A newsletter that I subscribe to recently drew my attention to this article about “man-flu.” If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s used to describe the way in which men’s response to illness is more exaggerated than what you see in women. And men do, in fact, report greater severity of symptoms and longer recovery times than women. But is that because women are stoic and better at enduring pain, or do men experience illness differently?
Increasingly the evidence is suggesting that the difference has to do with testosterone and the way that it suppresses antibody response. It seems that the flu (and many other respiratory illnesses) might actually hit men harder.
But why? Scientists are always keen to find the evolutionary angle that could account for a development like this and the prevailing hypothesis is that, at a time when the stakes were generally higher, a man who was keenly aware of how a virus had him at a disadvantage would be more likely to stay by the fire than take the huge risk of going on a bear hunt or picking a fight with another man. Engaging in competitive, violent, and physically demanding activities when you are sick can lead to disaster.
And if this is true about testosterone, it makes as much sense to attribute that feature to the wisdom of a good Creator as to the blind machinations of evolution. So the next time I’m sick I can be a real baby about it and expect for the women in my life to care for me, and if they don’t like it they can take it up with the God who made me, right? Maybe not.
But what does all of this have to do with church?
This is some of what Jesus was getting at when he said that his followers had to be people who “counted the cost.” And being disciplined to count the cost before undertaking something is only helpful if you are accurate in counting the cost. The Russian leadership undoubtedly did an assessment of its strength and of Ukraine's strength before launching an unprovoked attack. But it’s also evident that it did not really understand its own strength relative to that of its opponents or it would have made different decisions than the decisions it made in those fateful days in February.
Feeling the symptoms of the virus is uncomfortable. Not feeling those symptoms is disastrous.
We hate, as a church, to be laid low and to feel that the gap between our capacity and our gospel aspirations is too wide to leap across. We want to pick a fight with the forces of darkness in our community, when sometimes it’s all we can do to pull off a successful worship service in the controlled environment of the sanctuary. When chafing at our limitations it is important to remember that the virus is a problem but that the symptoms are a matter of grace.
Yesterday we were horrified by the news of another school shooting in Texas. And the gut-wrenching sadness of it was immediately compounded by all of the political noise around it. People wasted no time using the event as a hammer for driving the nail of their preferred policy deeper into the "discourse" and offers of "thoughts and prayers" were angrily rejected as being insufficient or hypocritical. It's bad enough that we have to grieve; worse yet that we must face judgment for how we do so. Did you say too much or too little? Was it too public or too private? Were you virtue signaling? Are you permitted even to care if you are not falling along the correct political lines? It's hard.
And the temptation can be to compartmentalize your grief and to hide from it all.
Biblical Response to Tragedy
As an alternative to the exhausting way of the world, we’d like to offer you this biblical approach to responding to tragedy.
1. Mourn. It’s a verb, something that you do, and not just a matter of feeling sad. Matthew 5:4, Ecclesiastes 7:2
2. Leave everything private that can safely remain that way. 1 Thessalonians 4:11
3. Say everything that you need to say and nothing that you don’t.
It is a great temptation in the face of tragedy to respond verbally, and some things need to be said. But even the best words do less good than ill-considered words do harm. James 1:19
4. Don’t look for or accept short cuts and easy answers. Nothing good comes of trying to make short what God left long, or easy what God has permitted to be hard. The valley of the shadow of death is, indeed, long and difficult to traverse, but we have a good traveling companion. Psalm 23
5. Your grief can rot into injury or ripen into resolve. Carefully manage your grief, exposing it to the light of the Lord, to see it mature into a greater resolve to bring about the Kingdom of God, the place where the “shalom,” the peaceful, right-ordering of things prevails under God’s lordship.
6. Pray to God and for God. No grief touches us but that it grieves him also. He does not need us and he does not suffer from lack of our prayer. But he loves us and when we pray about a tragedy we have the opportunity to acknowledge the way in which sin and its direct and indirect effects have touched his Father’s heart. This is the spirit in which many of the Psalms might be prayed.
7. Let grace prevail. Look for opportunities to extend and receive grace. The impulse to publicly demonstrate your concern can run contrary to the interests of grace.
God bless you as you process this most recent tragedy and as you brace yourself for enduring the next one. Our prayer is that you not only experience grace and healing, but that you would become an agent of grace and healing in your community.
With news this morning that Roe v Wade might finally be overturned we are bracing ourselves for another convulsion of the endless culture wars, And who feels up for that? Who is so well rested and fortified with strength as to be eager for the fray.
Those of us who believe that unborn babies should have a chance at living and thriving and those of us who believe that Roe was always bad on its constitutional merits can not help but regard this as good news. But we’re also grieved by the sad awareness that this will only serve to deepen the divisions that already exist between us and so many of our neighbors.
What does the moment call for? Does it call for the escalating rhetoric of angry rebuttals? Passive disengagement to focus on the gospel? Should we downplay our convictions to build bridges? If our neighbors regard us as enemies because of our convictions, should we treat them as enemies and devote ourselves to overcoming them? If it must be culture war, can we leave the war for others to fight? What does the moment call for?
Well, this moment requires what every moment does: wisdom.
We don’t need a winning strategy or a winning roster or a winning argument or a winning mindset or winning power and authority. What we need is the wisdom that God promises to provide those who lack it.
And this is where we start - we start in humility. We lack wisdom. We always have and always will, apart from God’s generous supply.
Ask God, personally, for that wisdom. Plead with him for it and wring it out of him with persistent prayer. He will provide it.
And here are some things I think God has revealed to me about what is wise for us in this moment:
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog