COVID-19

Today begins a devotional series that I will post during these days of social distancing. My aim is to reflect on a few thoughts and draw our attention to Scripture. At the conclusion, I will leave you with some applications as well as questions for reflection.

Are we really living in unprecedented times? The world in 2020 has never been more connected globally through travel and technology. The world in 2020 contains billions more people than at any other time in history with regard to international disasters. So, in one sense COVID-19 and its implications for public health, social contact, and the global economy are unprecedented. But, are we really living in unprecedented times? The answer is a qualified yes.

Throughout world history, wars have devastated continents. Diseases have ravished nations. Consider the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed more than 50 million people worldwide. Or consider the Bubonic plague of the Middle Ages that decimated the population of Europe. Or look back to biblical history. Consider the flood from Genesis 6-9. Or look at the millions of Hebrews wandering through the wilderness for 40 years. Or explore the survival of the ancients through famine and hunger. The human race has been through things similar to this and come through them.

If we look at the flood as analogous to our current situation, you might wonder if this coronavirus pandemic is God’s judgment. Let me offer another qualified yes. We can interpret what God says, but cannot presume to read God’s mind. The Genesis flood was judgment. God said it was. God has not spoken in that way regarding the coronavirus. However, here is the qualification. Because we live in a fallen world, creation itself is under the curse of sin.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Romans 8:19-21

Disease, suffering, illness, pain, difficulty, depression, war, violence, hunger, famine, catastrophic weather, and the like are reflections of the fallen, sinful world in which we live. Had Adam and Eve not sin, creation would have remained unblemished, and humanity would know none of these things. Yet they exist, because sin exists. Thus, the coronavirus is, at least in a generalized sense, an aspect of God’s judgment on a sinful world.

So where does that leave us as we cope with the interruptions, fears, and separation caused by this pandemic?

Let me offer a few specific applications drawn from Noah’s story.

  • Walk with God. God considered Noah blameless. This means Noah lived a life of humble confession and willing obedience. Take the time you’ve been given during this pandemic and develop your relationship with God. Read the Bible. Pray. Journal. Lead in family devotions. You can begin with Genesis 6-9 if you’d like and answer the reflection questions below.
  • Reflect on God’s holiness. God judged the world with the flood because the world was increasingly wicked and idolatrous. Was God’s judgment here vindictive, mean, extreme? I don’t believe so. God’s judgment teaches us that God is more holy than we can ever imagine. We like to think of God as love, and he is love. But we must remember that he is holy, supremely holy, gloriously holy.
  • Make sure you are on the ark. This sounds a bit weird, but track with me. Noah and his family were protected on the ark. While God does not promise us protection from contracting the coronavirus, nor does he promise to keep us from dying if we do, God does promise eternal life. Being under God’s protection means being in Christ. Do you have assurance of eternal life? If not, read the letter of 1 John. It’s a letter all about knowing that you know Christ. You can message me on this blog or through the social media platform I posted it on. I’d be happy to chat with you about eternal life.
  • Be faithful. It took Noah years to build the ark. He faithfully obeyed because he trusted God. I’m not sure what the next few weeks look like for all of us. But wherever God has put you, be faithful. Your faithfulness might be the courage or gospel witness someone else needs.

I would recommend reading Genesis 6-9 sometime today or this week. Then take some time and reflect on the following questions. I’ve been journaling through this experience. Journaling your answers might just be a way to build your faith during this unique time.

  • How do you think Noah felt when God told him to build the ark?
  • What kind of answers do you think Noah gave when people asked him what he was doing?
  • Describe how it would feel to have your entire family participate with you in a mission like building an ark?
  • Noah spent years building the ark, 40 days on the ark during the rain and flood, and then more than a year on the ark afterward. Do you think his experiences were always pleasant?
  • Imagine some of the sights, sounds, and smells during Noah’s time on the ark?
  • Put yourself in the place of at least one family member. Consider how they might have reacted, spoken, or what they must have been thinking. Journal the thoughts you think they might have had.
  • What kind of things do you think Noah and his family were anticipating at the conclusion of their trip on the ark?
  • How difficult would those final weeks have been with the ark resting on land, but not being able to exit?
  • Imagine their worship and sacrifice when they finally left the ark?
  • What kind of things will you thank God for during this experience and after this experience is over?

The last few days have been surreal. Reactions to COVID-19 have been multifaceted and swift. Declarations of emergency. School closings. Spring sports suspended (children, high school, college, and professional). I could go on, but unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you already know all this.

I’m quite amazed at what has taken place and how fast it has happened. It is easy to be concerned. To watch or read the news is to immerse yourself in a cloud of concern. COVID-19 is extremely contagious. While not necessarily deadly to all who might catch it, its ease of transmission makes it troubling. What is evidently concerning is that the elderly with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

The speed of reactions is deeply concerning. The decisions to suspend public gatherings, cancel events, and isolate are aimed at mitigating public exposure to the virus. As Christians, we have an opportunity to reflect a confidence in God in the midst of a challenging situation. Here are 5 things we should remember in the days ahead.

  • While we should be prepared, we should not be afraid. Listen to the normal and wise advice about washing hands or avoiding crowds if you are vulnerable, but don’t give in to fear. Over and over again, God says to his people “Do not be afraid.” Of all the people in our world, Christians don’t have to fear. Throughout history God’s people have faced giants, armies, enemies, and persecutions. And God has always been victorious. God’s people overcome because God is sovereign. If you contract COVID-19, you don’t have to be afraid. If you are in isolation, you don’t have to be afraid (or alone, God promises to be with you). You do not have to fear.
  • While the church should react with regard to services and programs, this situation provides a unique opportunity for the church to be the church rather than just attend church. The ramifications of closings, suspensions, and cancellations will have lasting effects. Some churches may choose not to meet. Here’s a link to what Wilkesboro Baptist is doing this weekend. Churches that do meet may have low attendance. Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen at church buildings, recovery from this situation will require the church to be the church to others. Being the church means that Christians can bring sanity and calmness to those around us by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, providing for the financially depressed, or any other number of activities. My prayer is that we as Christians will be faithful and reflect the compassion and glory of God to those around us.
  • While we are right to act, we need to remember that humanity is not sovereign. I’m troubled by our human attempts at containment. And it’s not for the reasons you might think. The 21st century west is quite arrogant. We cannot change the weather. We cannot eradicate illnesses and viruses. We cannot cheat death. We are not sovereign. The Christian worldview does not encourage carelessness or negate preparation. However, the Christian worldview does put disease, illness, and death in context. Our reactions may slow down or stall the spread of the virus in the short term. And if so, the reactions may be worth it. But we cannot stop COVID-19. Indeed, we cannot stop every illness, sickness, disease, and death. Only the Great Physician can truly heal, rescue, and protect. The great lesson of this pandemic might actually be the humbling of our nation and the reminder that only God is sovereign.
  • While we might be isolated, we need to pray for the medical professionals. Many of you reading this will be able to isolate yourselves quite comfortably. Please remember in prayer the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who will be testing, caring, and ministering to the sick. They are on the front lines of this situation and need our encouragement and prayer support. Remember, this is new for them as well.
  • While we might be concerned about the future, we must have faith. It may seem callous to some to be concerned about the economic ramifications of our nation’s reaction. Whether callous or not, it is real. People are going to lose their jobs. Industries will slow and shut down. The stock markets will struggle. It already is painful economically and is likely to get worse. But we don’t have to lose faith. Remember the words of Habakkuk as he anticipated God’s judgment and its economic affect 2500 years ago.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

So, what should we do?

  1. Be wise. Use common sense. Follow the advice of health professionals.
  2. Be calm. There is a lot of fear mongering and misinformation. Seek the truth. Relax. God is in control. We will come through this.
  3. Pray. Any crisis is a reminder that we must depend on God. Take the time afforded you in the coming days to pause, pray, and seek God. I believe wholeheartedly that God will use this situation to bring us closer to him if we will let him.