Surrendering Control When Facing Coronavirus

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series on how to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Come back tomorrow to hear how Christians in the past dealt with similar circumstances, and what God did through it. May the Lord give you grace today, in whatever you’re facing!

I went to hug someone at church this weekend, and she held up her elbow with a smile, saying, “I’m doing elbow bumps today, okay?” I wasn’t offended. I actually thought she was smart—especially when I woke up with a sore throat and headache today.

With my Airborne fizzing beside me, I scrolled the headlines, which mentioned the Coronavirus one after another, and wondered, “Is this sore throat the beginning of the end?”

I’m not generally an anxious person, yet with each new breaking Coronavirus alert, I find myself weighing the “risk” of normal activities, such as going to the grocery store or attending ladies’ Bible study. What if someone near me begins coughing? Worse yet, what if I happen to be in the strike zone of an infected person’s sneeze?

Two Categories to Sort Our Concerns

I’ve found it helpful, when facing out-of-control situations that cause me anxiety, to sort my concerns into two categories:

  1. What I Can Control
  2. What I Cannot Control

What can we control related to the Coronavirus? We can wash our hands. We can use sanitizers and disinfectants. We can boost our immune systems with vitamins and extra sleep. We can stay home when we’re feeling sick and seek the help of medical professionals if our symptoms persist. We can comply with any regulations our governments see fit to put in place.

Those are the things we can control. What about that second category?

Can we control the Coronavirus? Can we control its outbreaks? Do we—as individuals—have ultimate control over what happens or how far this virus spreads? Can we control whether we get sick or the people we love do? No, we can’t.

Yet, here’s what we must remember. Just because we’re not personally in control, it doesn’t mean that God isn’t. Just because we feel like control is slipping from our grasp, it doesn’t mean that even one detail has slipped through the fingers of our all-powerful God. 

Do you find yourself watching the news obsessively? Have you been vigilantly tracking the proximity of the outbreak? Have you bought gallons of sanitizer or washed your hands till they are chapped and bleeding? Have you been pacing at home with your spray bottle of disinfectant rather than going to church or attending Bible study? 

If so, perhaps it’s time to ask. Who are you trusting in? Who do you truly believe is in control? Where does your security lie? In God, or in yourself?

My Happy Ending

When faced with situations that are out of my control, sometimes it’s helpful to consider the “happy ending” I have all worked out in my head.

Without even meaning to, I seem to always be constructing a mental image of how everything is supposed to turn out. And often my urgency over some here-and-now detail is tied to this happy ending I’m clinging to. I feel responsible, somehow, for managing all the contingencies, keeping everyone safe and happy, and making everything turn out right for me and those I love.

Yet control is not a burden that God designed for me to carry. And when I try to, I only make myself and everyone around me miserable. The Bible doesn’t say that I’m to work all things together for good. It promises that God will: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

God’s Version of Good

It’s true that God’s version of good doesn’t always match up with mine. His perspective spans wider and His wisdom runs deeper than anything I could ever fathom. So what He calls “good” might not seem good to me right now. So here’s the question: do I believe that one day it will?

In my book, Control Girl, I wrote,

God is like a brilliant novelist, masterfully twisting together a billion plotlines at once and skillfully moving each part of the storyline toward a conclusion that will be richly satisfying for all. . . . God is doing something good from a 30,000 foot perspective. He is intertwining scenes with more complexity than I could fathom and fashioning the whole story for his purposes. And the Happy Ending God is writing for my family is richer, bigger, and far more satisfying than anything I could ever write for myself.

When I’m feeling anxious or obsessive or even panicky over the details which surround today, I find it helpful to go to the finish line. Will I surrender what my happy ending looks like? Will I trust God with the end of the story?

The Finish Line

Lots of people get to the end of their lives and find that things didn’t turn out as they’d hoped. There were losses and heartaches. There were downturns and struggles. Yet every single person who has trusted in Jesus can look back over her shoulder and say, “God was good to me. I trusted Him, and through it all He was good.” Then as she steps over the finish line, she enters the ultimately happy ending which God has prepared for those who love Him.

If you’re stressed and anxious about the Coronavirus, join me in a self-reflective question: “Am I clinging to my own version of a happy ending, or am I trusting God with how everything turns out?”

Each day—whether foreboding or sunny—God asks us to unclamp our fingers and release our grip on control. He invites us to find the peace, security, and joy that come—not from controlling it all, but from opening our hands in sweet surrender to the One who holds all things together (Col. 1:17). As the news keeps releasing updates, will we be women who exchange hand-wringing for hands lifted in gratitude to our great God who is still on the throne? Will we be women who trust in the Lord rather than ourselves? Will we cling to Truth and invite our friends, neighbors, and loved ones to do the same? 

God is good, and He is in control. May our lives reflect both of these truths today.

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About the Author

Shannon Popkin

Shannon Popkin

Shannon Popkin is happy to be sharing life with her husband, Ken, and together they have the joy of watching their three young-adult kids become the amazing people God created them to be. From the platform, page, and podcast mic, … read more …

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