Christ and the Coronavirus: Seven Reminders For Such a Time As This
The kids in my Sunday school class are worried about Covid-19. And rightly so. Since Christmas, it’s spread to 87 countries and nearly 100,000 people. One model suggests, by late May, we could see as many as 2 million cases diagnosed in a single day. One expert estimates over 500 million people in China alone could be infected. They’ve already performed the largest quarantine in human history. Officials in England say widespread transmission in the UK is highly likely in the coming weeks and months. Johns Hopkins is forecasting a widespread outbreak, with 40+% of the world being infected within two years. The release of the new James Bond movie has been postponed by seven months. A very well-known Christian author told me yesterday he’s unsure if any of his 2020 speaking gigs will actually happen. Plus, Australians are stockpiling toilet paper.
But all that’s “out there,” right?
Last week, I reminded myself that we live outside a small country village with no airport, no train station, and no seaport — our nearest neighbors are a flock of sheep. And even they’re out of sneezing distance.
Then my wife gently reminded me that we have a friend staying over this weekend… who’s just flown from Toronto to Paris to London.
Needless to say, it’s really centered my thoughts during prayers these past few mornings. But as the week has unfolded, I’ve been filled with a rather unusual peace about this whole thing, despite its potentially daunting reality. I’m not worried about Covid-19 whatsoever in the least bit, because seven important truths keep coming to mind:
1. God is Still in Control
His sovereignty remains unchallenged. He is still on the throne and it hasn’t budged an inch. A remnant will always be preserved, and His destiny for our lives and His church remains firmly intact.
2. Sickness Was Never Part of His Plan
Death and pain and sickness and war and struggle are all a result of sin — of mankind’s decision to play God instead of submitting to His divine design for the world and our role in it. Every new outbreak, Coronavirus included, beckons us to conform to His will and His way, and take responsibility for our part in humanity’s fall from grace. Indeed, all of us have missed the mark and fallen short of the great goodness of God. And yet, in His truly unfathomable love, God refuses to force us back into line, self-bound by the understanding that only true freedom can create the conditions for true love. As this disease runs its course, God will mourn with those who mourn, bind up the brokenhearted, and continue to open His arms to all who will receive Him.
3. This Is An Opportunity to Practice Trust
On this point, the Bible is refreshingly clear: Be anxious for nothing. In every situation, pray and appeal with thanksgiving. Do this, and His peace (which transcends our understanding) will guard our hearts (from anxiety) and our minds (from constantly replaying the worst case scenario.)
On Sunday I reminded my Sunday school kids about the three scenes in Bridge of Spies, where an accused spy is asked by his legal defender if he ever worries about anything, specifically about death. His answer is perfect: “Would it help?”
Because really, who by worrying can add a single hour to their life? Let’s leave the prognostications to the experts and the predictions of imminent collapse to the doomsayers.
Instead, we can cast our cares on Christ. He cares for us. As my friend Richard Saunders points out, “Coronavirus is an opportunity for a faith re-call.”
4. He Will Continue to Work All Things Together for Good
In the grand scheme of eternity, Coronavirus doesn’t even register as a blip on the radar. The arc of the universe bends towards the will of God. We are called according to His purpose, prepared in advance to be the body of Christ for such a time as this.
We stand with Paul: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
5. This Is An Invitation Into National Humility and International Unity
At various points in their leadership, several American presidents including Lincoln and Adams proclaimed national days of humility, fasting, and prayer. We are, frankly, well-overdue for a corporate humbling. This new outbreak presents yet another opportunity to admit our human frailty and our inability to play God, and confess our ultimate reliance on Him.
Beyond our borders, this pandemic provides an opportunity for international grace and generosity, for the sharing of resources and knowledge and manpower and science and supplies. Having a common enemy reinforces our shared humanity, and we should lean into this crisis together.
6. This Is An Opportunity for the Church To Be the Hands and Feet Of Jesus
Not only do we have the opportunity to be a non-anxious presence in our local communities, but if this thing really spreads, we’ll be presented with countless opportunities to give and serve — to open a door of hospitality and generosity in a world that’s closing doors and fists alike.
7. This Is a Reminder to Practice Memento Mori
Take a moment to open your hands and take a look at your palms. If you begin to close your hands ever so slightly, most people will see the letter M begin to form in the folds of their skin. In the Middle Ages, monks began their days by staring at those Ms on their palms while meditating on two Latin words: Memento Mori.
Remember you must die.
Everyone dies eventually. Even the longest life is a vapor. For Christians, death has no sting. We’ve been inoculated by the Spirit. Seriously — what is our worst-case scenario? To be absent from the body is to be present with the Christos of the Universe.
In the meantime, we ask God to teach us to count our days, that we may learn to live rightly. To make a temporary life count for eternity. As C.T. Studd put it: “Only one life, it soon will pass, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Though the odds are incredibly low, and I’m not worried in the least, I still can’t stop my excitable little brain from asking: What if my jet-setting friend visits and infects us? What if these are my last few weeks of life on earth?
It’s why I’m trying to be a bit more gentle on myself and others.
It’s why I’m writing a letter to my mother.
It’s why I’m planning some special date nights with my wife.
It’s why I’m taking a few extra minutes on my morning walks to bask in God’s glorious creation.
As everyone hunkers down for a long flu season, it’s a chance for us to intentionally slow down, turn off our devices, rest, be with our loved ones, and be still before God. It is the perfect time to re-affirm our Declaration of Dependence.
Now and for the rest of our lives, no matter how short or long they may be, let us pray for those in need and trust God no matter what lays ahead.
For this too shall pass.
In the meantime, we’re stocking up on rice and beans and jalapenos — and heading to a friend’s house to re-watch Contagion.
Jared Brock is the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully, Bearded Gospel Men, and The Road to Dawn. He is the director of Red Light Green Light, Over 18, and Redeeming Uncle Tom, and his writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Relevant, Smithsonian, and TIME.