Kelly Madden, Director of the Boston Fellows and member of the Church of the Cross, is our guest blogger this week. Kelly has a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a PhD in Political Theory from the University of York, England. He is the husband of Heather, the father of two adult children, Alex and Kathryn, and an ordained Anglican clergyman. Kelly reflects on the experiences in his life during times of crisis – Read below to hear his wisdom and advice on how Christians can faithfully endure the current COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 16, 1990, I was sitting in an easy chair in the marble-lined lobby of an international hotel in Manila, Philippines, when someone behind me shook my chair. Turning around, I realized no one was there. The whole hotel was shaking. Out on the street I watched a large crack open up, bottom-to-top, 15 stories up the side of the building. The earthquake killed 1,600 people in the country. I was soon given responsibility for a global conference of 600 people, the reason we were there, and I was named to the leadership team for a summer-long series of events bringing together about 4,000 Cru staff members from around the globe. It was also an unusually strong season of typhoons. And before any of that, we were receiving death threats from a radical group, because of our evangelistic activities.
On March 25, 1991, I returned from a ministry trip to my home, then in Mali, West Africa. As my colleague drove me home from the airport, we saw burning cars and tires, and smoldering buildings, with debris from rioting scattered along the road. That night the military (justly) overthrew a tyrannical dictator. We could hear mobs tearing down the house of the Minister of Education, about 100 meters away, stripping even the copper wire from the walls. For a few weeks, the rule of law broke down. Some time in the next few days, on my 10-minute walk to work, I passed a body in the marketplace, killed during related rioting. My immediate supervisor was a prominent African pastor, soon named to a seven-member national transitional committee, responsible for ushering in a new form of government.
Several times in the late 1980’s, while I was responsible for a university ministry in Dakar, Senegal, students fought skirmishes with police, who used teargas, and eventually evacuated the campus by force, for several periods of several weeks each. Then from 1990 to 1994, I supervised university ministries in 15 countries, where national crises such as these were common.
All that was another season in my life. But I’ve been reflecting on the lessons learned then, for this new season. Maybe these observations are obvious. But maybe they can serve to “comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
- It’s a spiritual battle, too. Don’t be like me and wait until you see arrows sticking out of your body before you realize it. God is a God of order, Satan is a god of chaos. The devil’s biggest tool—maybe his only power, in the end—is deception. He is lying to you, constantly, about God’s goodness, God’s love for you, care for you, power to accomplish his purposes for you. Resist the enemy. As Jesus did, during his time in the wilderness, strike back at Satan with God’s Word: “It is written….” Proclaim it, out loud, in Jesus’ name, in bold denunciation of Satan’s lies.
- This too shall pass. All that we see is passing. We are mortal: Dust we are and to dust we shall return. God and his Word endures, our hope is in things we do not see. Beyond death is the Resurrection, death overcome by death. That is our end, our hope, our joy.
- For now, don’t plan too far out. I’m always tempted to come up with a big strategy. It’s good to think and dream. But in these times, take next steps, mostly, and be here, now. Life is what happens while you are waiting for life to happen.
- Be gentle with yourself. It’s stressful. Your productivity and capacity are greatly reduced. That’s just the way it is right now. Accept it.
- Give yourself godly structure, and stick to it. Establish order, under God, for your life: Daily time with the Lord, working hours, exercise, healthy eating, worthwhile leisure, plenty of rest and margins. But be flexible, too, when things change. When things change.
- Take care of each other. Despite the difficulties of connecting, this is an opportunity to grow in love, through shared challenges.
- Stay away from trouble. American friends and family, who knew about my circumstances in the periods described above, often expressed concern. I told them: I’m safer here than I would be in parts of your city. There is no safer place than in God’s will. Just stay away from obvious trouble.
- Keep your sense of humor. I have a life-long interest in the humor of the Bible. It’s there, if you have eyes to see it. To see the humor in our situation is to see our limitations, and weaknesses, and failures, but also to honor God’s grace, and the safety it gives us. Just don’t use humor to hurt others. Godly humor is another way to defy the devil’s lies.