“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” —John 15:13, ESV
It’s the heart of a first responder. To run into a crisis situation—no matter how volatile—and help however possible.
In a word, it’s love.
Biblical Encouragement for First Responders
Memorize the following Bible verses (ESV translations) to call upon whenever fear arises:
- 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
- Deuteronomy 31:8: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
- Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
- Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
But today, with the rapid spread of COVID-19, it’s complicated.
“It’s a whole new understanding of laying your life down for your brother,” said Denise Molatch, a former police officer whose late husband worked for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Police Department for 30 years.
It’s especially a calling now, Molatch continued, where exposure to the virus during a shift can immediately impact an officer’s family. Molatch, a Biblical counselor and speaker at the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team‘s National Law Enforcement Retreat, urges officers and their spouses to steel themselves on the promises of God.
“We need a sound mind with all this going on,” Molatch said. “It’s our mind that gets us in trouble.
“In a crisis, we have to watch what we’re thinking about. We have to go back and remember the sovereignty of God and thank Him. Focus on Him instead of your fears.”
Racing the Clock
Revised protocols in the face of the coronavirus aren’t universal. Some departments have mandated additional gear, while others simply don’t have the resources. For one firefighter-paramedic serving on the west central coast of Florida, it means being ready to don full protective personal equipment—mask, gown, gloves, shoes, everything—on every single call.
“Our job has changed greatly to where we used to just run in and save the day. Now it takes us a lot more time. … It feels like all we’re thinking about is COVID-19, and I feel like people are just burnt out,” the firefighter said. “Do I really need to wear a gown to go in and talk to someone with shoulder pain?”
Of course the firefighter knows it’s necessary, even though the extra gear sometimes can amplify the fear people have from watching too much news. And often, firefighters will take a few moments during a less urgent call to talk with someone struggling amid their state’s stay-at-home order.
But on the true emergency calls, these safety measures take time. And that can be heart wrenching.
“There’s going to be patients that have poor outcomes who don’t have COVID-19 but because of precautions, they’re not getting diagnosed and treated fast enough,” the firefighter added.
The camaraderie keeps the firefighters tight. But the station is a bit quieter these days. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the firehouse bay doors have been closed as a protective measure. They miss their visitors, and the occasional Pop-Tart surprise.
Working Despite Exposure
COVID-19, the highly contagious novel coronavirus, is still somewhat of a mystery for the Centers for Disease Control. The virus is blamed for killing more than 200,000 people worldwide, including 80,000-plus in the United States. The number of confirmed cases has eclipsed 4 million.
In Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, 1,200-plus people have died as a result of the virus, and like others places nationwide, not all of them spent their final hours in the hospital. The first responders answer the call.
Pray for First Responders:
Continue to lift up emergency medical personnel, firefighters and law enforcement officials who serve selflessly in the face of COVID-19:
- Mental health. First responders aren’t immune to the pressures associated with the job and current events understandably can exacerbate the stress.
- Encouragement. Ask God to bless these individuals with encouragement, particularly on the hard days.
- Protection. Physical protection from sickness and injury on the job, as well as mental clarity and stamina.
- Endurance. No matter the required attire, pray the first responders wouldn’t weary of doing the right thing to serve their communities.
- Patience. It’s a scary time for many people. Ask God to equip first responders with a kind word during potentially heated calls.
- And a request. Please think about why you’re calling 911. Save that number for real life-threatening emergencies.
“You have to get the job done because you’re a first responder, but it’s nerve-wrecking,” said one Detroit-area law enforcement official after spending two hours this week on the scene of a person who succumbed to the coronavirus.
“Is an N95 mask really going to work? Are the gloves that I’m using really going to keep air droplets from getting on me? If I get this disease, am I going to make it?”
Exposure is a virtual certainty in this job. Hundreds of officers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Detroit, and 31-year veteran Captain Jonathan Parnell died after contracting the virus while on duty. A growing number, including police chief James Craig, are in the recovery phase. Hundreds have gone in and out of quarantine in recent weeks.
Responders do what they can to protect themselves, but some are employing distance from their families to shield them as well. This Detroit officer’s child, who soon will celebrate a birthday, is two hours away with loved ones. It’s lonely, even with the countless video chats, but this disease is no respecter of persons.
Risking It All
The personal risks have never been higher for a first responder. But faith deafens the fear. The firefighter remembers Philippians 4:12, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”
No matter how dire it might look, there is always hope for the one who trusts in Jesus.
“Fear is not an option in my job,” the Detroit-area police officer said. “When you signed up to be a first responder, you already know you’re going into a place where people may try to hurt you or try to shoot you; you may ultimately get killed in the line of duty.
“So with this virus or with anything, you have to surpass that fear and just keep moving forward and praying, and have faith that your Lord and Savior is going to keep you safe from this unidentified enemy.”
You can trust God with every fear, every concern. Turn to Him today.