We’re well into our second month of COVID-related fallout and we’re just starting to grapple with the economic implications of our efforts to flatten the curve. If you’re grappling with the financial impact of this virus, you’re not alone. My goal today is to help you think about what the future holds.
HOW DO THE NUMBERS ADD UP?
First, let’s look at the numbers, which are startling. On Friday, April 17, Statistics Canada estimated a 9% decline in Canada’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product—a measure of the value of everything the economy produces) in March, the largest monthly increase since they started tracking back in 1961.
According to the government of Canada, 6.73 million people have applied for some kind of aid through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, with over $19 billion of benefits paid as of April 19, 2020. Canada’s unemployment rate surged to 7.8% in March, and the April numbers are expected to be worse.
None of that is good news.
But here’s the thing: a great deal has been sacrificed, but those sacrifices have made a difference. Compared to other countries, Canada’s rate of COVID deaths is very low: 47.3 deaths per million population as of April 21. As a comparison, the US is at 129 deaths per million, the UK is at 248, Italy is at 399, and Belgium (Belgium?!) leads the way at 510.
Here in BC, 86 people have died from COVID. In Ontario the number is 622, and in Quebec it’s 1041 (as of April 21).
What we’re doing is working. And it’s critically important that we keep that in mind.
That’s the cost and the benefit broadly. But if you’re someone who’s struggling to figure out how to pay your bills right now, knowing that our pandemic isn’t as bad as it could have been is likely cold comfort. Saved lives don’t pay bills.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If your personal finances have been hard hit by COVID, it’s important that you take advantage of the various programs the government is rolling out to address the damage, and that you keep yourself informed as those programs expand.
It’s also really important to avoid going down the road of worst-case scenarios right now. I know it’s hard. But it’s a choice you can make, and it’s the only choice that will help you get through.
At this point, there are still far more questions than there are answers, and that uncertainty is compounding with all the rest of the uncertainty we’re feeling right now, swirling into an uncertainty vortex, which, paradoxically, we’re certain is going to end in the worst possible outcome that we can conceive in our minds.
It might. But it might not. The truth is that it’s way too early right now to come to any conclusions about what the future holds. So, what do you do?
HEED THESE PROMISES
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve been given many opportunities to put our theology to the test in ways that we’ve never had to before, and this is yet another of those opportunities. And, as it turns out, the Bible has a few things to say about this situation; the question is whether we’ll let the Holy Spirit speak through the Word of God and address the turmoil in our hearts.
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 6.
That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you’ve heard those words before. You might even have memorized them. You’ve been comforted by them at various points in your life, but you’re now realizing that comfort has come from your ability to think about them abstractly.
It’s easy to agree with Jesus when he says not to worry about everyday life when you don’t really have to worry about everyday life. But now that your self-sufficiency has been taken away, how much do you actually believe what Jesus says?
WALK THE WALK
Now is the time to allow Jesus’ words to sink deeply into your spirit. Now is the time to press into the goodness of the Father, who, as Jesus says, knows all your needs.
You are a child of God, bought with a price, redeemed by the blood of Jesus and declared to be righteous before the Father thanks to the imputed righteousness of Jesus.
It’s not that you shouldn’t care about your life and the requirements thereof. That would be foolish. You should be prudent and take advantage of the various measures intended to ease the financial burden you’re feeling right now.
But when those measures prove to be insufficient, where will you turn? Will you turn inward, allowing your anxieties to overwhelm you? Or will you turn heavenward, to our gracious and compassionate God who clothes the lilies and feeds the sparrows?
Seek first the kingdom. Be the disciple that Jesus is calling you to be. Allow the Spirit to give his peace to your heart.
And, in so doing, learn, as the apostle Paul did, to be content in every situation. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
May you rest in his strength alone.