To watch the spread of the COVID-19 virus as it goes, well, viral, I am amazed and a little bit in shock.
So many of the things we previously took for granted now seem comparative luxuries. Never before did I wonder if touching the key-pad to enter my PIN will expose me to a life-threatening disease.
Many of us live in parts of the country where we are discouraged from going out in public. Restaurants, bars, theaters, libraries, museums and every other venue where people might gather are now ordered to close down.
As we are in public, we touch surfaces that have been touched hundreds of times in the previous hours. Handrails, elevator buttons, and door handles now pose a threat that was never considered before by most of us.
But here we are. We are thinking of these things now.
A friend recently referred to the societal shutdown as a “collective pause.” Like it or not, the social distancing forces all of us to step back from our normal routine and hopefully reflect upon what is really important.
But I am running up against a little bit of disbelief in myself as to the scope of the problems that this virus is causing. I look at the numbers continuing to climb, but I can’t fully connect all the dots to how this will impact us in the long term.
Maybe this is caused by my own naivety during previous epidemics. But the fact that so often the term “unprecedented” is used to describe our situation tells me that others are struggling to get their heads around it also.
Many church leaders, more qualified than I am, have written about how the church should respond to this outbreak. I can add little to what they are providing as far as an operating plan for the church moving forward. What I can offer are my own reflections on how I view this on a personal level.
First, this outbreak reminds me that we live in a world that is beautiful but flawed. The birds are still calling out their good mornings from the trees. The sun still came up this morning and the trees are beginning to show signs of waking from their winter slumber. Rather than absent-mindedly perusing the COVID-19 statistics, my time would be better spent in reflection upon the gifts that I have been given and thanking the giver of those gifts.
Secondly, the fact that nothing like this has happened in my lifetime also supports the Christian idea of common grace. I do not want to take for granted the fact that I have lived a relatively trouble-free life. This is the first issue that has caused real national distress in my lifetime. I attribute this to God’s grace and should thank Him for it.
Thirdly, I am reminded that we have been promised by Jesus Christ that someday he will return to fix the broken parts in creation. While we are called to use our intellect and skills to respond to problems, we are ultimately dependent upon God for our sustenance. So I should acknowledge my dependence upon God and ask for guidance as to how I should respond to this crisis.
And lastly, I am reminded that God’s ultimate desire is for our holiness rather than our happiness. The New Testament provides multiple reminders that we will face trials as Christians. Yet, history shows that God has grown his church in both depth and numbers when the trials have come. God can, and will, use this crisis to draw us into deeper relationship with him.
I close with Jesus’ words as recorded in John 16:33:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”