John Fuller: Welcome to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And in just a few moments, our guest, Sara Hagerty, will remind you of God’s love even when you’re not looking for it during those little moments of life. Stay tuned for that, but right now, we’re going to get an update and some new perspectives on the coronavirus from Dr. Francis Collins. He rejoins us. Dr. Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health and spoke yesterday with our host, the president of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: Dr. Collins, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Dr. Francis Collins: Wonderful to be back with you, Jim.
Jim: Now, it’s been a couple of months since we last spoke with you, Dr. Collins. The CDC numbers indicate we’ve been flattening that curve. That was the goal, right? To get people isolated, to flatten the curve, allow the healthcare industry to manage those acute cases, et cetera. When you look at the landscape right now, have we gotten an A grade, a B grade or a C grade? Where are we?
Dr. Collins: Depends on where you look. I think people have rallied to this and I just can’t say enough about the American people and their willingness to take this public health challenge with great seriousness and put themselves in many instances in difficult circumstances of having to stay at home. Especially if your kids were out of school and you had to try to work from home and take care of the kids at the same time and, of course, people who lost their jobs and who are in terrible economic stress – that people understood that this is the way to flatten that curve and save lives. It’s certainly in a better place as a result of that, but when you look across the country, it’s not all good news. I’m talking to you from my home office just outside of Washington, D.C. and we’re still having an issue here in the D.C. area with the curve not really having flattened as much as it should, so we still have work to do. And, of course, we’re all worried about what happens as we carefully start to go back to work and not into public spaces. Hopefully people remember wear those masks. Keep those six feet distances there. We don’t need a second wave. And that’s what everyone is like – going to be watching very carefully now.
Jim: Yeah and I appreciate that. Let – let me ask a question about the masks. What is the advice right now? You know, some of us are getting tired of those things (laughter). But what would you say we need to do? If we’re healthy what should we do?
Dr. Collins: I think we do need, even though we’re tired of wearing them and I am, too, to keep remembering why we’re doing this. And when you’re out in public wearing a mask, it’s not that you’re protecting yourself against other people who might be infected, you’re protecting them against you on the chance that you’re one of those many people who actually is carrying the virus that has no symptoms and could be spreading it around. So as Christians who are always thinking about how to help other people, how to keep those who are around us safe and take care of them, we especially ought to be wearing those masks as long as this virus is anywhere in the community and we might be the one carrying it, this is up to us.
Jim: Man, OK. Now, you just gave me a bit of conviction when I haven’t worn it…
Jim: …So thank you for that admonition before the Lord. Hey, um, when we look at the – the antivirals that are being developed, what’s the update there? What is Dr. Fauci seeing and what’s the report? Are we optimistic that by the first of the year we may have something?
Dr. Collins: We are doing pretty amazing things. Tony Fauci, who reports to me and I talk about this every night, sometime between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m., we have our regular phone call and we go over that day’s results and, of course, we see each other in many other places, including the Oval Office, on a regular basis as well. The vaccine, which is the thing that I think people are most hopeful for as a way to really make it possible for us all to become immune and then to be able to go back to life more or less as normal – they are coming along in record time with this Operation Work Speed that the President announced about two weeks ago. I don’t want people to worry that Work Speed sounds like we’re being careless, however. This is still going to be an incredibly rigorous process to test out these vaccines. There are now a number of them that are ready for large scale testing as early as the first of July. So, how do you do that? First of all, you want to be sure that each of those has been tried in a few people to see whether they generate antibodies that look like they would be protective, and these will all have gone through that. But to really find out if they work, you want to test these in tens of thousands of people in areas where the virus is still spreading to see whether it actually protects them and that’s what we’re going to be starting this summer. And I’m glad it’s not just one vaccine because you never know with these things exactly what you’re going to run into in terms of something unexpected, so it’s several of them. We’ll have a whole menu.
Dr. Collins: And I hope they all work. But I think at least one or two of them work.
Jim: That would be terrific. Yeah.
Dr. Collins: Yeah.
Jim: Let me ask you. My wife, Jean, has a background in science, biology, you know, not to the degree where you’re at, but, uh, you know, one of the things that she’s mentioned to me is with the flu, there’s a vaccine every year, but it’s never 100 percent. Those that are creating the vaccine have to estimate and guess what flu strain is going to be there that year and it may be 60, 70 percent effective. Is that going to be similar with this?
Dr. Collins: It’s a great question, Jim. It depends, of course, on how much the virus changes from year to year and season to season. The influenza virus is very good at changing its coat a year after year…
Dr. Collins: …So that last year’s flu vaccine isn’t necessarily the one you want for this year. This coronavirus, so-called SARS–CoV–2, doesn’t seem to be as variable as a flu virus. It does change a little bit over time like all viruses will, but not in the exceptional way. So, I think at least for a while one could imagine that a vaccine could work against this virus pretty effectively. I can’t tell you what might happen two years later or five years later. Would we see change in that virus that made the vaccine no longer protective? But in the short run, it looks like from what we know, that the vaccine ought to be a pretty good strategy. Again, don’t let me overstate the timetable. We’ll do these large scale studies starting in the summer. We should know by the fall whether one of these vaccines is working and then hopefully be able to start immunizing people late in 2020, starting with the high risk group. And that would be healthcare providers and elderly people with chronic diseases. But full scale deployment of vaccines probably won’t happen until early 2021 if all goes well.
Jim: Yeah. No, that’s exciting and I’m sure on behalf of everybody listening, thank you for you and your team’s hard work and pulling that together. You know, we don’t see how the secret sauce is made. We don’t really know what’s going on. But just to hear your enthusiasm for the work that the medical profession is doing, the researchers, the scientists, that’s encouraging to us. So, thank you for that update. President Trump has really pushed to reopen the economy obviously. It seems like everything in the country gets politicized and it’s unfortunate. You’re at the CDC. You’re concentrating on medicine, but it’s an arm of the government therefore things get politicized. When you look at churches reopening – this has been a real constraint. And, you know, I’ve talked to pastors. Some of them have jumped out there wanting to do the distancing, but wanting to get the doors open because they know some of the people that need spiritual help, need spiritual guidance, et cetera – they feel a burden to get those doors open and get – allow people to come to church. Do you believe churches can manage that right now in the environment? Are we ready to do that? And again, I know it’s going to be regional, but just give me a couple of examples where you either think it would work well or you wouldn’t.
Dr. Collins: Well, it’s another great question. And again, it is unfortunate that everything gets politicized and some of this seems to relate to which political party somebody is in, whether they think their church ought to be open or closed…
Dr. Collins: …And that’s just the wrong way to look at this. Question is, is it safe? Are you putting people at risk, particularly those who have chronic illnesses? I would say, again, as you just suggested, it does depend a bit on where you are and what the state of the virus is in that community, but I would be very cautious about not jumping into a circumstance where you have people in anywhere close proximity and certainly the wearing of masks ought to continue to be pushed forward. We also know that being indoors is a place where an awful lot of transmission happens. Being where – being outdoors with the big sky above you…
Dr. Collins: …Places you had somewhat lower risk. So, people who want to have outdoor gatherings and keep everybody six feet apart wearing masks, I’m even more enthusiastic about that.
Jim: Boy, that’s interesting. Yeah.
Dr. Collins: Yeah. Pastors just need to be fully apprised of what CDC is saying about what’s safe and what is not. And don’t sort of jump out there and say, “Jesus is my vaccine” as I heard somebody say. (Laughter)
Jim: Oh, wow.
Dr. Collins: Because I – I don’t think God really calls on us to ignore what our science has been able to teach us by God’s grace about how this virus works.
Jim: It’s a great point. I know, Jean – you know, there was a time many years ago where occasionally out in the country, I didn’t wear my seat belt. And I would say to Jean, “You know, it’s – God knows the time He’s going to take me, so if this is it…” She said, “Yes, but He did give you a brain to put that seatbelt on.”
Dr. Collins: (Laughter).
Jim: It’s kind of that thing, right? (Laughter) He’s given us a brain and then to think wisely about what actions we take.
Dr. Collins: Yeah, exactly. And the Bible does talk about that in terms of if you’re looking for wisdom, God’ll give it to you, but you better listen.
Jim: Right. Right. Let’s end with this question. Being a man of faith and really at the pinnacle of the science profession, again, when you look at the landscape of the country and the globe, frankly, how do you see this? What’s happening from a faith perspective? The real trauma that’s going on? We’re starting to see reports now about how shelter-in-place has been emotionally, and I would suggest spiritually damaging towards some people. I know suicides are up. Hotlines for depression are really up like 900 percent. So, when you look at the impact of what we’ve had to do and then applying that spiritual perspective to it, what do you think?
Dr. Collins: There’s no question, Jim. Our country is hurting and particularly hurting are those who’ve been hit hardest, and we really should think about our African-American brothers and sisters in that regard where this disease has hit them harder. When you look at the number of people who have died of COVID-19, it is disproportionately folks from those communities. Their healthcare has not been as amenable to taking care of them. They’ve not been able necessarily to shelter-in-place because of the need to be out there to try to earn a living. And those folks also are the ones who are now most shaken up by what they’ve seen with the horrible death of George Floyd and echoes of other similar things that have happened in the not distant past. And those are also the folks, I think, who economically are suffering the most. So, we really should think about this in terms of how many of us are blessed. We are able to stick it out here. We’re able to get through this. But as Christians, we ought to particularly think about those we need to reach out to and try to provide some kind of comfort. And we know we serve a God who knows what suffering is all about. We don’t have to explain this part. But we also know we serve a God who calls on us to reach out to those who are suffering and help them in every way we can, and I love what I’m seeing with churches that are doing that. Getting groceries for people who are afraid to go out so far because of the chronic illness. Making masks. Coming up with hotlines. Running video services to reach out to people who still need to pray. All of those things we should keep doing. That’s our calling.
Jim: Well, that is well said, Dr. Collins. And I so appreciate that perspective. The spiritual, the Christian perspective on what we’re to do in this environment. And we will continue to pray for you. Thank you for spending some time with us. And congratulations on winning the Templeton Prize. That’s fantastic.
Dr. Collins: Well, that was a big surprise and totally unexpected and to be on a roster that includes people like Billy Graham and Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu is beyond anything (laughter) I could have imagined, Jim. Just way out there.
Jim: Well, and I know you personally. I know your humility. But what a great achievement. And your mom and dad would be very proud of you.
Dr. Collins: They would also be a little skeptical about whether any of this was deserved, but they would be proud just the same.
Jim: Those sound like some healthy parents. You grew up in a good home.
Dr. Collins: Yes, I absolutely did.
Jim: All right, Dr. Collins. God bless you. Take care and we’ll be in touch again.
Dr. Collins: Can I leave you with one verse that’s been on my mind this morning and which is coming from Micah 6 the eighth verse, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Dr. Collins: We’re all called to do that right now.
Jim: Again, a wise word right from the Scripture. Thank you so much for being with us.
Dr. Collins: Pleasure to talk to you again, Jim. Thanks for all the great work you do at Focus on the Family.
John: For the remainder of our time here today on Focus on the Family our guest, Sara Hagerty, will help you find your identity and value not in what you do, but who you are in Christ. He loves you and this conversation will remind you of God’s great love for you. Sara is the author of a couple of books, including Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. She and her husband have six children. And here’s how that conversation began.
Jim: Sara, welcome back to Focus.
Mrs. Sara Hagerty: Thank you for having me back.
Jim: This is an interesting title…
Sara: Mm hmm.
Jim: …Unseen. And that is so true. We live in a culture, especially with social media today, where everybody’s clamoring for a little glimpse, a little moment on the stage. It seems like.
Jim: Which has really dampened our manners, I think.
Jim: You know, the more radical we could be, the more outlandish we could be, the more we get noticed. And I think it’s doing damage in the culture. But, you know, many of us – maybe even all of us have asked the question, is this all that there is?
Jim: You know, really? Is this it? Go to work. Raise a family, which has a lot of blessing in it. But there should be more. And I think the opening question is, is this kind of the path that you went down?
Jim: Is this it, Lord? What happened for you?
Sara: Well, I think, for me, a lot of my journey in this was before social media was what it is now.
Sara: So, in some senses, I feel like it – this – what’s worked its way into me matters even more now when we have so much access to being seen at any moment. But I – for me, early on in my 20s, when my friends were having babies and growing their families, and my husband and I were struggling with infertility, I remember going to a baby shower – I mean, this scenario happened several times – and just feeling like I might as well slink back into the corner because the stories that were being shared, the sisterhood of bonds formed over these birthing stories, I just couldn’t relate to. And I felt like my life because it wasn’t what all these other women’s lives were – what all these other women – women’s lives were, it wasn’t valuable. And so, I remember even driving home from one baby shower going, “Is this all there is? I’m not on the track that they’re on.” And I felt, even then, an invitation from God to find His eyes on me…
Sara: …That I could try really hard to be the thing that all these women were being or to make a life that mattered or had impact on the outside. Or I could hear that still, small whisper that said, “Ask me what I think of you right now.”
Jim: You know, when I read your story, you were a producer.
Jim: I mean, that’s what I – when I look at you, you would have been the person I would have loved to work with…
Jim: …because you’re a get-it-done person. And through college and teen ministry. And I wanted to ask you about that, because so often that high-production person is driving for acceptance or “Maybe the Lord will love me more if I work harder for Him.”
Jim: I’ve heard that. And always it makes me sad, because I don’t feel that’s the Lord’s. It’s like a bad employer.
Jim: And that’s not the Lord’s heart. But talk me through that and how you managed that in your – you know, your college years and out of college. You just seem like a high performer.
Sara: Well, and I think I didn’t actually step back and think God needs me to perform for Him in order that He would like me. I just kind of naturally saw Christianity as a treadmill. That we just turn up and run harder and run faster and I think that’s a lot how the world is. And we tend to transpose what we see in the world on Christianity, especially in our early years.
Sara: And so, for me, I felt better when I was producing. And I felt better when I was producing before I knew Jesus. After I knew Jesus, it still felt good to share the Gospel with more people.
Jim: And that’s a good thing.
Sara: It is.
Jim: I don’t want people to hear, you know, be lazy. That’s the goal.
Jim: No, not at all. You want to be productive.
Jim: But there can be a point at which it’s harmful to you when you’re making these things kind of if-then. If I do all these things, then God will fill in the blank – love me more…
Jim: …Appreciate me more. Bless me more.
Jim: Whatever it might be. But that idea in the book grabbed me. When you mentioned you felt, at one point, counseling teenagers that you were going through the rote kind of delivery of it.
Jim: And you’re having – I can relate to what you were experiencing because you’re having like two conversations, right?
Jim: And you’re going through “Jesus loves you, and He cares about you.” And in the back of your mind, you’re going, “I’ve said this to so many people. Am I just saying this, or do I believe it? Do I mean it?”
Jim: Speak to that.
Sara: I – In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “I don’t – I don’t know that I know this God that I’m telling this teenage girl about.”
Jim: How did you connect that and then what did you do with it?
Sara: I think it probably happened a few times before I started to go, “This is dangerous. I am spreading the Gospel that in my own private life, behind closed doors, doesn’t feel real. The Bible is reading to me like a history book. This is a problem.”
Jim: Now is that the description of burnout that you’re talking about?
Sara: I think so, yeah.
Jim: Is that a leading-edge indicator that you’re kind of lost in…
Sara: Yeah. And I think, maybe even more than burnout, it could be just a description of dryness on the inside that the Bible doesn’t read to us like a love letter, that it reads more like a text, um, you know, a history text, that our dialogue with God becomes more asking Him for things than talking about the realities of our heart…
Sara: …That we want to spend more – I mean, now – I didn’t have a phone then because that was, you know, 15 years ago. I had a phone, but not like we have access to a phone now. Now it would be when I’m picking up my phone to scroll through social media several times in a day when I have white space, that’s kind of an indicator. What’s going on that I don’t actually want to talk to God? Or if when something hard happens in my life, and I find myself right away scrolling social media.
Sara: To me, that’s the indicator. Something in my heart isn’t really seeing Him as tender towards me because if I saw Him as tender, I’d want to talk to Him right now.
Jim: Well, and what you’re describing is a symptom, right?
Jim: That phone is a symptom. And the core problem is you’re not choosing to connect with God.
Jim: That’s the issue.
Sara: And I think there’s great things that we can put in place now where we say, “Let’s only use our phone at these times.” But the reality is even those measures don’t address the inner issue, which is oftentimes we don’t really believe the God of His Word.
Jim: How does a person talk to God? I mean, they may see themselves as Christian. I just want to make sure we’re covering all the bases.
Jim: But they’re so inundated with stuff in the list and all that. Maybe they’ve even lost or never discovered how to really have a conversation with God. How do you start there?
Sara: Yeah, that’s a great question. I tend to think of it in terms of the closest relationship in my life, the person I feel the safest with. Well, God is thousands of times safer than that person.
Sara: So, the person I feel the safest with and one of our best conversations where I felt really seen and really known and also very much myself – God invites that. That’s a starting point for me. I mean, for me, it’s my husband. I know that’s not the case for everybody who’s married. Or for people who aren’t married, you can think of your best friend.
Sara: That’s my end road. But then I also think, you know, we tend to see it in such broad strokes like, “I need to make this major shift in my life and introduce the new thing that is talking to God” – when really I think our life is one in the minutes. So, what if there was one more minute today that you talked to God? Just one.
Jim: Sara, in that regard, when, uh – for folks that may be just joining us, and they missed the top of the program, we touched on some of this. But beyond just facing that spiritual burnout that we talked about, uh, you faced the challenges of infertility. You touched on that.
Sara: Mm hmm.
Jim: Um, I think also the death of your father happened…
Jim: …All in the same time. You then adopted. I think four of your children are adopted because of that, I would imagine, that infertility…
Jim: …And your husband started moving in that direction. That is a lot right there. It – for someone listening saying, “Oh, yeah, she’s got it all together.”
Sara: Oh, no. (Laughter)
Jim: “She talks to God.” But that – that really provides the heart for you that you have gone through hard stuff…
Jim: …You and your husband. Describe some of that emotion in there and taking that rawness to God saying, “God, why? I love You. Why did I not have children the same way all my friends were having children?” Just those burdens.
Sara: Right. I’m so glad you brought that up. I mean, this is not something that’s just a discipline that I’ve applied. This has come from a decade of really hard life where the things that I hoped for, the things that I dreamed, the plans that my husband and I had, pretty much in every way, they fell apart. And multiple times, when we thought this could not get any worse, the next day, something terrible happened. I mean, we really felt like we were in a crucible for about a decade. And it was out of that time where I kept going everything I desire is failing right now. Everything I want from my life feels like it’s sand in my hands. I have it for a second, and then it’s gone. And it was in that time that I really started to feel the invitation of God to find out who He really was to the brokenhearted. And that – finding him as near to the broken – first, seeing myself as broken, going my life is not working like I thought, I am not producing like I thought, I’m not feeling the success of being a Christian in this world. So, who are You to me?
Jim: And I was going to ask you. In that 10 years that you’re having infertility issues, and your father’s passed away and all these other really hard things going on in your life, you learned so much in those moments. Would you exchange them for something easier?
Sara: You know, I wouldn’t. I’ll tell you a story. The morning that we – so we actually had a heart for adoption long before we walked down the road or even knew that we would struggle with infertility. So, we – we really wanted to adopt. Post-adoption, it still had been 13 years and we hadn’t conceived a biological child. The morning that I found out that I was pregnant, when I told my husband, his very first words, and this was not like a theological statement, this was just his guttural response, was “Has the favor of God lifted from our lives?” We had found so much fruit in pain. And honestly, both of us could say we fell in love with God when the outside parts of our life weren’t working that it felt almost like when our circumstances shift – and they did. They shifted. When they shifted, we went, “Who are You in a new place? Because we found You in suffering, and You were so close.” I mean, I, at times, felt like You were so close that I could feel Your breath on my neck, God. You’re that near to me when I feel like my world is falling apart. Um, so yes, I would look back and go “thank You, God, for that.” I would not change what we had.
Jim: Yeah. And there’s one of the nuggets out of the program. And if you’re in that spot, again, we’re here for you. I want to hit some practical points right at the end of the program here. Uh, you invite people to grow in wonder and friendship to God. I love that description. Uh, what does it look like though at a practical level? How do you grow in wonder with God?
Sara: For me, it’s just looked like slowing down a little bit and not slowing down in large chunks. I still think of life in minutes. So, if I – you know, part of my run, in the morning, I listen to a podcast usually. What if I just turn off my phone for 10 minutes?
Jim: You’re killing me. You have enough discipline to run. OK, part – it’s over now. I know.
John: No, she’s not…
John: It’s the Focus on the Family podcast.
Sara: I have six kids. It’s survival (laughter).
Jim: I said practical advice – practical.
Sara: OK, ignore the run. Think about your – my – I have a longer walk to the mailbox.
Jim: OK, there you go.
Sara: And on that walk to the mailbox, I can be listening to something on my phone or running over a task list in my mind, or I can go, on this walk to the mailbox, I just want to see what You have outside for me, God.
Sara: You know, just like our kids, right?
Sara: Our kids have wonder. They don’t have to practice it. God – that is God inviting us to approach Him like a little child. It’s turning off the music in the car line and going what’s in the sky for me today, Lord? Like, what are You – the heavens declare the glory of God. What do You have for me?
Jim: Sara, here’s the question as we close – uh, speak to that person who wants to have that kind of friendship and closeness with God, uh, that you’ve described, but they pray, and they don’t feel like they hear anything. They don’t feel that closeness. They’re back at the beginning of your journey where you were feeling almost like those feelings of being fake.
Jim: So, what do you say to that person right now? What can they do?
Sara: I think I’d say two things. One, give yourself permission to get a little more honest with God. It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to be grumpy. He actually welcomes that kind of dialogue. Maybe even as your starting point. We don’t need to be – put all Christianese on this to make ourselves feel like He’s really enjoying us. The second thing I would say is the Psalms are a great place to start. I always say the Psalms are like lanes for our emotions. And so, when I have been really stuck not knowing what He thinks about me, what I feel about Him, I feel like this Psalms have given me language when I don’t have it.
Jim: Right. I like that because if you think of the Lord’s heart for David and, of course…
Jim: …David writing most of the Psalms, that’s a great place to go – to emulate…
Jim: …David’s heart for God.
Sara: And David – I mean, one of the most powerful Psalms was written after, like, a horrendous sin. So, take your big, messy heart to Him…
Sara: …just like David.
Jim: That’s what he wants to see.
Jim: Great to have you with us.
Sara: Thank you so much.
John: Sara Hagerty was our guest on this episode of Focus on the Family. And you can get a copy of her book, Unseen and C.D. of our conversation at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And when you get in touch, please donate generously to support the work of Focus on the Family. When you do that today, make a gift of any amount, we’ll thank you for being a part of the support team by sending a copy of Sara’s great book to you.
Jim: And, John, let me also mention we realize many families are struggling. I mean, there’s something like 40 million people on unemployment right now so we get that. At the same time, ministry continues here at Focus and we want you to be part of it. I mean, that’s – that’s the reality. And if you’re in a position, if you’re working and you can support the ministry, we need to hear from you now. A gift of $25, $50, something to help us continue to meet the needs of others. And always take care of your church first and then if you can, help us here at Focus on the Family. I know God will honor that in so many ways. One way is we have a matching gift right now from some generous friends who will meet you dollar for dollar to support the ministry and it’s a great way, a challenging way, to get those dollars in here so that we can meet the needs of others.
John: And again, call us. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or take advantage of that matching gift opportunity and donate at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daily and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.