Facing Uncertainty: Holy Week and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jesus alone in the garden
Artwork by Nebiyu Assefa

The season of Lent, Holy Week and Easter are the most holy days on the Christian calendar. However, the coronavirus pandemic took center stage and distracted many of us – and rightly so. Many of us have never faced a pandemic or the shut down everything. No work. No school. No dining out. No congregating, and no church. These are indeed unprecedented times. The pandemic is also wreaking much havoc in people’s lives. Everyday I read posts on social media about people who’ve lost their parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling, friend or pastor from the coronavirus. And not only is this virus extremely deadly, but it is equally contagious, forcing some to die alone and isolated from their loved ones. The nature of the coronavirus and the kind of death it causes have made many people anxious and afraid, and to make matters worse, officials say this week, Holy Week, will probably be the deadliest week.

We are facing a lot of uncertainty, and as a result, a lot of fear. We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Ironically, Holy Week is when Jesus faced this same valley. During this time, Jesus’ earthly ministry was coming to an end, and he was quickly marching towards his divine purpose – death on the cross. As believers, we are supposed to reflect on Jesus’ last week and all he experienced. I’ve learned that you can’t really grasp certain things unless you experience them yourself. Oftentimes, we just cannot put ourselves into another person’s shoes. I couldn’t conceive of the grief people experience after losing a loved one until I experienced it myself. Before my first husband died, I didn’t know that 2, 3, 4, or 5 years could go by and the pain could still be substantial. In the same way, many of us have never faced death. Most of the time we think we’re invincible. Some of us don’t even want to talk about death or have important conversations about life insurance, estate planning, and the like. Because of this, many of us could not relate to the angst Jesus faced heading to Calvary. However, here we are, facing death, and it’s finally real for us. Any of us, young, old, rich, poor, black or white, could be taken away in the matter of days. Now, it’s real for a lot of us. The coronavirus is teaching us to “number our days” as the scripture says in Psalm 90:12.

However, despite what is happening all around us in the physical world, there is much more happening in the spirit. I believe God is using this pandemic to humble and mature us. He’s maturing us because our faith is being test. God is shaking our foundations, and anything that we’ve built our lives upon is crumbling. God is humbling us because he’s showing us that our lives are but a vapor and that our fate is literally in His hands. We are not in control. We are not as powerful as we thought. One small and invisible virus can bring every nation to its knees. God is showing us our humanity. From dust we were created and to dust we shall return.

“It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statutes”—Psalm 119:71 (NRSV).

Jesus came face-to-face with all of this too. Jesus knew his time was short and that he would be betrayed into the hands of the officials. In fact, he became so distraught that he prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to take the cup or his destiny away from him. The Son…of God…had to pray three times in order to face Calvary. Isn’t that something? It’s early in the week, and Jesus doesn’t get to the garden until later, but we can learn a lot from his experience. We can learn how to find our strength in the midst of this pandemic.

Where can you find strength?

Jesus prays three times in Matthew 26:36-46. He found the strength to face the cross through prayer. That’s where we can find our strength. You know, on social media, prayer has become kind of a joke because Conservative Christians have hijacked Christianity in the media and politicized it, so whenever a mass shooting or tragedy occurs and the GOP fails to do any tangible thing about it, people mock them by saying “thoughts and prayers.” It infers that prayer is useless. However, prayer is one of the most powerful weapons in the believer’s arsenal. You know we are in spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4-6). We gain supernatural strength to face anything when we go to God in prayer. Do you believe in the supernatural? I do because when I was 7-months pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy, at the same time, the mom of an autistic, nonverbal toddler, and my husband had just died, I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me when I cried out to God. I could literally feel my help come. That is how I made it through those days. That is how I am making it through these days. God hears the cries of His children, and God answers them.

And as Matthew 26 teaches us, we can pray as many times as necessary to get the strength we need to face the fear and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. If Jesus needed to pray three times, why do we get upset with ourselves because we still feel afraid or anxious after the first time we pray? Follow Jesus’ example and extend grace to yourself. A mindfulness practitioner taught me that I shouldn’t be “violent” with myself because I fall short of my expectations. Pray as much as you need to until you feel your help come or the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will make his presence known. Prayer helps you to tap into the spiritual realm. Everything we need exists and is available to us in the spirit. Strength, peace, healing, hope, joy, calm, boldness. It’s there waiting for us. Use prayer in this season to make it through. God will meet you in that secret place.

Jesus’ betrayal
Artwork by Nebiyu Assefa

I know things are scary right now. However, God wants to teach us something. Use this Holy Week and this pandemic to reflect on Jesus. Think about the fear, anxiety, and trepidation Jesus faced, but then remember the power and strength he received from God to see his purpose through until the end. Don’t get bogged down by the fact that Jesus died. Resurrection is on the other side. In other words, there will be glory after this. It’s the same for this coronavirus pandemic. There will be glory after this. Believe it, receive it, and declare it.

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