Theory vs Practice … in the era of COVID-19

I was reflecting in these past few weeks about the “risk” that as Christians we can face when dealing with uncertainty.
Surely, all of us have heard about the saying “one thing is the theory, but another thing is the practice …” and this is usually referred to the difference between what we study and how reality looks like. For example, when I was studying for my driving license (almost 25 years ago) we were taught that we should always keep both hands on the steering wheel holding the position 22:10 all the time if we wanted to pass the exam, implying that once the exam is passed everyone does as he/she pleases and down the line I can personally relate to what was meant by it.

I think that as believer a further and far more important reflection on the meaning of this way of saying is needed. Since this pandemic of COVID19 has started, on the internet has become more and more common to read in blogs, Christian articles, and similar material about the importance to trust the Lord in all circumstances. Among the passages that are quoted the most, we can find the following three portions of the Bible:

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (ESV).

Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV).

Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known
to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (ESV).

There is no doubt that as Christians we take great comfort in these and other similar promises of the Bible and we know them even by heart, and yet in all honesty I can say that I find myself struggling at times with what those passages imply.

Let us take for example the passage in Philippians and especially the portion that says: “do not be anxious about anything”. We do not need a BA or a PhD in Theology to understand that Paul is guided by the Holy Spirit in exhorting the believers in Philippi not to be anxious about anything, and by this it is clear that the result is that they should conduct a life that is worry free all the time. But, is it possible?
In other words, the Bible clearly tells us that once we have made our requests known to God, we should not worry anymore but instead have the peace that comes directly from God and that surpasses all understanding guarding our hearts and minds. An implication of this, of course, is that it is understood that we cast our burdens to God knowing and believing that He will deal with them. I do not know you, but again at times when facing difficulties, I find myself praying, committing my requests to God and after a while noticing that my mind is going back and thinking over the request again wondering if and how God will intervene.

Many times, we can easily be like Peter while walking on the waters: he was actually walking on water (something outside of the ordinary … like in a certain sense it is meant for living a worry-free kind of life) when instead to keep looking and trusting Jesus he started to look at the circumstances around him and as a result he sunk. For us nowadays the risk is exactly the same: we might have lost our job, or being put in furlough, our health might be deteriorating, a friend of ours is struggling in hospital due to the virus, loved ones are not doing well and so on, and our eyes shifts like those of Peter from the Solution (God) to the issue, and therefore not fully believing on the Word.

The challenge therefore for all of us is how do we react in these circumstances? These are good tests to evaluate if indeed we believe “in practice” what the Bible says. Moreover, it is worth noticing in the passage in Philippians that we are looking at, that the action of not worrying is posted as a command meaning that not doing it (that is to be anxious), is ultimately a sin.

Said all that, what would be the solution to this? How can we live a worry-free life? Of course, the first thing to do is to keep repenting every time we sin and fall into the temptation of shifting our eyes from Jesus “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 – ESV) to the problem as an act of disbelief, and secondly by following the suggestion found in Romans 12:2 that is to “be transformed by the renewal of our mind” (ESV).

Let us go a step further then: how do we renew our mind? Simply: through the Word of God! By reading and meditating on it. I am persuaded that the main problem of the Church at large today is that we do not know God as we ought to. We take Him for granted and we depict Him in our small-minded heads according to our level of knowledge of the “subject”, forgetting to be blown away by the revelation of Him found in the Scripture. Indeed, are not few the instances where the Bible teaches us that God is omnipresent (we cannot hide from Him), He is omniscient (He knows everything), He is all powerful, He is good (showing mercy, grace, love and kindness), and so on. Jesus Himself spoke about the role and importance of Scripture to know Him in John 5:39. By reading the Bible our faith will be, as a result, increased because we will see in it Who God is and that truly He cares for us and is for us.

In conclusion, I would like to exhort and challenge all of us to get to know the Lord more and more. By reading Church history we find that every “great” man of God has never said to be arrived to know God in full, but as Paul says: “ For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 – ESV).

God bless you and go and live a worry-free life, in the precious Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Article by Giuseppe Laporta