We are living in extraordinary times. As I write this, there are nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus across the globe. By the time you read this, we’ll probably have surpassed 85,000 COVID-19-related deaths. I don’t have to tell you that life as we know it has changed dramatically over the past few weeks.
The arrival of this virus in our nation has exposed a faulty theology that many American and Western believers ascribe to: that we as Christians are somehow exempt from hardship and suffering.
Yet it’s become pretty clear over the last couple of weeks that we are not invincible. Whether directly or indirectly — through the loss of employment, personally contracting the virus, or God forbid, the loss of a loved one — COVID-19 is poised to prick us all.
I also don’t say this to incite panic. I am praying and believing that this pandemic will end swiftly. Yet that is small comfort to those who are in the throes of loss and heartbreak right now. I’m afraid that if we don’t use the right lens to frame our suffering, there will be many casualties of the faith at the closure of this ordeal.
I pray that these questions and reflections will help us adjust our perspective at this time.
Could God protect us from this plague? Absolutely. I cannot deny the power of God. I believe that as we come to terms with our frailties, we position ourselves to receive healing and miracles.
But perhaps He is calling us to a more resilient faith – like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were sentenced to die in a fiery furnace. They said, “The God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
Can we be as unyielding as these three Hebrew boys in the face of death?
Job was a faithful and righteous man who lost his wealth, his children, everything. And still, he was able to say: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).
Can we make that kind of declaration about God in the dark seasons of life?
King David plead with God – in sackcloth and fasting – to spare his infant son. But when the baby died, the Bible says that “David got up from the floor, washed himself, put lotions on, and changed his clothes. Then he went into the Lord’s house to worship” (2 Samuel 12:19).
Can we worship God without resentment, even when the pain we’re going through seems brought on by the Lord, Himself?
We serve a God who spared the Israelites from most of the plagues that afflicted the Egyptians in Exodus. Surely He could He have made a distinction between non-believers and saints when it came to the Coronavirus.
But perhaps He is counting on us to make the distinction in this situation. How does a follower of Jesus Christ respond to sickness and suffering? Since our hope in Jesus goes beyond this life (1 Cor. 15:19), our response must be different from the world.
Even if we are unscathed by this plague, it is healthy for our souls to ponder: Can we still trust God, even if we lose someone we love? Will we continue to declare that He is good, in the middle of hardship?
Our answers will matter, long after COVID-19 becomes as treatable as the common flu.
I believe God is looking for some “even if I get the coronavirus” and “even if this plague takes somebody I love” saints. People who will serve Him no matter what.
Jesus is calling us to a deeper understanding of who He is.
Suffering has a way of clearing the spiritual fog so we can see what’s most important. At the end of his trials, Job said: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
How providential then, is the convergence of this pandemic with Passover and Easter?
Behold the Lamb of God! He who was pierced for our transgressions. He who endured a painful separation from his Father as He bore the sins of the world.
Jesus invites us into greater depths. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side…” (John 20:27)
His resurrected, glorified body still bears the scars. Jesus, our Great High Priest, is not indifferent to our pain. Instead, he is right there with us. He is “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3).
I pray that this Resurrection Sunday would be unlike any other we’ve experienced in a generation. Not because churches are shuttered; but because our sorrows have opened up a divine window of opportunity — to truly see Jesus.
Let’s go deep.
In the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.