In our book Taking God to Work, Steve Reynolds and I talk about the importance of priorities. Family is one of the big ones, but when is it right to choose our career responsibilities over what's best in the short term for our family?
In the current distress over COVID-19, many medical professionals are being forced into difficult choices between treating virus patients and spending evenings with their families. In hot zones like New York City, some doctors, nurses and other hospital workers have deemed it too dangerous to continue life as usual.
Some have handled the problem by self-isolating from their families at least for a while. This may mean staying alone in the basement of their homes or shipping the kids off to stay with relatives. Seeing the devastating effects of the worst cases of those with the virus, many can't conceive of inflicting similar pain on loved ones.
Another choice is to change jobs in an attempt to avoid the virus. Instead of working in the emergency department of an urban hospital, some have switched to what they view as safer jobs elsewhere.
Although we all face danger whenever we leave home, some jobs inherently hold more danger than others. In the example above, perhaps the danger is only for a season. In some law enforcement careers (at least at the beginning), dangerous assignments come with the territory, like walking a beat or patrolling in a car around high crime areas.
Certain construction workers face great risk working on interstate repairs at night, welding beams onto skyscrapers hundreds of feet above street-level, or digging underground tunnels for roads and subways.
How does danger meld with our responsibility to our families? If we want to honor our families, must we always choose the less dangerous way?
God calls each of us to live a life of faith. It begins with belief in Christ as our savior, and continues with trusting Him to guide us each mile of life. We can and should pray about career decisions. When we feel we have His answer, it is imperative that we proceed in faith.
A life of fear is no life at all. In Ephesians Chapter 6, the whole armor of God for the believer is said to include "the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." Belief in God's ability to protect us and our household is one of the key tenets of our belief system. So, we must create a lifestyle of trusting God for our health and that of our families. Faith doesn't mean we act foolishly.
Faith may look different from one believer to another. If a doctor with small children is living with his wife and her elderly mother, it may be prudent for him to self-isolate while treating COVID-19 patients. This isn't a lack of faith, but just his way of being responsible.
A nurse who enjoys working in the ICU may decide to take a position in a different department until the pandemic is well controlled. This also doesn't need to come from a lack of faith. She may deem it the right way to protect her husband and children.
Victory Over Death
A few years ago, I took a sabbatical to better understand anxiety and fear. One thing God definitely showed me is that the root of most fears is the fear of death. For the Christian, this need not be the case. Our death is merely a stepping stone to an eternity with Jesus. We needn't take unnecessary risks, but when our very calling in life requires that we face danger, we can do so with the assurance that everything will indeed turn out for the best.
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Each of us is called to a life of love. Our kindest affections should be reserved for our earthly family and our kingdom family of fellow believers in Jesus. As we pray through the dangers of our careers in the macro or on a daily basis, let's involve our family each step of the way. Make sure they understand the choices we are making, our undying love for them, and our faith in the only One who can truly save and protect us.