Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the governor’s order for people to stay home except for essential business, many people have been placed in a perceived state of uncertainty. “What now?” many are asking. As the senior pastor of Word of Life Fellowship Center, I have never experienced anything like this.
In our eight-year existence, our worship services have been a staple in our community. Our congregation also experienced anxiety as a result of this uncertainty. Last week, almost daily things changed from gatherings of 250 or less, to 50 or less, to 10 or less, and finally gatherings will be virtually nonexistent for the next few weeks. Imagine going to bed with a plan for the weekend, only to wake up to emails that once again, things have changed. As pastors, how do we lead in such a time? What can be said to guide and comfort people? How can we effectively shepherd that which we have been entrusted?
These words of wisdom come to mind:
“Let us be different.” (Romans 12:1-2)
“Let us be compassionate.” (Matthew 9:36)
“Let’s build each other.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
“Let us stand knowing that God is able to do what most deem impossible.” (Ephesians 3:20).
Desert Hot Springs resident Kephyan Sheppard leads a prayer in front at the Desert Hot Springs Police Station on May 3, 2019.(Photo: Omar Ornelas, The Desert Sun)
I believe we have a charge to be compassionate. A charge to be considerate. Let’s be mindful that this pandemic may affect us all in different ways. Some people are hoarding life’s basic necessities at grocery stores. Others are wondering if they have enough. Many parents are struggling to find daycare while schools are closed. Medical staff are being overworked and many are struggling to make ends meet with the cancellation of major events.
These are realities for many. While we search for answers, I believe that the cure for fear is love. So even now, let’s love our neighbors.
Fundamentally, despite all the challenges ahead, my strong feeling is that is not an obstacle, this is an opportunity!
As a Christian, I feel this moment is calling us to reinforce what we believe, embrace innovation and creativity, and show the compassion that Jesus himself showed.
What is it that we believe? How and where can we find comfort in scripture? For one, we must understand that while our doctors may not yet have a vaccine, we do have assurances.
Certain verses call to me in this moment. Isaiah 26:3 declares that we will obtain perfect peace if our minds remain on him. This peace is what Jesus left for us, we read in John 14:27. For those who are anxious, Paul gives us a guideline to reclaiming our peace. In Philippians 4 he says: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”
I am asking that we meditate on a particular promise from Romans 8:28 — “God causes everything to work together”—as our government officials and medical professionals work tirelessly to provide a solution. Romans Chapter 8 is full of reassurances. Be encouraged. Because while this is a test, it’s an open book test. My brothers and sisters, the answers are right there.
Again, this is not an obstacle. It’s our opportunity to pray, serve, and be the light that we have been called to be. Let us be different. Let us be compassionate. Let’s build each other. And let us stand knowing that God is able to do what most deem impossible.
Kephyan Sheppard is senior pastor at Word of Life Fellowship Center in Desert Hot Springs.(Photo: Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun)