These are unprecedented times. In just two months the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the world. The subject dominates the news. Efforts to keep the virus from spreading by social distancing have led to a potential global recession. What will become of all this? How should Christians respond?
At such times it is natural to be afraid. We are afraid of contracting the disease or passing it onto others. We are afraid that it could take the lives of our loved ones. We worry about how this will impact us financially. We fear the unknown.
Clearly, there are some things that we should fear. When our son Justin was about five years old, and we visited the Grand Canyon, we were afraid to let him wander on his own, because he could fall off a cliff! When I am flying and sitting in the exit row, I am afraid to open the emergency door at 35,000 feet! We should also fear God.
Job feared God. We are told that he was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). To fear God is to be afraid of the consequences of disobeying Him. His commandments are the protective boundaries to prevent us from hurting ourselves or others. If we neglect or despise them, we do so at our own risk.
Fearing God means humbling ourselves before Him and confessing our sins. It means turning from evil, doing good, and crying out to God for His mercy. Could this make a difference in fighting the coronavirus? The answer to that question depends on whether or not we believe God can end this pandemic.
But what about the coronavirus? Should we allow the fear and anxiety of what could happen to dominate our lives? As people of faith, we must believe that God is still sovereign. He still loves us and is working all things together for our good. Does God want us to avoid being infected? Then we will. Does He want us to get sick and recover? Then we will. Does He want this to be our means of leaving this world and being with Christ? Then it will happen, just as He wills. Does this mean that we are not to take precautions? No, for not to do our reasonable duty in prevention would be to tempt God. But it does mean that we must not be afraid. We are held by God and nothing—including the coronavirus—can snatch us out of His hand.
I love the article written by Matt Smethurst of The Gospel Coalition comparing the words of C.S. Lewis in 1948 about the threat of the atomic bomb with the coronavirus today.
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
Now with the threat of an atom bomb, there was no place to hide. With the coronavirus threat, we can take action to limit our exposure. But the points C.S. Lewis made about not exaggerating the novelty of this and continuing to do sensible and human things still apply to our situation today.
Recently, my friend Pastor Paul LeBoutillier encouraged us from Isaiah 8:11-13:
For the Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”
In other words, fear God and don’t be afraid of the coronavirus pandemic. Be sensible and live your life as God intends you to live it for His glory and for your good. God is writing your story. This has not caught Him by surprise. He knows the plans He has for you—not to harm you but to give you a future that begins in time and stretches throughout all eternity.
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