“When the news about the Coronavirus outbreak started to come out, I was 32 weeks [pregnant]. I was still working at that time, and a lot of things were running through my mind.”
Becoming a first-time mom was nerve-racking already for Adelfa Manguit. But the thought of starting that journey in the middle of a pandemic seemed terrifying.
“Being pregnant, my immune system was compromised, and with the little knowledge we know about the Coronavirus and the risks to pregnant individuals, it was scary.”
But she wasn’t alone in feeling scared.
In March, when news about the spread of the coronavirus intensified, so did searches about prayers.
And with uncertainty spreading just as quickly as the virus, many people were left wondering how you cope with something that feels entirely out of your hands.
Searching for answers in prayer
Maybe you tried Googling for answers? You’re not alone. According to Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, the executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, “Search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”
But people aren’t just searching about prayer, they’re praying. According to a survey done by Pew Research, 55% of Americans have prayed for the end of COVID.
Among those praying to end COVID were individuals who said they either seldom or never prayed before the pandemic, as well as people who say they do not belong to any religion.
Along with searches about prayer, the popular Bible app YouVersion saw spikes for searches for “fear not” by 299%. The coronavirus has made many rethink aspects of their life, including their belief in God and the Bible.
“I started by searching for a question I never really considered before: ‘Why does God let us feel pain?’ This is something I never considered during the blessedly few and far between moments when I was truly sick, but as this virus is happening on a global scale, I needed answers,” said Patricia Johnson, who identifies herself as a moderate Christian.
During times of uncertainty, as humans, we tend to look for answers. We look for a greater understanding of why things are happening. Many find themselves looking to God for answers. Researchers saw this type of renewed religious commitment in the aftermath of 9/11 and often during times of natural disasters.
This coronavirus pandemic was no different.
“I never really thought much about my belief in God until this pandemic hit, and then I wondered – ‘Why would a supposedly benevolent being allow something like this to happen? What could possibly be the purpose?’” – Patricia.
The pandemic shattered routines and normal lives in a way no one ever expected, leaving many in search of answers and reason.
“Literally, every aspect of our lives had to change so drastically and so fast.” – Madane Bastero, a stay at home mom from Kent, Washington a city just outside of Seattle, where the first outbreak in the US took hold.
As a member of the Church Of Christ, Madane and her family turned to the one place they knew they could find answers.
Finding Answers in A World Lacking Certainty
Twice a week members of the Church Of Christ gather for worship, and to hear God’s words written in the Bible. And while the pandemic disrupted every aspect of their lives, including their ability to gather together in the Iglesia Ni Cristo worship buildings, the ability to listen to God’s teachings twice a week was not disrupted.
It was the one sure thing worshippers like Madane could rely on.
“To be able to still worship, even if it’s at home, gave a sense of normalcy even just for a short moment.”
Even for Adelfa, who was admitted into the hospital twice before giving birth the week the state of Florida went into lockdown, the worship service was the one thing that kept her calm during an already rocky time.
Each time she was admitted, she prayed to be discharged just in time for the worship service, which illustrates just how important it was for her and her husband especially during this time to hear God’s words.
“It is so essential for us to receive God’s words because it is through His words that we obtain the hope and peace that we need. We can gain the strength and fortified faith to face whatever trials and hardships in this life. We are reminded of His promises that in difficult times His love and His protection will keep us safe.
For Richard Carr, a grandfather from Seattle who still had to go into the office during the shutdown, the worship service served as a beacon of hope as the rising death rate in the US left little to be hopeful for.
“Every worship service has a very timely message, and even though we were not at the chapel, where we painfully longed to be, the message was not only comforting, but it was a joy to be able to listen to God’s words.” – Richard Carr, Seattle, Washington.
And for Jennifer Polintan from Rockland, New York, who saw almost every member in her family test positive with the coronavirus, the worship service was not just a source of hope, but something that bound her family together, despite being physically apart, especially when her 76- year old father was rushed to the hospital.
“Being able to connect with the worship services is tremendous. Knowing that they were in the hospital they were still able to hear the words of God and were connected through the preaching.”
Jennifer’s father recovered after being on a ventilator for 12 days. Other members of her family recovered as well. Unfortunately, her mother-in-law who also contracted the virus passed away.
But the same way the words of God gave them the strength to face the sickness, it was God’s words that gave her and her family comfort during their time of grief.
“There’s going to be good and there’s going to be bad. But it’s always a test of faith. I remember one of the lessons we heard, that this was a test. This was only going to make us stronger.”
What she [my mother-in-law] leaves behind to us is her faith, her legacy. She said [to us] “ I will fight but it’s not as I will but as God wills… That’s what I’m going to remember. And that’s what I want my children to remember when they wonder why this is happening.”
These individuals are like many around the world facing the uncertainty of this pandemic.
Parents trying to homeschool their kids during the pandemic. Grandparents who hoped to spend time watching their grandchildren grow up. People scared to go out because they live in a hot zone. New parents, scared of the prospect of bringing their kids in the world.
And while these ordinary people struggle with the same feelings of loss and grief, the words of God they received during the worship service offers a certainty they could not find anywhere else.
“Worshipping God gives us a sense of security and assurance that, although we can only do so much, God can do so much more.” – Madane
Preparing for the future: An opportunity to change
According to the American Enterprise Institute, 37% of Americans who believe in God say the coronavirus outbreak has made them feel closer to God. But the same researchers aren’t sure how long this renewed religious commitment will last, or if it’s just a human reaction to the uncertainty they’re feeling right now.
As restrictions begin to relax and people work towards recovering some sense of normal life, we’re already seeing searches for prayer level off after spiking in March and April.
Yet, ask anyone around, there are still a lot of unknowns out there.
Is there a way to guarantee that this will be the last pandemic we face? Will the economy bounce back? What will the future look like for you? How will our new normal look like a year from now? Even as we write this, a new type of unrest is taking over the headlines.
While no one can answer these questions with 100% assurance, the words of God can help us face these unknowns and whatever else the future holds, knowing you have the ultimate guide directing your life.
Why do we feel such strength and comfort as we offer worship? Jesus said this:
That’s how Madane is making it through. She is thankful for the preparation she receives in the worship service for whatever may come up next in our very uncertain future.
“Thinking back to the [Biblical] lessons before this all took place, they were all so timely. I know there is no such thing as coincidence, I know God was preparing us for this. I also knew that the [Biblical] lessons being taught during these times will address the things we are experiencing and that’s exactly how it’s been.
The [Biblical] lessons have made it “easy” to live through all this scary stuff. I didn’t need to search anywhere else outside the [Biblical] teachings of God taught during the worship services.”
Is this a wake-up call and who is it for?
Some say that this pandemic is a wake-up call—an opportunity for us to reassess our lives and the paths we’re taking. If you’ve gotten this far, perhaps the wake-up call is for you?
Perhaps you’re looking for a way to prepare for the next crisis that comes your way. It doesn’t even have to be another pandemic, a natural disaster, or something big. There are so many difficult things to face in life, perhaps next time you won’t have to go through it alone.
If you’re ready to find out how learning God’s words can help you face whatever life will bring, get in touch with us on incmedia.org, and let’s talk about it.
About the Writer:
This blog was co-written by Renezen Benedicto with biblical support by Bob Pellien, a minister of the gospel of the Church Of Christ.