Today, two different Facebook friends mentioned that they have connections with people (one in the US, one here in BC) who are suffering from the Coronavirus. They are hospitalized, on ventilators, and in medically-induced comas. Prayer is being requested for their recovery from their critical illnesses.
At the time of this writing, there have been almost 338,000 cases of the disease around the world. Of these, almost 100,000 have recovered, but more than 14,650 have died. The majority of cases are relatively mild, but many existing cases are very critical. Incidents in Europe and the US have multiplied very quickly. In Canada so far, there have only been 39 cases for every million people for a total of 1470 and 20 deaths. But, as we know, things can change quickly. If you’d like more information on current statistics, check out the Coronavirus Worldometer. Of course, many people die otherwise, and in greater numbers. But what is so significant about these deaths, is that there is no conventional remedy.
I know we are all looking for some light in the darkness of these unusual days. How could it be that our world has become such a dark place in such a short time? We’ve seen the exponential advance of this disease on every continent including our own. While it’s heartening to hear about substantial numbers of recovery, the number of contractions and deaths continues to grow. This situation exists, despite a huge effort on the part of medical personnel to “stanch the bleeding.” For all of these front-line workers we are (or should be) extremely grateful!
Government personnel are also working hard, and as best they know, to bring this pandemic under control because so many aspects of our lives, including industry, transportation, education, finance, and general well-being depend on it. And in a time when people need more spiritual and emotional support than ever, even churches can no longer meet to provide solace and strength. Thankfully, they are finding other creative ways to serve their communities. But in the lifespans of most of us, these circumstances are unprecedented.
Some are inclined to cast blame on those who could have done more to prevent such a happening, or on those who they believe should demonstrate better ways of managing the whole thing. In these circumstances, some measure of frustration is certainly understandable. But closer scrutiny leads us to believe that this whole event is much bigger than any one person or group.
For one thing, scientists tell us that the Coronavirus is unlike regular human flu viruses. It has been transmitted from animals by some rare cell mutation that suddenly enables it to live in humans. Because it is new to humans most people are without immunity to its vicious attack — at least until a vaccine is developed that provides effective protection. Thankfully, it seems, younger people are less vulnerable. But, we are told, they still can be transporters of the deadly virus.
In these circumstances, the only effective weapon against the disease is physical isolation and careful sanitation. It has come about now that the entire world is being warned to minimize physical social contact. Of course, this is virtually impossible considering our need for daily supplies, not to mention our natural desire for connection. We should be very thankful, however, that we live in a time when so much can be done electronically. Virtual meetings can happen without actual physical contact, thus limiting transmission of the virus. I know the concept seems ridiculous, but the truth is that physical isolation, hand washing, and surface cleaning have become important ways to mitigate the spread of this horrible disease!
If we could see the reason for this universal upset from heaven’s perspective, we would know that there are much larger reasons for this plague. We would see that God also weeps when His creation suffers in these ways. Too, we might be able to see that there is another spiritual personality that is seeking to bring havoc on the earth through this disease. But we would also see that God’s ultimate purpose will not be thwarted by Satan’s evil intentions. And we would see that God is using this entire event to draw people’s attention back to their great need for him.
As people deal with the stress of cancelled vacations, loss of income, isolation, and the immanence of the disease, they can’t help but think of the God who manages the world’s affairs. Some will be angry or cast blame — especially on him. But others will think about the fact that they have been too preoccupied with life apart from God. Some will cry out for his mercy and intervention.They will think about God enough to want to look at the Bible again, and its main message of saving grace through repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Like the Prodigal Son of Luke 15, some who’ve forgotten about God during their good times, in this time of their great physical and spiritual need, will want to come back home to their Heavenly Father.
In days to come, I’m hopeful that we will look back upon this time as a time when many came to see a great light in a time of worldwide darkness. Might God want to use this time as a wake-up call for Christians in a kind of global spiritual revival? Might the church gain a new vision of the nature of the Gospel and the urgency of proclaiming it in word and deed around the world?
Perhaps the good news of Jesus’ salvation will dawn upon the hearts of many people who have been living in the darkness of their own souls for a long time. They will discover that life is not really about what we possess or where we travel, or about our competencies and abilities, but it’s really about being taken up with the glory of the Creator and an eternal relationship with Him. They will confess their sin and put their trust in the Lord. They will once again turn their attention to the Word of God.
If the Coronavirus means that people will look again for the glory of God in this time of great darkness, if it means that many more people will turn from sin to faith in Christ, if it means that churches will once again be filled with people praising God and hearing the Word of the Lord, if it means that righteousness will return to the affairs of our nations, that children will be taught about God and homes will flourish with love and truth, then it will be worth all the pain and suffering that has been so prominent in this time.
As Isaiah wrote so beautifully many years ago, Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon (Isaiah 55:6,7).