“They will be in despair, and all the workers will be sick at heart.” (Isaiah 19:10, NLT)
It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Few people would dispute the wisdom of this advice, recognizing that if you can prevent a problem with a little effort in the beginning rather than spend a great deal of effort attempting to correct the problem later.
The question that we are confronting now is not about the efficacy of an ounce of prevention, but about the impact of several trillion dollars’ worth of prevention, not to mention unprecedented restrictions. A quick search reveals countless articles linking Franklin’s axiom with the COVID-19 pandemic, but we did not find a link to suggest that you could have too much prevention.
Actions have consequences, some of them intended, but often unintended or even unanticipated consequences arise. While it might be possible to estimate the economic impact of the present situation, can we really get an accurate measurement of the emotional, physical, and even spiritual impact that is occurring during this time?
We should be asking questions such as this: “How can we identify and minister to those who are in despair or ‘sick at heart’ because they lost their job?” “What about those who are in danger of alcohol or substance abuse?” “What impact is the quarantine shut down having on domestic violence?” Although we have applied preventative measures targeting the pandemic, the collateral damage, and casualties from the unintended consequences could even be greater.
From a pastoral perspective, ministering to the needs of our congregations and communities can be challenging, but in a time of quarantine and “social distancing”, the task is even more daunting. These are issues that are more effectively addressed face-to-face rather than over the telephone or even a video conference call. One thing is certain, there is no single template or formula that will work to cover the wide variety of problems that are likely to arise from these “unintended consequences.”
There are answers to be found: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5, NLT). Since we are confronted by circumstances unlike anything that most of us have ever faced before, doesn’t it make sense to ask for wisdom from the one who knows the answers? The one thing that we all know is this, even if we cannot minister in the same way that we have been doing, we can count on God to make a new way.
“But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.” (Jude 20–22, NLT)