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.

Twenty Lessons from Twenty Years

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Today begins a new year of life! 365 days have snuck by right under my nose; from late nights caring for sick patients with awesome coworkers, to studying hard for seemingly endless college assignments, this year has been full. As I look back on these past two decades of living, I am so grateful that through every chapter of joy, pain, newness, brokenness, sorrow and sweetness, Jesus has been completely faithful. Especially in the last few years, I find praying through the day is not only a delight, but such a necessity. When another six page essay is due for a humanities class....when there are two thousand photos to be edited...when pro-choice protesters are having panic moments and calling me #allthenames...when a patient is beyond the hope of recovery....in all these moments He has faithfully attended to my prayer. He is able in the moments that seem impossible to us. We don't always see the outcomes we desire, but we have a faithful Savior who has never once failed us, and that is where our hope comes from; not from life going just perfectly at every turn, but in the constancy of my never-changing Savior.

Here are twenty things I've taken away from the last twenty years!

1. Speaking the truth will get you in trouble; it may feel like you're blazing a trail alone, but when we hold to the truth as Scripture has defined it, there is not one moment we walk alone. He is always present and He will sustain us as we seek to share His truth in a world that delights in lies.

2. You will get hate when you choose to speak up for the cause of the unborn, but when I consider the far worse fate the unborn child faces when he or she is aborted, I feel that my own concerns with how much hate I get can be so selfish. Do I care about what it feels like to be dismembered? Do I care about what it's like to have potassium chloride injected into their myocardium (muscle of the heart)? When pondering their pain, the hate I sometimes face is such a small trial considering that I have been given the privilege of being born and not killed in the womb. Thus, I will always keep speaking up. The unborn are worth the challenges of pro-life activism. 

3. The medicine my heart needs when it is broken cannot be prescribed by this world. I need the truth of Scripture that reminds me to cling to the One who is my Rock and my Salvation. After experiencing depression, all I can say is that the world's solutions are so utterly empty, and my need for Christ in every season--seasons of pain, joy, challenge or beauty--is so very great. He is the One who mends broken souls and ministers to the hurting. If we seek Him through the times of trauma and depression, He will draw near to us, even when things feel dark.

4. I can attempt to be a critical thinker and try to discern well, but if I do not go to His word as the highest and greatest authority on all things, I can be certain my judgment will fall short. 

5. So very many friends have proven not to be friends over the years. I can respond to their attitude by being unforgiving and bitter, or by His grace, I can forgive. When cliquey-ness, gossip and slander are more popular than kindness, Jesus is willing to help me rise above and keep showing love even when it hurts my heart. Christ is the friend that still died on the cross for our sin even as we spat in His face and disdained Him. Our God is a friend to us like no other; this is what gives us hope and drives us to keep reaching out after others have been cruel.

6. Sometimes the exact things I say I'll never do is exactly what God may be leading me to do in my life. "I'll never work in health care." "I'll never go to college." Well, younger Cassidy, yes you will.

7. There is abundant purpose in the mundane. From completing another algebraic graphing problem to helping a nurse with a bed change, it can all be done from a heart of worship, if I will intentionally praise Him in the midst of my day-to-day living.

8. God does not give up on me amid my immense need for greater growth. I've always been a perfectionist, and I've come to see that I can have a very worldly view of perfection. Jesus is the only perfect One, and amidst His complete wholeness, He never gives up on the work of His hands, though we are so utterly lacking. My hope is not in my own measure of having it together; I know in my sin that I have nothing to offer my holy God, and yet He loves and pursues me. My hope lies in my perfect God, not in my own success or failure. (Rom. 3:23-26, Ps. 138:7-8, 1 Cor. 1:4-9, 2 Cor. 3:5, Eph. 2:1-10).

9. Sometimes my plans will completely fall apart. Hopes will be dashed sometimes. Life is not always ideal. But God's eternal purpose for me will be achieved, not by my obsessive chasing of goals, but through surrender and trusting the One whose ways are always higher than mine.

10. Community has value; a Biblical theology of community begins with understanding that my desire for friendship first and foremost exists to be satisfied in God. I become a needy friend when I expect people to do for me what only the Savior can. Jesus is the One upon whom I cast all my cares (Ps. 55:22). Jesus is the One who is ever and always with me, wherever I am. When I walk closely with the Savior, I am freed to be a selfless friend who pursues community in a God-glorifying way.

11. Every day is full of necessary to-dos. Do I care enough about my relationship with Christ to prioritize time in the Word and in prayer even when I may be tired from endless homework and night shift living?

12. I care about the theology of the sermons I listen to and the books I read. Do I care about what theology the music I listen to is teaching me? Am I being encouraged to worship myself: "I'm soooo worthy"? Or am I listening to and singing words that exalt my God: "He alone is worthy"?

13. Some fields of health care promote putting your heart in a casket, burying it, and never expressing true compassion to your patients again, but God calls us to share His love. It is not my sweet patients that measure my care for others; it is the difficult, fit-throwing, name-calling, overreacting ones that God uses to reveal if I truly love others selflessly. In the moments of dealing with challenging patients, compassion is still necessary. Compassion may come with calling security or even the police if needed, but nonetheless, I am resolved to intentionally show care to my patients and not self-preserve. 

14. The local body of Christ matters so much. When I first started working night shift, I only went to church if I had Saturday and Sunday night off. Soon I realized if I continued this pattern, I might only make it to church once a month. So with a cup of coffee (or 4) in hand, I began attending almost every Sunday. God used this greatly to grow my walk with Him; even when feeling physically exhausted, I was spiritually strengthened.

15. I serve a God for whom nothing is impossible. When I am willing to pray for the things that may seem impossible from my perspective, sometimes I will get to see God work in ways I couldn't have imagined. It's this belief in God's ability that has led us as sidewalk counselors to pray for women in very challenging circumstances not to end their baby's life through abortion. Several babies have been saved when we refused to give up and kept on praying.

16. No matter what level of growth God brings you to, always maintain an approachable demeanor. To be able to know the God of the universe is so amazing; sometimes as we grow closer to Him, there can be a temptation to act prideful towards those who are not prioritizing their walk with Christ. Remember it was God's kindness that led you to repentance; may we be vessels of His gentleness and humility. Be willing to speak convicting words, but speak that truth in love. (Rom. 2:1-11, Eph. 4:1-25).

17. I do not have to understand God's plan for my life in its entirety. Sometimes I don't know why things are broken, don't go as planned or why certain hopes are never realized, but when my heart aches with uncertainty, I can be anchored to true hope. God never guarantees my dreams will come true, but He promises to be faithful, good, and ever with us. (2 Tim. 2:11-13, Ps. 119:68, Matt. 28:20). 

18. Singleness is such a gift; after briefly being in a relationship then breaking up, I saw in a new way how much God uses this season to allow me to have greater freedom to serve Him with all my heart. Anything He leads me to, by His grace, I can up and do. A drive down the street in the middle of the night to talk to a post-abortive girl who is having an anxiety attack...Heading out of state to assist with girl's ministry for a week...Getting more involved in my unit at work... If I was blessed with a family, I might not be able to do all these things, so for however long this season lasts, I want to keep "up and serving" the One who set my heart to beat.

19. Pain is an excellent teacher; though it's not something we'd prefer to go through in life, pain refines us and helps us put what most matters into perspective. As I look back over the past few years, I am so thankful God saw fit in His sovereignty to allow my heart to break--over situations with friends, family, school, sidewalk counseling, etc. It felt like too much to bear at that time, but in the moments we feel so insufficient to take on one more burden, our hearts find hope in clinging to our strong Savior, who alone gives us the endurance we need to face the trials at hand.

20. Every book of the Bible must matter to the Christian. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers are included; sometimes Christians prioritize reading the New Testament and the book of Psalms, but fail to read the books they may feel are harder to get through. But we know: "Every word of God proves true; He is a Shield to those who take refuge in Him" (Proverbs 30:5). 

....Thanks for sticking with me through these endless random thoughts! In short, life is ever bursting with moments that are sweet, exciting, mundane, painful and sanctifying, but through each hour, Jesus is on the throne. This is where my hope lies now, and for all the rest of the decades of my life (or however long the Lord keeps me here). So we may rejoice, not because life is simply delightful at every moment, but because through each year, we have a greater hope than anything this world can give or take away from us: the Gospel! 

Twenty-one years of living, nine years of walking with Jesus, and so much ahead... No matter what further twists and turns may be sovereignly purposed for my life story, I will have all that I need because Christ is ever present and faithful. 

He who keeps you will not slumber // Psalm 121:3b