Christians and the Covid-19 Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly been an unprecedented time of trial for most of the post-war generation. Its impact has not only prematurely caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people but impacted far more through the economic and social fallout as lock-downs force businesses to close, millions into unemployment, and governments struggling with massive budget blow-outs. Life, as most of us have known it, has changed radically being unable to do many of the things we took for granted such as meeting in a church, going out for a meal and going on a vacation. Fear has gripped many.
The crisis has also shown us how governments, given a justifiable reason, can impose seemingly draconian measures which would not be tolerated in other circumstances. Of course we ought to obey our government leaders – as far as it depends on us. Clearly we need to obey the health directives, not for our own sake but especially for the most vulnerable. But it has set a precedent – that great restrictions can be imposed on the population at large, or certain parts, if they are deemed to be in the interests of the nation as a whole.
Yet as Christians how should we respond to this crisis and others?
First we need to know all things are ultimately in God’s control. While for now life has changed greatly, and for many for the worse, we need to keep the promises of God’s word always in our minds. As Habakkuk says:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV).
Habakkuk, though, was anticipating an invasion by the Babylonians and the appalling destruction that would result. The Babylonians were notoriously known for their indiscriminate destruction – respecting neither age or gender. Today we face an invasion of an invisible enemy, one which also does not discriminate by age, gender or social status. All ages (though the elderly more so) have succumbed to this virus, the rich and the poor, the famous and the obscure.
Many have found the prevalence of suffering and injustice in this world incompatible with the existence of an all powerful and loving God. We may think ‘if God is all powerful and loving, why do the innocent suffer’ and ‘why doesn’t He stop this terrible plague?’
We are not given a reason for every specific evil that we see in this world. Some are clearly the result of man’s actions. Others are seemingly what we would call ‘natural disasters’. The reality is we live in a fallen world, in which the devil still has influence and control (though limited) and in which decay, disease and death are daily occurrences. Yet we also know one day all these will end and there be final justice. That is our hope which God has promised.
Jeremiah, like Habakkuk, found himself in a time of great trial and personal suffering. After pouring out his grief to God he went on to say:
My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I will call to mind, and therefore have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, therefore I will hope in him (Lamentations 3:20-24).
Notice Jeremiah does not deny the reality of his circumstances, but calls to his mind the hope he has in God – His steadfast love never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. He meets my deepest needs. My hope is in Him.
Therefore if we remind ourselves, daily, of these things, even speaking aloud to ourselves the great hope and steadfast love we have in God, fear, grief and depression will not overwhelm us. During this Covid-19 pandemic is a time when we can reflect on what really counts when so much of what we consider necessary in modern society are in reality trivial and fleeting.
So with Habakkuk we can also say: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength“.