A Little Guide for Discerning COVID-19 and Other Small Topics

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Do you ever take an earful of the news into your mind and feel a bit disturbed these days? I know I do. I was floated to a different unit than I typically work in recently, and nearly every patient seemed to have alarmist news channels on their TV. It's crazy; I've had the privilege of working in critical care during the pandemic, and I can tell you that didn't freak me out the way the news sometimes does.

How can we know if we're being fear mongered or being provided with accurate stories and data?

I am here to challenge you not to mindlessly swallow whatever the media is attempting to force-feed you. Spit it out a second. What is in there? What are you being told? Where did this data come from?

You don't have to be an expert to research and draw a conclusion!

I may not be an epidemiologist, intensivist, or even yet have my college degree, but I have a few key things:

1. Eyes to See

I can observe what is happening around me; I can read research.

2. A Mind to Think

I can critically examine data I find. What are the stats? How have health systems, countries and communities responded to COVID-19? What did they do well? What do I believe they could have done better?

3. Available Information

Lots of data about the coronavirus is available not merely to experts, but to the public. What information am I consuming? Only news from journalists, or do I read the data directly from the source?

If you are in college, you have access to Proquest. You can also use Google Scholar. Read the data with your own two eyes, and ask some questions:

-What is the credential of this researcher? Are they a doctor, nurse practitioner, epidemiologist?

-Do they in any way monetarily or politically benefit from the conclusion they have drawn? (We see this happening in major news sources regularly).

-Everyone has biases. What biases may this researcher have?

-What is the data saying? What is an appropriate response to the data?

How can I apply this to the coronavirus?

Begin with recognizing that you do not have to be an expert in the field of infectious disease or critical care to think about and study COVID-19.

1. I can use my eyes to see -- What am I observing? What is happening around me? I can use my eyes to look at data.

2. I can use my mind to think -- Have I attempted to critically examine what is going on around me? What are the stats? How have health systems, countries and communities responded? What did they do well? What could have been done differently?

3. I can examine available information -- COVID data is not a hallmark preserved only for epidemiologists and intensivists; there is a lot of information available to the public. What information am I consuming? Where are these sources from? Be wary of drawing conclusions solely on reports from journalists who only share their personal interpretation of the data, rather than putting the data itself before your own eyes.

Dear Christian, this is especially for you; do not forget that we are not promised a disease-free, comfortable life as believers. Remember that we live in a world that delights in lies. Are you actively using your own mind to study, try cultural trends, and cling to Biblical truth? Do not be easily tricked into the manipulation of information, fear-mongering, and peer-pressing happening each and every day through these current events. By God's grace, I will not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of my mind (Rom. 12:10).

I encourage you not to be one of the people who embraces a lofty, nasty attitude. I've seen so much of this; we will vary on our conclusions on what was done well and what went way wrong in response to COVID, but we know that God has called us to walk in love and humility toward one another.

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through Him" (Colossians 3:12-17).

Resolve not to cave to hateful assumptions, hushed gossip, or unnecessary arguing. Use your mind for God's glory, refuse to be conformed merely for the sake of acceptance, and dare to think! Don't look back on the post-shut-down days and see that you weren't purposeful. Make intentional choices about what media you consume and create. Do not numb your mind for the sake of pleasing those around you; rise above that temptation.

"For you are children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ [...] Test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:5:-9, 21-22).

Live for Christ indefinitely! Nothing matters more in this life than to know Jesus; our godless society may mock our nonconformity to the simplistic conclusions of this world, but at the end of the day, I will give report to God--not my peers--for the life I have lived (Matt. 12:33-37, Rom. 14:10-12). 

As previously stated, I am not arguing that all Christians will conclude in the same manner about the pandemic. With the wonderful way God has created so many unique minds, I'm certain different individuals will raise distinct concerns, ideas, and interpretations of the data. But how much better it is, by His grace, to use the minds He has given us for His glory, seeking to discern these troubled times rather than to bow our heads and mindlessly accept whatever voice in our culture currently screams the loudest. I will not live that way; perhaps more than any other time in history, we have so much information and data before us, waiting to be sorted through and discerned by a mind in which Christ is exalted as the greatest thinker of all time. 

God is all wise, and as we cry out to Him for help to make sense of how to best live for His glory in a mightily ungodly culture, He will guide us. Drench your heart in His word. Love Scripture more than all the data, all the books, and all the research; ultimately, there is no higher authority on anything than the Author of our existence. No one better grasps infectious disease processes, the economic ramifications of the shutdown, prevention of viruses, or living in a polarized society. God is not absent through these odd times; He is with us; He knows all the answers. As we are baffled by our own lack of knowledge, we find comfort for our souls in knowing the Omniscient One who is never taken aback by any tumultuous event our world ever faces. 

In summary, jump in! Discern, think, study, and read for yourself on the topic of COVID-19, but don't stake your hope on the things you learn or conclusions you draw. Primarily look to Christ, remembering we are only temporarily dwelling on this earth and will someday go home where our true citizenship lies: in heaven. If all the data told me I have a 110% chance of dying of the coronavirus today, in no way has my hope been taken away, for my soul is in the hands of the One who created the world and intimately knows every microorganism at such a level of comprehension that is untouchable to even the greatest scientists of the world.

Rise up, my friend. Think well, and love Christ most of all.

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