Perfect Peace in a Pandemic
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) was unheard of 6 months ago, and even just a few weeks ago, it seemed like a faraway problem on the other side of the world. However, it is now front and center in the news and all our thoughts. Because of our constant news cycle, and the demand upon government officials to respond rapidly to the seriousness of this threat, it is hard not to become overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. It seems that just when we think it is as bad as it can get, there is a new response that reminds us that no one knows just how bad things will get before they improve.
Add to this the challenge that many are facing from layoffs or reduced working hours, having to work remotely, having kids at home for more extended periods of time than expected, grocery and paper goods shortages, and not even being able to worship together; all combine to create an environment of anxiety. However, we are told not to be anxious (Phil. 4:6-7; Mt. 6:31-34). We need things to occupy our time when we are faced with unexpected schedule changes. However, if our thoughts are in an endless cycle of anxiety, even when we are spending our time on otherwise constructive things like suggested here, we can be doing good, but still thinking in worrisome, anxious ways. What then do we do with our thoughts?
There are many practical steps that we can and should perhaps take, but the promises of God should be the primary thing that Christians cling to in these uncertain times. One such promise is from Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Short verse. Bold promise! Want to have perfect peace in the Coronavirus pandemic? Here it is. Keep your mind stayed on God and trust in Him. Sound easy? Maybe not for most of us.
What is promised here? Perfect peace. But just what is perfect peace? The text is literally saying ‘peace, peace’ This is an “all-embracing peace,” which comes to those who are steadfast in their trust in God. They lean completely upon Him for their support. The ‘mind,’ as it is used here, is our way of looking at life, and it must be set or “stayed” upon God. But how do we keep it set upon God? The only way to do that is through prayer and Spirit-empowered meditation upon the Word. God has revealed Himself in His word, so His word is what should shape our thoughts and lives. To meditate on the word is to think deeply upon, to mull over in your mind, and to reflect carefully upon a verse or passage of Scripture. If we seek to do this daily, we’ll find that the Bible is not just something that we read each morning and leave at home, but something we take with us throughout the day because we have interacted with it in our minds and hearts!
In his book, A Simple Way to Pray, Martin Luther advises Christians to turn God’s word into prayer by considering each command as instruction, thanksgiving, confession, and prayer or petition. Tim Keller draws from Luther’s advice in his book on prayer where he advises,
"Read a Scripture passage. Discern one or two truths you learn there. Choose the one that most impresses you and write it in a sentence. Now ask: How does this truth help me praise God? How does it show me a sin to confess? How does it show me something to ask God for? Now turn the answers to the three questions into a prayer- adoration, petition, and supplication.”
If we take this sound advice, it will take God’s word from mere words on a page to God’s word, hidden in our hearts (Ps. 119:11). If we can begin our days with such meditation, it will help us to continue in a Biblical, peaceful frame of mind throughout the day (Ps. 1), finding our minds and hearts steadfastly set upon God.