By Kevin Shrum
Pastor, Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville
The invisible enemy of COVID-19 has brought the most powerful nation(s) in the world to its knees. In fact, COVID-19 is a “global pandemic,” impacting every nation on the globe. We thought our national humbling would come at the hands of a terrorist cell or as a by-product of a dictator gone awry. Little did we know that an unseen germ would bring our reckoning.
What can the COVID-19 pandemic teach us? What is our sovereign God up to in this pandemic? That is the question. He is neither surprised nor ‘caught off guard’ by what is a surprise and shock to us. In fact, God has ordered all things according to the counsel of His secret and hidden will (Deuteronomy 29:29). Nevertheless, we should be asking, ‘What is God up to? What is He teaching us?’
First, COVID-19 is teaching us that we’re fragile — the whole “of it” is fragile, i.e. our bodies, our financial systems, our job situations, and the like. A virus of all things has brought the system to a halt. Our fragility ought to humble us, reminding us that life is tenuous at best. Such fragility ought to teach us that each day is precious and important, rather than ‘just another day.’
Second, COVID-19 is reminding us that we are a fearful people. Scratch the surface of our otherwise self-confident image and you’ll find layers of anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and a host of other phobias. And while a proper concern and common sense diligence are required, we have seen in recent days a frenzied fearfulness in our citizenry that we haven’t seen in years. Fear can have a paralyzing effect.
Third, COVID-19 is exposing the fact that we are a highly “entertained” culture. We love sports, holidays, dining out, and a myriad of other leisure activities that consume a great deal of our time and money. With the temporary cancelation and/or closures of many of these events and places, we’ve been reminded that we often inoculate ourselves from the realities of life through play and leisure.
I love sports and leisure, but I have been shocked at how dependent we are on being entertained. Now that many of these events have been canceled or delayed we are asking, ‘What will I do with all my time?’ We’re lost without leisure. We need to be reminded that there are more important things than being entertained.
Fourth, COVID-19 is teaching us that while we live in a highly scientific age, even science must continually play catch up to the powers of nature and of nature’s God. Advances in medical technologies have enabled us to live longer, healthier lives. This is good. Yet, from time to time, we are reminded that there is a reason a doctor will often say that he or she is ‘practicing medicine.’ In other words, we don’t always know as much as we claim to know.
Fifth, COVID-19 has reminded us that while we are a fragile and fearful people, we are also a resilient, creative people. In recent days we have seen the God-given creative genius of the American people rise to the occasion in providing solutions, remedies, and strategies for the COVID-19 pandemic. Political leaders, leaders from all business sizes and the general citizenry are responding in small and great ways to combat this unseen enemy. It is truly encouraging to see the unity of spirit and the God-given creative genius of people at work to solve this problem.
Sixth, COVID-19 is teaching us to ask ultimate questions. These are the questions that we ask in the depths of our hearts but not often in public, that is, until there is a time of personal or public crisis. And what are these questions?
(1) The spiritual questions. Is there a God? Where’s God in this?
(2) The self-identity questions. Who am I? What’s my purpose? Am I an accident, a compilation of cells? or do I have true meaning?
(3) The questions of relationships. How should I treat others? And is faith and family more important than we had assumed?
(4) The questions of vocation. What should I do with my life? Is the loss of my job the loss of my identity?
(5) The question of ultimate destiny. What happens when I die?
The good news is that God in Christ has answered all these questions by conquering sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Christ, God has revealed Himself, reminding us that we’re made in God’s image, yet fatally flawed by sin.
Yet, the gospel calls sinful people into a relationship with God and others, giving us a purpose to what we do each day as we glorify God through work and play, and reminding us that this life is not all there is — that when we die we will live in heaven with our Triune God forever.
It is this gospel hope and truth that saves us from sin, sanctifies unto holiness, and stabilizes us in times of instability. May we learn the lessons of Psalm 90 — Lord … Teach us to number our days.
COVID-19 may turn out to be a very humbling, but effective teacher.