Depending on when you read this article (originally published mid-2020), it may resonate with you, or make you shudder with the memory of what I’m about to describe.
I went shopping today. It’s not that I’ve never been shopping before. It’s just today, for the first time since the coronavirus started to take hold, I went to a larger supermarket. Although nobody was running or shrieking, there was, I’m sad to report, a palpable feeling of panic.
Shopping trolleys weren’t stacked that high, no-one seemed to be buying extra to hoard at home, but the empty shelves told a different story. No toilet paper, no antibacterial wipes, no hand sanitiser gel. When, then, had these things been purchased? How quickly were the stores being able to restock? I’ve received two emails of late from the CEO’s of two of Britain’s largest supermarkets telling me that if we all just bought stuff as we had previously been doing their supply chains had it covered. The shelves would refill, and there would be plenty for everyone. Just like before the stories out of China emerged, before the epidemic had become a pandemic.
But the shelves are empty. People are panicking, people are queuing outside the stores waiting for them to open, ready to play a perverse game of Supermarket Sweep.
In the book, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the hitchhiker, Arthur Dent, is guided by an electronic book, that has emblazoned on its front cover the words, ‘DON’T PANIC’. I must confess to wanting to print off hundreds of leaflets with these words printed on them and handing them out to people at supermarket opening times. I probably won’t, but I’d like to! While this particular book helps Arthur sort out his trip across the galaxy, there is another book that we all have available to us, in lots of different formats, digital or otherwise, that I believe can also help us in times like these. It is the Christian Bible.
This book doesn’t have the words DON’T PANIC written on the front, and it doesn’t have a strict course of instructions that we must work through or tips for every situation. Instead, what we have, particularly in the New Testament, are examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in persecuted times.
The Apostle Paul, whilst being under house arrest, still reached out to the Church through his letters. These letters are encouraging, yet based in reality, challenging, but still full of grace. Above all, he consistently expressed his love and genuine affection for all of God’s people.
Zacchaeus’ life was transformed through his encounter with Christ and went on to show a heart of generosity to those he’d previously mistreated.
James and John went from being the ‘Sons of Thunder’, two men with a prideful attitude demanding that whole villages be destroyed for not being responsive to the Gospel, to James being martyred for his faith and John becoming the one known as the Apostle of love.
Jesus, Himself, stepped into the world of the poor and needy, the sick and underprivileged. He reached out a hand and pulled people out of the mire they found themselves in.
We read stories again and again of lives being transformed by Christ, of people being filled by the love, peace and joy of the Anointed One. People who learned to put others before themselves, who served those who couldn’t help themselves and sacrificed much so that others might live.
What are you doing right now to help those around you? Do you have the attitude of these people? Are you letting Christ transform you, changing you from the inside out?
Regardless what might be happening in your world right now, DON’T PANIC, but don’t rely on your own strength or be over-influenced by those around you or the situation in which you might find yourself either. Lean back into God and see what He will do and take His love, peace and joy into all your circumstances and the places you inhabit.