us with the daily bread of Christ crucified for our sins, in the living bread of your Word; reassure us when we’re anxious, heal us when we’re sick, strengthen us when we must die, comfort us in our bereavement, and embolden us to share the gospel of Jesus, the living bread we all need;
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us – have mercy where we have presumed upon our health, forgotten our frailty, or neglected to thank you for your daily care and protection; forgive us because Christ died for our sins, count us acceptable in his perfect righteousness, and in the light of your mercy, help us show mercy to all;
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – deliver us through this time of testing – help us resist every temptation to doubt your love; help us stand firm in our faith against Satan’s lies, knowing that all over the world, your people are enduring the same kind of trials;
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1)
With love and prayer,