Countless establishments have closed their doors in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Churches have not been immune to the widespread closures, and Christians have not been immune to the fear or worry that COVID-19 has caused. However, according to many, fear has not triumphed over their faith in God.
Aaron Dykstra is a Christian and a registered nurse who currently works in the emergency department at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, San Diego. He’s seen the COVID-19 crisis unfold firsthand, and — being a Highly Infectious Disease Committee and Task Force member — he’s been preparing for the virus to penetrate San Diego county for longer than most.
“I first heard about the ‘Novel Wuhan Coronavirus’ back in the beginning of January during a briefing from one of the infectious disease specialists at my hospital,” Dykstra said via text message. “I started to think that COVID-19, as the disease is now known, would be a real problem here in San Diego mid-February, when we started to see rapid worldwide spread of the virus.”
Even as the pandemic was developing in Asia, and before the virus reached Washington state, the reality of the situation hit Dykstra close to home.
“My immediate emotional response was one of anxiety, wondering how my Emergency Room would be directly influenced by the virus,” Dykstra said. “The ER at Sharp Grossmont in La Mesa is already one of the busiest emergency departments in all of Southern California, and I immediately felt concern over how a new influx of patients would change my day to day life at work and my ability to provide care to people when they need it most.”
Angelica Almonte, who was a Navy nurse for 25 years but now works as a full-time nursing professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, had concerns early on, as well. She stayed informed on the issue and watched it evolve in China before COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic.
The real worries came when her mother (who is in her 80s) and sister (who is in her 50s) traveled to the Philippines in February. With few restrictions on travel at the time and more information about the contagious nature of the disease, Almonte thought that the novel coronavirus could affect her family, and possibly even the whole world.
By the time California started taking measures to address COVID-19’s incursion on the West Coast, she began to worry for her students and colleagues.
“The nursing students were still out there as nurses aids, so I was worried about that and their own care and their own health,” Almonte said. “My nursing friends and colleagues and some of our adjunct faculty have been working beyond their 12 hour shifts to 16 hour shifts sometimes. They’ve been on the forefront of this.”
Her initial reaction was fear, but Almonte didn’t sit there for very long.
“Whenever you stay in that fear, you can’t function,” Almonte said. “When you’re worried over burdens like that you just have to go to the Lord.”
She said that God’s promises about his salvation and his sovereignty as well as his fulfillment of those promises in the past brought her comfort.
“The Easter message still rang true on Sunday and really it still rings true,” Almonte said. “We know the end of the story, and He wins.”
When he first started dealing with concerns about the coronavirus in his workplace, Dykstra said he also relied on God’s promises to quell his fears.
“I immediately needed to remind myself that my God is in control and that this virus did not catch him by surprise,” Dyktsra said. “Reminding myself of these truths brought my heart peace.”
Ashlyn Gilbertson, junior applied health science major and certified nursing assistant at Balboa Nursing and Rehab, said that her faith played a huge role in dealing with the pandemic in her personal life and said that the whole situation has brought her closer to God.
“I was actually really relaxed when I first found out and even now,” Gilbertson said via text message. “I don’t want to live in fear, so I think it’s important to look to God especially during this time.”
Though she said her spirituality has been a crucial factor in her response to COVID-19 and California’s stay-at-home order, Almonte emphasizes the importance of a “holistic reaction.”
“Both [faith and science] are able to help us during this difficult time,” she said. According to Almonte, Christians should keep up-to-date with reliable health information.
“Let’s do some smart things and then also [be] praying— praying for people that are on the frontlines, praying for the nations and the leaderships that have faced this, and really just giving it up to the Lord,” Almonte said.
Dykstra added that Christians especially should honor the mandates of governmental leaders in response to this global crisis.
“Despite our feelings and thoughts toward any one leader or group of leaders, we are called to honor them as God-given authority,” Dykstra said. “For those under a stay-at-home order, please follow these regulations for your safety, for those around you, and for those essential workers that cannot stay home during this time.”
Gilbertson wanted to encourage fellow Christians that, even though it can be difficult, they are not alone during this time.
“My prayers go out to those who have suffered or passed from the virus but I know that we can get through this as a community and come together again,” Gilbertson said. “It’s important to take a leap of faith.”